The reality: when do I ever have time for things like this? I'll tell you when: when I'm waiting for my car to have its guts oiled and realigned. On any given morning there is no cafe, no lazy breakfast that I've paid someone else to prepare -- it's just work, work, work, then rush home for the second shift: talk and play with the kids, visit a neighbor, prepare supper (maybe fitting a blog post - or part of one - in there somewhere), tidy up the house a bit, and maybe make a couple of phone calls while stuffing the dishes into the dishwasher. All while thinking, Thank G-d for the dishwasher.
(And since it's summer, convincing the kids it's time for bed can take, well, 45 minutes on a good day. "But Mommy, the sun is still out, it's not time for bed yet!" I'm tired. I still have twelve things to do this evening. It's time for you to go to bed).
My friend S calls it her fear of limited energy. All mothers know to keep some spare, but what happens when we have some timely project to finish and we forget to budget our energy for the rest of the day? Or we had a particularly stressful or emotional day at work (it can happen)? Or we've been letting "The List" (read: laundry / dishes / phone calls / paying the bills / helping with a school project / cleaning the litter box-fish tank-hamster cage) run way over board, for way too long? The day still has hours remaining, but you, my dear, do not. Then what?
One of my neighbors (name withheld to protect the innocent) once confided in me, in a hushed voice, that she actually lets her kids have cereal for supper once a week.
I was astonished, not by her "admission," but by the fact that she saw it as such.
In my book, if she manages to get through her week and have the energy to prepare supper for her family six nights out of seven, that sounds like a real accomplishment to me. I mean, I practically survived my teenage years on breakfast cereals (and tofu-broccoli stir-fry, and Haagen-Dazs with whipped cream), and it didn't seem to do much harm. As we know, all major breakfast cereals are fortified -- B vitamins, folic acid -- and have been so since the FDA realized that this is one way to insure that most Americans will get enough of these nutrients (see a short history c/o the NIH here).
Furthermore, grain products and dairy together? That's a complete protein. (And while we're on the subject, see here for the protein content of various vegetarian food sources). Your kids could certainly do worse. Anyway, with the price of cereal these days, it's practically a luxury food.
Just think of it as buying back a little energy at the end of your never-ending day.
Keep the balance,