The war on dinner

Fair warning: I’m annoyed. And frustrated. And tired.

Like so many other things, family dinners are (ridiculously, in my opinion) a controversial topic among many mothers. And you thought the eating judgment ended after the breast feeding vs. formula age passed…

Most of the time, my family of four does not eat dinner as a family. In fact, almost never. With work schedules (which are pretty damned important, you know, for PROVIDING that food), most nights the girls are in bed by the time my husband and I eat dinner.

They are ready to eat HOURS before he gets home from work and placating them with a snack and forcing them to stay awake much longer than they should be just to make sure we sit around a table and force family togetherness is… not happening here.

I have read the research. I’ve read that children who eat meals with their parents are less likely to have food issues, less likely to be overweight, more likely to do well in school, more likely to be open with their parents.

And there are people (many people) who say they make family dinners work because it’s important to them.  Well, I want all of those things for my girls, too. I want healthy relationships with food for them. I want open communication with us. I want them to succeed in school and in life.

But, at ages 21 months and three and a half, I’m not sacrificing their sleep over it. Or my sanity. Or the ability to pay my mortgage. Family dinners will happen for us at some point, but not now. Probably not for a long while. We find other ways to connect with our girls, to communicate with them, to listen to them. We make crafts. We bake. We cook. We read and make up stories. We make forts and play games and watch movies. We snuggle at bedtime and make obstacle courses in the dining room. We go on adventures and we spend time with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends.

I guess what I’m saying is that WHAT happens is much more important to me than WHERE.

14 thoughts on “The war on dinner

  1. Just want to give an “Amen!” to Randi’s comment AND your post!!! I’m sure those dinner-time statistics are just a bunch of crap that’s trying to sell us stuff AND make us feel guilty all at the same time. There is MUCH MORE to a family than eating dinner together ~ and YOU get to eat alone with your hubby every night! I’m SURE we could come up with some statistics of our own about how much happier parents are when they get to do this! 😉

  2. Just want to add my voice to chorus that studies about this kind of behavior can only prove correlation not causation! I actually have to confess that I worry that watching me eat at dinner every night is unhelpful for my kids because I am a very fast eater, which is definitely not an especially healthy way to eat.

  3. I think this is absolutely a classic “correlation does not prove causation” case! Perhaps dinner as a family is often an indicator that positive bonds and homelife are there…but you could definitely NOT have those things and still eat together, and it wouldn’t somehow make that all better. You are CLEARLY doing a fantastic job with those little girls, and I refuse to believe somehow that feeding them earlier than you eat could possibly harm them 🙂 And it’s genius to eat alone with your hubs. We may actually start doing this intentionally a couple of nights a week because OMG I never get to eat my food when it’s still hot with the boys there!!!

  4. I think the real underlying goal is spending some family time together sometime, somehow, somewhere. The meal is not as significant as the time. I used to console myself that at least we had breakfast together (when my sons were little), if not dinner.

    I too hate all these rules that someone creates in a vacuum. I always aspired to be like the Kennedys, talking about politics and world events so my kids would grow up to lead the free world. Well, they weren’t interested in these topics and they still grew up to be great guys.

    So let’s make a rule that every family gets to find their own style, and they can change it whenever they feel like it, and they can all watch TV together and giggle while eating nitrate-laced lunch meat on Wonder Bread. All of these things are valid. It’s the memories of warm happy family time that linger, and that can happen in the car or in the bathroom or wherever. Let’s face it, kids sitting around the oaken dinner table with hissing, snarling parents or worse, silent parents, is not going to create the magic JUST BECAUSE IT’S DINNERTIME!

    One of the things I love about CTWORKINGMOMS is that it is truly a Judgement-Free Zone. Everyone supports everyone else’s quirky lifestyle and helps everyone to forgive themselves and accept themselves. It’s so refreshing!

  5. We too have been judged and it doesn’t feel good but it won’t change how our family of four spends mealtimes. Our two boys eat dinner at five and then go to bed at 7/7:30….the earliest my husband usually gets home is 7:30, so he and I eat together (as a couple) around 8 p.m. I have friends that critique our eating so late, not eating with our boys (or me not eating with the boys), my husband’s crazy work schedule, etc but at the end of the day the only people our daily schedule has to work for is us. I refuse to believe that I am doing a disservice to my children by spending quality alone time with their father. On the plus side, my food doesn’t get cold while I sit with my children and encourage them to eat the meal in front of them or cut up their food or get up for another glass of milk, etc….what momma doesn’t want to be able to just sit down and enjoy her own food near impossible while dining with two children under the age of 7.

  6. I’m so glad you wrote this Steph! I really wish that moms wouldn’t judge each other. First of all what’s the point? And second of all, no one else has walked in our shoes so no one knows our reasons for making the choices we do. Sounds like you are doing exactly what you and your family needs. Love to you!

  7. i completely agree! these days working parents can’t get family dinner going at a reasonable hour! it’s not practical for most of us. my daughter eats between 5:30 and 6 and is in bed by 7:30. when my husband makes us dinner to eat when she is sleeping it’s a great time for us to unwind and chat about our days. i miss not having family dinners but it’s just the way it is right now. our kids will be fine! when they are older things will be different. plus we always eat together on weekends. no big deal!

  8. I think you are 100% right, Steph. We happen to be lucky to make faimly dinner work most of the time, but I think it’s the whole experience and the idea that your child knows you are both there for them, always, not just for dinner that makes your children open with you and have healthy relationships. Your girls, btw, are too darn cute and certainly need happy mommy/daddy and SLEEP!!!!

  9. I think you are doing just fine to make things work for YOUR family! Sometimes we eat dinner as a foursome, sometimes as a threesome, and sometimes the kids get to eat on the couch watching TV- whatever works when it works! I think that the correlation between eating as a family and all those positive things is mostly because (as long as the TV is not on) what else are you going to do at the table but eat and talk? But, I’m pretty sure your girls will be just fine 🙂

  10. I believe those correlations exist because of how many parents out there don’t care as much about family time, don’t teach their kids good eating habits, don’t check in about school, etc, it’s not the fact that they aren’t sitting together at 5:30 pm. Yet another example where correlation is NOT the same as causation. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re a great mom and you know it 🙂

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