What constitutes a ‘family’ meal?

A mother of two admits in a recent New York Times article that her family rarely eats a traditional family dinner sitting at a table with all the members present at one time. Here’s part of what she wrote.

From The New York Times Motherlode:

“Ten years later, my daughter is on the brink of middle school, my son is well into his grade-school years and both are athletes. They play club sports, which means they practice two to three times a week, with a game or three most weekends. My son’s choir differs from a club sport only in that it doesn’t require him to run. When you factor in their seasonal, recreational activities, managing the after-school schedule requires skills familiar to advanced Tetris players. Some seasons, one or the other of them will have a weekday or two off, but I never do. The schedule is intense, relentless and year-round. I can’t say, “This will be over in three months,” because it’s never over. Once a week, from now until forever, my son has 20 minutes to eat his dinner in the car between activities. We’ve had maybe two weeknight family dinners in the past two years….”

“I surrendered. Now, instead of aspiring to a single evening meal, I feed my kids like hobbits: they eat breakfast, a substantial snack, lunch, an after-school snack, an early dinner and a middle dinner, and my husband and I eat the late dinner. We’re not eating more, just differently. At various points during our busiest hours, someone will pull up a stool to the counter for a small meal: a side dish here, a heap of pasta there, a second helping of protein or salad before bed. Call it grazing, or default dinner, or parenting by tapas — we’re happier, calmer and probably better fed.”

There are multiple interesting issues here I want to discuss:

1.Do you have to be sitting at a table to have a meal? If you’re talking with one or two of your family members while they eat aren’t you still accomplishing the checking in that the family meal is supposed to provide?

I have one mom friend who made meatloaf and veggies for dinner one night last year but then ran out of time to serve. They just all took it into the minivan to eat on their way to their activities. So the kids had a home-cooked meal and I’m sure they talk along the way, they just happen to eat it in the minivan. (I also think about those Quaker oatmeal commercials where the kids take the oatmeal in a cup to eat the car on the way to school.)

2.Does every family need a set dinnertime every day like on “Happy Days” or “Downton Abby” that doesn’t waiver no matter what the activities?

At this point my family is able to schedule most of our activities before 6 p.m. so we can usually sit down and eat between 6 and 7. With that said, Michael is only home by then sometimes. Sometimes we wait to eat and sometimes we don’t –  it just depends on how hungry they are. Michael thinks I need to have a set dinner time so everybody knows what time dinner is and won’t over-snack. (However, even if I set a time that doesn’t mean he will be home for dinner every night.)

3.Grazing, tapas, multiple dinners: I liked her descriptions of how her family eats in stages.

I found it interesting that her family has second and third dinners because that’s what my kids always want. Michael gets really irritated when they wander back into the kitchen at 8:30 p.m. for leftover chicken legs, yogurt or fruit. He says they didn’t eat enough at dinner. Sometimes I think they didn’t eat enough (often my youngest who is picky about meat) but often I think they are just hungry – especially my boy. During the school year we even had to set a “kitchen closed” time because it seemed like they would always want to eat when we said it was bedtime.

So what do you think: What makes it a “family” meal? Can a family meal happen in a minivan? Can it happen in stages around different activities? Do you need a set dinnertime? Is grazing – which you see a lot with toddlers – bad for older kids? What are your dinnertime habits?

73 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Mom

July 1st, 2013
7:29 pm

Middle school and grade school–and they can’t sit down and eat as a family. I would curtail the activities. For my own sanity.

Atlanta Mom

July 1st, 2013
7:35 pm

I did it the way your husband suggests. A set meal time, which was early in our house. It was important to me to be out of the kitchen by 7:30. My husband was not always able to join us. But, by having all the kids at the table I heard a lot more than with one on one conversations. Maybe they were talking to each other, or adding pieces of information about what had happened at school that day, but the conversations were lively.

catlady

July 1st, 2013
8:25 pm

It has been awhile, but we had family dinners all at the table. And it was a set time. That family time, for the whole family, was very important!

