Making Family Meals Work for Me (and You!) *
I have another article, from yet another wonderful guest blogger to share with you this week! Let me tell you, I am learning a lot from these ladies, and I hope you can pick up a tip or two as well. The following comes from Sarah W. Caron, a food writer and journalist from Connecticut. Sarah serves up great family-friendly recipes at Sarah’s Cucina Bella every week! Check her out!
Growing up, eating together wasn’t just a quaint idea – it was what families did. And families who didn’t have family dinners were unusual. I remember being in middle school and listening to a classmate describe how his parents rarely ate with his sister and him. Instead, the kids would choose from a freezer full of TV dinners. It sounded so sad and lonely.
Meanwhile, at my house, I could count on one hand the number of times that I ate my dinner solo or at a different time than my family. We had family meals and that was that.
For whatever reason, I developed rigid ideas of what meals were supposed to be like. In college, I usually ate with roommates – at our suite table – because that’s what you did. Eating together was just a lifestyle for me, no matter whether I was with my family or my college “family”.
But rigidness is a problem when you factor in the modern realities of families. Parents don’t necessarily work at jobs that end solidly at 5 p.m. Kids aren’t necessarily home and ready to eat at a decent hour. Life today is just much different than it was 20 years ago.
So, I’ve had to rethink my family’s approach to family meals. While eating together is important (and a goal that we strive for as often as possible), our version of a family meal is a little different now.
Instead of eating late, so my husband could be home every night for dinner, we now have a dinner time and work around that. If he makes it home then that’s wonderful. But if not? Well, it’s still a family dinner, I think.
And in establishing a family dinner time, I chose a time that’s much earlier than when we were eating. Our late dinners — eaten at 7 or sometimes 7:30 – were hectic and filled with stern reminders. Our kids were just too tired and cranky to eat that late. But at 5:30 or 6? They are perfectly pleasant. As an added bonus, I am far more motivated in the kitchen at that time too.
We’re all much happier with our earlier dinners, and there is next to no whining for evening pre-dinner snacks now. Talk about a huge improvement over a few weeks ago.
Considerations when Remaking Your Family Dinners:
1. How important is it to you that every single person in the family be at the table when dinner is served? Sometimes, one person has to work late (or attend a late after-school activity). Is it okay to eat without them?
2. Can you choose a steady time that works for dinner? If so, what time makes the most sense for your family?
3. For those who won’t be at dinner, will you save them some or are they on their own?
I guess it all comes down to what’s important: the family meal. It doesn’t matter if everyone is there, as long as everyone who can be is.