Family Meals Don’t Happen in This House — and I’m Fine With It

family dinner

Before I had a kid, I was totally down with the parenting philosophy that you should sit down together for family dinner, at least most nights of the week. It promotes good eating habits and quality family bonding time. A time to catch up, check in, and enjoy a good, home-cooked meal.

My post-kid self is on the opposite side of the fence. While it sounds all dreamy, lovey-dovey, and so 1950s-esque (in a good way), family meals just don’t happen in this house. Every once in awhile the stars align and the three of us sit down to a meal together, and I have to admit, it’s pretty nice. However, it’s most definitely not the norm around here. I get why it should be a priority, and maybe when my child is older it will be, but right now, in this stage of our lives, it’s not a reality. To be completely honest, it’s barely even on the radar.

To make family dinner happen, the following would need to (miraculously) go as planned:

  • My son would need to nap until at least 4 PM or 4:30 PM (ha, that’s funny!) so he could have a snack and not need another one until dinner time.
  • He’d need to be in a good enough mood for me to manage cooking a meal in the late afternoon/early evening hours. (Witching hour, anyone?)
  • My husband would need to be home from work by 6:30 PM. (Still laughing over here.)
  • I’d have to have not forgotten a majority of the things on my grocery list earlier in the day. (What was I there for again?)

Perhaps once in awhile one of these happen, but all of them? Yeah right.

Sure I could do the crazy mom-juggle that we all seem to do to make miraculous things happen, like keeping the toddler from eating paint (or spreading it on the couches) while I’m chopping onions, or having my act together and prepping all my meals on the weekend (which doesn’t really help since you’re just as busy on Sunday as you are on Tuesday). I could get fancy and do one of those delivery services that provides the ingredients for meals prepped and ready to go, but that’s expensive and my child has allergies, so it probably wouldn’t work. I could cave in and let my 2-year-old, who has weight issues, have an extra snack before dinner time, thus causing upheaval in our carefully balanced daily meal schedule, so he could wait for dinner until dad gets home.

Or, I could just throw in the towel and focus simply on providing healthy foods for my family. If we get to sit down at the table together, that’s an added bonus. But this way, I’m not worrying about a thousand things that need to get done by a certain time in order to make the event happen. Instead, I can focus on having fun with my child, providing experiences for him, and taking time to let him help in the kitchen without worrying about a deadline or schedule.

There was an article recently about how family meals may be going by the wayside because they’re causing so much stress and perhaps the stress outweighs the need for a home-cooked meal. Research conducted about the family meal showed that even well into the 2000s, the task of cooking a homemade dinner still falls mainly on women, regardless of social class. Clearly it looks like I agree given the above, but it’s not so black and white for me, especially when my dietitian-voice pipes up. Trading family dinner for a quickie drive-thru meal doesn’t outweigh the benefits of dealing with a little stress. But letting family members eat healthy foods when it fits their schedule, even if that means it’s not always all together or at home, does seem like a better alternative to a stressed mom and chaotic evening. Cutting corners and taking shortcuts in the kitchen, and therefore alleviating some of the pressure we put on ourselves as moms, seems to be the best middle ground.

Perhaps when my son is a teenager (and really needs some checking-in from mom and dad) I’ll finally have figured out how to make it all happen. For now, I’m leaving the stress-filled alternatives at the curb.

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