Enough is Enough: Where to Draw the Line

In a recent post, I asked about ideas that would help me in my quest to be more accountable for the family’s food decisions in 2011.  Among the excellent suggestions I received was an intriguing thought from reader Deidre about finding my “conditions of enoughness” around food.  I wasn’t sure precisely what she meant by the comment at the time, but it interested me enough to give it some thought.

An extremely quick and cursory search of the term gave me a general thought process about the whole concept of “enoughness” — basically, it seems to be a standard for how much is necessary to make me (and the family — can’t forget the family in all of this) satisfied and happy, without tipping over into the territory where we’re doing too much for the same level, or even a diminished level, of satisfaction.  In other words, finding a place where I can draw the line in the sand between what’s “good enough” and what’s “crazy excessive loco Mommy-ness” is probably a good contribution to the larger topic of life balance.

Just so we’re clear right up front: I haven’t really answered this question yet.  It’s a big, complex thing to wrap my brain around, and I frankly haven’t got the room in my cortex for it all at the moment.  But it’s precisely because I feel like I haven’t got the room for it that I’ve been musing on it here and there.  Most weeks, life may be a bit hectic, but I’m in the groove of a routine and I’m not really noticing any particular effort or lack thereof put towards food and eating — it’s all just part of the rhythm of life in the RRG house.  This week, though, is a little crazier than most, and has forced me off the routine a bit, prompting me to take a couple of very deep breaths and dive into the consideration of “enoughness” head-on.

Things started promisingly enough.  Sunday was a good day, relatively relaxed, and I was able to both make our Sunday dinner and whip up a dozen or so whole wheat-cinnamon waffles to keep around for weekday breakfasts without much stress.  Monday morning I dashed out the door with my travel mug and one of the waffles triumphantly in hand, ready to face the week.  And then I opened my calendar.  Out Tuesday night for rehearsal.  Out Wednesday night for a side gig I picked up (I occasionally do some contract work for local organizations, just because I’m crazy like that).  Out Saturday night with the family for a birthday party.  Oh, yeah, and then there’s all that snow in the forecast AGAIN.  And OT and PT for L.  And PT for J., who’s got a back injury right now….

Yikes.  I reshuffled the meal plan hastily to accommodate everything, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, doing something like rearranging the meal plan at the last minute can sometimes be like pulling out the wrong block in a Jenga tower.  And although everyone has gotten fed this week, so far, it’s definitely happened in a manner that has challenged my perception of what’s good enough.

We had our No-Fuss chicken on Monday night instead of later in the week, because I realized that I was going to have a lot more time on my hands Monday evening than at pretty much any other moment all week long.  I was astute enough to make a double batch, 1/2 of it as “fingers,” to help with lunches; what I didn’t count on was P. suddenly deciding, again, that he doesn’t like No-Fuss chicken.  Sigh.  On Tuesday night, we had the slow cooker meal that I’d planned, cleverly using the leftovers of a loaf of bread to make garlic toasts as a bed for the chicken sausages and peppers.  Or at least, I thought it was clever.  Until I realized that we were left with a bunch of sausages and peppers and no more bread.  And L. and P. didn’t like the sausage and peppers enough to eat them without the bread, or over pasta (which would be the next logical thought, if my boys really like pasta much), so that meant that when I moved Fend Night to Wednesday…the options were kind of scarce.

J. was in charge of dinner entirely for Fend Night, because I didn’t have time to go home between work and my evening commitment.  His report: L. had the very last scrapings of the steak and guinness pie that was left from the weekend; P. had a peanut butter sandwich and applesauce.  Enoughness challenge #1.  My Overdeveloped Sense of Kitchen Guilt started revving as I realized that I’d sort of left him in the lurch as far as feeding himself and P. — L. was really the only one among them who got a good, square meal.  I mean, OK, peanut butter on whole wheat with some applesauce isn’t a terrible dinner, but it’s not usually what I have in mind.

Then this morning rolled around, and I woke up to find the boys’ lunchboxes open on the kitchen counter.  Mommy Guilt.  Enoughness challenge #2.  I got home later than I had expected last night, and I was tired, and I forgot entirely about packing their lunches, so J. was trying to put something together for them this morning before school.  I peeked in and sighed.  L. was getting the last of the chicken fingers and some leftover couscous….for the third day in a row.  P. was getting waffles with sunbutter and banana.  After that, J. seemed to have gotten stuck.  I grabbed some staples — applesauce cups, yogurt, orange slices — and stuffed them into the lunches before I went up in flames from the searing guilt.

When I got into the living room, P. had turned up his nose at breakfast — we were out of bananas, his favorite; he wasn’t allowed a waffle, since that was his lunch; and he’s apparently sick of Cheerios.  Double sigh.  L., bleary-eyed, wandered downstairs and munched a handful of his brother’s Cheerios, but seemed uninspired by any other option.  I finally coaxed more of the Cheerios into him and convinced P. to eat a cheese stick.  It wasn’t exactly a “rise and shine” kind of breakfast for any of us, that’s for sure.

