Do you feel like a five o’clock family dinner only happens in black and white television scenes from shows like Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy? While a made-from-scratch rump roast might be a relic of the past, the need for your family to sit around a table together is not. Research across the decades tells us that children’s emotional and physical wellness hugely benefits from consistent meal times with their parents. But none of us are June Cleaver, and family models and weekly rhythms have certainly evolved since the 1950’s, so here are some modern mom ways to make sure your family is being fed, in more ways than one.
Dine and dash! No, we don’t mean walking out on your check at a restaurant! We know that families with older kids often need to eat between point A and point B. But no one is connecting if you’re just grabbing a protein bar for yourself and pulling into two different fast food restaurants and a gas station to feed the rest of the family, only to watch everyone scarf it down from the rearview mirror of your minivan. Instead, scope out a spot you can actually stop and eat together. Sitting together, even if it’s at a grocery store buffet cafe after an away game, gives you that precious space in time to make eye contact and ask each other the questions that are a little more important than, “Do you want fries with that?”
Call in your sous chefs. If you do dine at home, remind your family that you didn’t train to be a short order cook, and you need everyone reporting for duty! Part of the family fun can be prepping together, and when moms wear thirty different hats on any given day, it’s time to share your chef hat with anyone in the house who’s safe with a paring knife.
Simplify with a snack. Don’t stress about what you’re eating, as long as you eat it together. Toddlers go on food strikes and you might be a vegan married to a guy who won’t sit down unless there’s meat involved. But the secret sauce of family meals has nothing to do with the food, and everything to do with looking at, and listening to your people. So, find anything that works as a reason to sit down with your crazy crew and serve it up. A Saturday fruit salad drenched in purple Go-Gurt after nap time? Perfect! Weeknight S’mores in the microwave before screen time? Done and done.
You may not be that vintage mom in an ironed apron with her lipstick on before breakfast, holding out the fresh orange juice as your kids come down the stairs (thank goodness!) but you’ll be the woman who’s always got a firm grip on the health and heart of her home, making mindful choices to stop long enough to sit together, see each other, and say ‘bon appetit’ at least a few times a week.