I ate,at my elder daughter’s Saturday night. A big meal, her family and me, together.

I REALLY LOVE it when I have all three adult kids and their spouses together for something special. Usually we go to Outback. I just sit and listen and marvel at their discussions–when did they grow up? At the time, I thought they would be home, and young, forever, especially those years we were struggling while I was in grad school.

A couple of weeks ago we all gathered at Lake Winfield Scott at Suches. Such a lovely spot–well worth the drive! And it was glorious, having them and the 4 grands all together!

As to the various supper times, I always kept fruit around for after-meal hunger. The kitchen was closed, but they were welcome to that! But I did expect everyone to get the main meal ar one time, no “first seating” and “second seating” on MY cruise ship!

April

July 1st, 2013
9:13 pm

With one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school, our schedule is crazy. We do manage to have dinner together about 3 nights out of seven. On the other nights whoever is home has dinner together.

One of my kids does not eat a big meal at one time. He eats several small meals a day. I have heard that this is healthier in the long run, but I don’t know. If I cut him off after dinner, he would be miserable – his body simply does not take big meals at one time. I will say he consistently makes the healthiest food choices in the family so it is not like he is eating junk between meals. I don’t cook different dinners, but they are welcome to heat their own leftovers or have fruit or cereal.

I do like her description of eating “like hobbits.” Sometimes you do whatever works best for your family in the situation you have.

motherjanegoose

July 1st, 2013
9:31 pm

I was a stickler for family meals. No electronics at or near the table either.
http://poweroffamilymeals.com/resources/about

Lyons

July 1st, 2013
10:07 pm

The woman from the NYTimes story isn’t doing her family any favors. They are far too over extended and are setting themselves up for a fall. I understand your family, Theresa, has to make comprises with Michaels’ schedule, but it’s not an everyday event.

DB

July 2nd, 2013
12:18 am

Wow, this article makes me sad. I firmly believe that you make time for what is important to you. She may pay lip service to “family meals”, but I find it impossible to believe that she hasn’t been able to get the entire family at a table on a weeknight more than twice in two years. That’s just — insane. If the meals aren’t important to her, then she needs to stop feeling guilty about it and move on. If they ARE important to her, if she thinks they have value, then someting has to give. I don’t think it’s good for the kids to be so damned stressed that they don’t even have a quiet 15-30 minutes to sit down, eat, decompress and process their day.

Dinner was sacrosanct in our family. When they got to high school and the practices and rehearsals meant that they didn’t make it home until 6:30 or 7, then that’s when we had dinner. Together. I think it’s a family bonding activity that is far more effective than any sports practice. You learn how to talk, you learn how to argue, you refine table manners, you learn about each other, what is important to them, what is important to you, and, as they get older, they also learn how to cook and how healthy food is prepared. It’s a life skill.

The ironic thing about all this emphasis on sports practices is that in the back of their mind, they think that little Johnny or Suzy might have a chance at a sports scholarship if they keep it up, work to get on a more competitive club team, etc., etc. The chances of that happening are so very slim — I don’t think reaching for that elusive gold ring of a sport scholarship is worth the sacrifice you have to make as a family. The only thing that kind of schedule does is burn a kid out (not to mention the parent!) I suspect that she will look back on this period of her life and go “WTH was I thinking?!”

Mother of 2

July 2nd, 2013
6:42 am

We ate dinner as a family, sitting at the kitchen at 7:00, which is when my husband usually was home. We varied the time as needed, and weren’t always a whole group. Anyone who wanted to eat something after dinner needed to prepare it themselves, and clean up after themselves.

Family dinners were important to us, but they aren’t important to everyone. I think that each family needs to determine how to connect and recharge.

