Forced Simplicity

you want dinner again?

I remember reading about one man who lived through Hurricane Sandy out east who said that it was actually really nice to simplify his life down to just making sure his family had shelter and food.

I think I understand that a little better now with this experiment.

When it comes to the kids, I do need to make sure the education is happening (but I chose online school for a reason, knowing my pretty expansive limitations).  Each of the kids has a daily checklist that needs to get done–school, chores, music, etc.  My job is to make sure they do that stuff, but Ben and Sophie are almost entirely independent with it (a financial incentive has helped that along), Noah is an early riser and often almost done with school before I even get up, and Lucy, well, she’s the youngest and we’re still working that out.

We have skillful days and less skillful days, both her and I.

So really that leaves me mostly with making sure they are fed, something I honestly always resented before–they wanted dinner every day!  They’d ask me about it every day, sometimes even before lunch!  They would always wait until I was clearly in a time crunch and losing my mind with work around 4 p.m. when it wasn’t even relevant yet–“What’s for dinner?”

It made me crazy.  And because I was checked out and a mess the last two years, the week generally consisted of a pasta night (cooked by Ben), Little Caesars, In-N-Out, breakfast for dinner, cereal, Harmon’s deli family dinner, etc.

Why is it different now, out here in this rented house in the middle of nowhere?  I don’t know, but maybe it’s because that’s really all I have to do.  I don’t need to get them up and out the door in the morning, I don’t need to get them to a million places all afternoon.  I don’t need to stress out and worry and fear about my mothering like I used to.   I just have to feed them meals.  And I do!  Some days, all three!

I shouldn’t be so impressed with myself for doing what millions of mothers do without a second thought every day, but I literally felt plagued by the routine and drudgery.  I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it was such a big deal and I never came to terms with it.

Yet now that feeling is gone.

We eat balanced, home-cooked food almost every night.  We make breakfast.  We have lunch food and snacks in the kitchen.  They’ve stopped hiding and sneaking food like kids in a famine because they weren’t sure where their next meal was coming from.

I am spending a ridiculous amount on groceries, though.  I’m sure it’s not more than I spent before, because it was hidden in take-out and school lunch expenses, and I have teenagers after all.

Sometimes Ben and Sophie cook, but when I stand now in the kitchen and take my turn, I’m not resenting it and feeling pulled mentally away to do a million other things I should be doing.  I sometimes even stay present and enjoy it.


I really can’t understand what has changed.  I need to think more about it. But I can only say that it seems like I just have less things on the list, which makes me feel like I can do it.

At the end of the day, I find great comfort in the fact that my family responsibilities really just include food and shelter—and of course a hug here and there.  Before, our life was a disaster.  Now we understand that post-disaster simplicity.