So now here I am, looking forward — incredibly so — to just going home tonight and cooking.  We’ll have a real dinner, and I know there are things in the fridge and pantry that I can pull out to rectify the breakfast and lunch scenarios for the rest of the week.  We’ll likely finish strong.  But the lackluster food situation of the past few days has really challenged me, and I have to admit: I’m uneasy with it.  I’m trying to let it settle.  I’m trying to tell myself that nobody has starved, and that the casual observer wouldn’t even realize that anything was amiss.  But I know better.

Sure, technically, we’ve had “enough.”  There’s been enough food to fill up the bellies.  I just don’t know if I feel that it’s been “enough” in terms of quality.  Not enough vegetables.  Not enough variety.  I don’t like feeling as though we’re just slapping together calories for the kids and calling it a meal.  But this week, I feel like I didn’t leave us much of a choice…because there wasn’t enough of something else at my disposal, and that was time.  It was definitely a planning failure, but it was also instructive, because it gave me more insight into the whole issue of the time/planning/meal prep equation we all wrestle with; I can see how easily one might start out with good intentions, but get sucked into the black hole of convenience by scheduling pressures and just plain old TIREDNESS.

So have I defined, and committed to, my “conditions of enoughness?”  Not by a long shot.  I will admit, though, that since nobody has yet died of starvation or rickets, I may have found at least the “bare minimum” threshold.  This will be an ongoing process, I’m sure, but while I ponder it, I’m going to go cook up a whole bunch of vegetables to assuage my conscience.


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8 Responses to Enough is Enough: Where to Draw the Line

  1. Kim W says:

    I always called it “good enough.” But, I like “enoughness” better. It’s sounds less like capitulation and more like you’re embracing the fact that life is sometimes about making it through to the next (hopefully better) moment.
    I have a 6 and 4 (almost 5!) year old. We typically eat dinner together and it is typically a real meal. I pack their lunches every day except the last Friday of the month. But, with the increase in lessons, etc., I’ve accepted that for our long-term sanity, Wednesdays need to be Pizza night for this year. Pizza that is cooked by someone else. And sometimes, lunch consists of a frozen PB&J w/ a cheese stick, apple and container of pretzels/chez-its/whatevers because mommy woke up late or was just plain tired.
    I shoot for getting it right 90% of the time (by right, I mean fresh fruits/veggies, whole wheat bread, low suger, no high-fructose, food cooked on my stove and eaten together as a family). Which means I get it right about 85% of the time.
    And that is my definition of “enoughness.”

    • That sounds like a good system — I like the idea of shooting for 90 and knowing that you’ll probably hit 85. I’m all for realism and trying to find the balance that is comfortable for you! (And for the record, I have to say that take-out pizza once a week, if it’s balanced out with good food the rest of the time, is not a terrifically big sin in the grand scope of things.)

  2. Renee says:

    I think your family ate great, given that you were busier than normal. It may not meet your standards of “enoughness”, but it wasn’t a disaster by any means.

    I’m not sure I even have any standards of “enoughness”!! But if I do, I think they’re lower than yours 🙂

    • Renee, I’m chuckling as I read this. Thanks for the perspective! It’s so funny when I get called out on my total cooking OCD. This whole thing about “enoughness” does that, though — it really makes you figure out (or try to!) where your limits are, both on the low end and on the high. It’s a worthwhile exercise!

  3. Aligaeta says:

    Wow, for those of us who put such great importance on ‘the family meal’ it does become all consuming. There is nothing worse than after all of your efforts hearing “Yuck, I don’t eat that.”
    The lure to snacks and cereals, bought in bulk for cost savings I have found feeds into glutenous gorging habits even hiding or leaving groceries stored in the car doesn’t stop teenagers or slow them down.
    Having worked in a middle school, you wouldn’t believe all the healthy food getting tossed in the garbage to see kids then purchase cookies and crap to fill their bellies.
    I am all for your efforts, the struggle and battle to be the best mom you can be for your children through their food intake. I’m all for carrot and celery sticks and other raw vegetable treats to hold them off till dinners ready.

    • Thanks for the comment, Aligaeta — I hope you’ll continue reading and sharing your thoughts! I’ve been relatively fortunate so far not to have to hear too much of the “Yuck” commentary; there have been phases, and moments, but for the most part I’ve found that just having a consistent rule of “you eat what you get” makes a big difference.
      And I think your insight into the middle school junk food binge is part of what concerns me — I feel like that’s one of the eventual battles I’m trying to avoid as much as possible. The goal is to instill the healthy habits into my kids early enough in life that when they get to middle school, they realize to at least some extent that they have to eat some reasonably healthy foods during the day or they’ll feel it later on!

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