Me

July 2nd, 2013
6:44 am

We have always had family dinners at or about the same time and, yes, we all ate together. It’s far easiser to manage now with only one critter still at home (that’s also about to change so will be even easier when it’s just the two of us). We always seemed to manage external activities so these didn’t interrupt our “family” time. Yes, there have always been times when one of the working adults couldn’t make dinner but, unless it was only a few minutes, the remainder of the family didn’t wait.
I do not think that eating in the “minivan” equates to a family meal – and why is it only in a minivan and not other vehicles? I also don’t consider dinnertime to be a “habit” – I feel it’s more of a structured family activity.

LeeH1

July 2nd, 2013
7:16 am

No one is going to care about your child’s sports activities in grde school. However, good table manners, the ability to talk reasonably abut different subjects, to have a family time as a priority, are all good things that last all life.

You are letting outsiders schedule your children, and strangers teach them how to act towards other people. What is more important, your child’s choir lesson or a routine family dinner? Certainly, if you can schedule your children’s activities, you can schedule your family meals as well. The point is simply you put the child’s activites at a higher priority than you do your family’s “together” time.

Try this: schedule your family dinners, then have your children adapt their school and sports schedule around that. While this is open to blackmail from the kids, it does show where your priorities lie. And a little compromise, as needed, to move the dinner hour up or back, will show thatyou still support their interests. But the family dinner should come first.

cool and collected

July 2nd, 2013
7:18 am

“Family meal” is everyone at the table, eating home cooked food (occasionally take out), with no devices, but actual face-to-face laughing and talking. then all help clear the table and gather together to watch TV or play games. Eating in a car, or people eating in different rooms, does not qualify.

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
7:33 am

We still to this day, sit and eat as a family. Dinner is served between 6-7, and you are required to sit and eat and converse. As long as you live in my home, you will sit at the table and eat with your family.

The person in the article, is over-extended. More emphasis is placed on the kids activities than on the family. This is not good. Meal times are extremely important for everyone, and having a home cooked meal is a blessing these days. Too many people eat on the run. My own sister in law, she NEVER cooks. They eat out in a restaurant every single night for dinner. It;s not healthy and she is doing a disservice to her daughters for not teaching them to cook. Then in turn, when they marry, the tradition will continue. However, my nieces LOVE to come to our house for dinner, and it’s not uncommon for one of them to dine with us at least once a week.

Another friend, an empty nestor, who doesn’t work, but her husband does, eats in restaurants every night. She doesn’t cook either, becuase it’s hard to cook for two. REALLY???? Again, unhealthy, and both of them are suffering with health problems.

I’ve always toyed with starting a home cooked meal delivery, for people who don’t MAKE the time to cook at home. I can shop, prep, cook and deliver healthy meals that can go in to the freezer. Then, all you do is pop them in the microwave to re-heat, or in the oven to cook, and VIOLA, and healthy home cooked meal. I actually do this for a neighbor who is elderly. I cook easy meals for him, so he doesn’t have to do all the work.

I hate seeing people eat in the car. To me, that’s nasty, I don’t want food in my car. And I sure as hell don’t want my family meal in the vehicle either.

motherjanegoose

July 2nd, 2013
7:38 am

@DB…you and I know your last paragraph to be true. Others may not.

We did have extra curricular activities such as sports, music and church but we did not let them consume us. Our family unit was and is more important.

BRAG ALERT…my kids both had jobs too. My son has now been licensed for 1 week as a Pharmacist. He was just offered a management position. I am so proud of him He has been with his company for almost 10 years. MY POINT? Sports are important and so is music but a work ethic will be a long term take away. Manners and social skills are learned at the dinner table. We also discussed life. Obviously, other people besides his MOM think he is a great person! He worked hard and deserves it.

@cool you are correct!

@Mother of 2: “Family dinners were important to us, but they aren’t important to everyone.” I am thinking about all the other things you could insert for Family dinners: hygiene, hard work, charitable deeds, punctuality, good grades, manners, honesty…etc. Seems like some families just skip those things and look where it has gotten us. Scary!

mystery poster

July 2nd, 2013
7:44 am

@Mayhem
I agree with you about eating in the car, it’s nasty. My car is over 3 years old but still looks clean and relatively new because it’s rarely been eaten in (I make exceptions to the “no eating in the car” rule on long trips).

That being said, I feel sorry for this woman’s kids.

K's Mom

July 2nd, 2013
7:53 am

Like others have said, this makes me sad. When I was growing up we ate dinner together most every night until we went to college. My parents still sit down together. I figured out the importance of this tradition when I got to college and dated someone who did not have family meals and had horrible table manners.

Our little guys are small so right now it is easy for us to have dinner at the table every night. We are electronics free with the exception of my iPod which plays background music. The thing that made me realize what an impact this has had on our kids was when we were at a restaurant when K was 2 and he asked the waitress for a napkin and immediately put it in his lap. We had not taught him that, he had just observed us doing it. My husband suggested eating in the formal dining room once a week with the fine china and crystal. We will do that when they get a little older.

Dinner time is my most favorite time of day. Our 3 yo tells us about his day and has started saying the blessing. We usually get to spend time with my husband. Our 14 month old watches and laughs with us. This is not a time I will give up without a fight as my kids get older. I hope that we can always have 3-4 dinners a week together even when schedules get nuts.

commoncents

July 2nd, 2013
7:58 am

Isn’t a “family” meal one in which the family is together? Who should care where it takes place, as long as it takes place?

DB, nowhere in the article does it say the children are stressed or being burned out, only that the free time each child has available is different. You make it sound that if one parent can’t make everything happen, then the children should quit everything they do just so you can see them for dinner at the same time.

“I firmly believe that you make time for what is important to you.” What about what’s important to the kids?

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
8:10 am

@Commoncents – what’s important to the kids, in the long run, is family bonding. It’s making the children realize the world is NOT revolving around THEM. They don’t have choices until they get older. We are the adults, the parents, and we set the rules, limitations, etc. Not the kids. You don’t give them the control. The parents/adults are the ones in control.

When my kids were little, we never allowed then to control us. We are the parents.

K's Mom

July 2nd, 2013
8:19 am

@commoncents, kids should be allowed to pursue their interests and develop priorities. However, kids have parents for a reason and our job is to guide them into seeing the big picture, not just the narrow minded and selfish view that is innate in children and must be widened to become productive citizens. Part of the problem with the millenial generation is that parents have been too concerned about what their kids want and what is important to the kids and have failed to widen the view of the world that children have. That is why so many kids of that generation play team sports but have no idea that the first team you are a part of is your family. If a child gets to grade school and has no idea how to function as part of a family unit, how in the world will they be able to function in a classroom, on a sports team as a true team mate or much later in a work environment? My job is not to make my child’s world perfect from their point of view and meet every one of their wants, it is to make them aware that they are an important part of a big world and to teach them to function within that.

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
8:38 am

@K’smom – very well said!!!!

K's Mom

July 2nd, 2013
8:41 am

@Mayhem, Thanks. You were spot on as well.

MomOf2Girls

July 2nd, 2013
8:55 am

Just playing devil’s advocate here :-)

Say there are 2 children, each with a 2 night a week activity. Neither is stressed out, 2 nights a week seems reasonable, right? Now imagine that Child A has the activity on Mondays and Wednesdays. Child B has the activity on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Who do you tell to give up their activity so you can have a weeknight family dinner?

I’m not saying the family dinner isn’t important – it is, and we do it most nights. My point is that it’s not as easy as everyone seems to be making it out to be. While I agree that family comes first, in the situation I described above, which is not extreme in the least, you are either giving up family dinners or making one or both kids give up the only extracurricular activity they have. While they aren’t going to make a career out of it (most likely), I do believe it is important for kids to have interests outside of school. While there used to be many opportunities during the school day for extracurriculars (band, choir, art, sports, etc), allowing us to have the family dinners we all enjoyed a generation ago, almost everything has been eliminated with budget cuts. This means that almost every child who has an outside interest has to pursue it after school.

Again, not advocating either way, just pointing this out.

Techmom

July 2nd, 2013
9:03 am

I enjoy family meals but I admit that we were never religious about them. Even with only 1 kid, we simply didn’t have time most days. With both my husband and I working, there usually wasn’t anyone home before 6pm to cook. When I started working from home, things got a bit better but we’ve always been involved in a lot (not just our son). When he was in elementary school, he played sports and usually had some kind of practice 2 nights a week and we had church another. We were automatically down 3 days. When he got to middle and high school – forget it. He usually had practice till 5:30/6 for whatever sport he was playing at the time and then Tuesdays we head straight to Scouts & Wednesday to church. We’re lucky to grab some left overs, a sandwich or hit Chick-Fil-A on the way. We actually did better at eating at home together on the weekends until he got a job.

That being said, we’re very close. We talk a lot in the evenings, we’ve always been involved in what our son is doing and we make the most of the time we have together. I think family meals are nice but I don’t think your family is going to fall apart if you don’t have them every day of the week.

A

July 2nd, 2013
9:32 am

Count me as someone who’s very sad that people can’t have more than 2 family meals together in 2 years. We eat at 6 p.m. during the school year….maybe a half hour later the rest of the time. Weekends and going out we might do later, but the point is we eat as a family almost all of the time. If my child has a baseball game at 5:30 p.m., he’ll have a snack before going, and then after his game ends we’ll go somewhere quick for a bite…but we’re doing it as a family, not in the car on the run from one place to another.

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
9:35 am

It’s important to me, even though my kids are in their 20’s, for us to all sit down together. We did that when I was younger, Mom always had a good healthy dinner for us. My dad travelled a lot for business, so he was out about one week a month. Still, Mom cooked, after working a full time job as a Nurse at a hospital. Mom cooked nutritious meals, a meat, 2 veggies, and a salad. ALWAYS!!! So she passed that down to us. I cook just about every night, and my brother cooks for his daughters when they are with him.

So I guess that’s what’s important to me, is handing down traditions.

My youngest daughter has a friend who lives with her grandparents. Grandma cooks every night, but they each make a plate, and the kids go to their rooms to eat, while Grandma & Grandpa sit in front of the tv. I think that is so sad, and I have NEVER allowed my kids to eat in their rooms. Snacks maybe, but never a meal.

Now there are nights, when all the kids are not home for dinner, but that does not stop us from sitting down together. All I require is just let me know if you will be home for dinner or not.

And while growing up, each child was allowed one activity after school. Hubs and I basically worked the same hours, and we got home about the same time, so we would tag team the kids activities. BUT, we very rarely ate on the run. I’ve always cooked A LOT of food on Sundays, and there’s plenty of healthy leftovers…….We fire up the grill on Sundays, and cook a ton of meat, along with the neighbors. Just this past Sunday, we cooked Turkey burgers, regular hamburgers, some sausages, a couple of cut up chickens, etc.

All that freezes very well for meals later in the week. Matter of fact, I brought all the left over turkey burgers to work, and they will be my lunch, along with a small salad, all week at work.

HB

July 2nd, 2013
9:46 am

She didn’t say only two family meals in two years — she said 2 family weeknight meals. Maybe they’re over-extended. Or maybe they’re just the type of people who thrive on constant activity (not everyone unwinds best with quiet down time at home). She should take a good look at the kids schedules and give them the opportunity to quit a activity if they wish, but if they love it and neither parent minds the hectic schedule, I think they’re probably fine.

SEE

July 2nd, 2013
10:02 am

Meals are a very loud, rambunctious affair at our house. With 5 boys, 2 of which have ADHD, it’s constant chatter, laughter, noise, and one-upmanship. My husband and I eat our meals before in peace and quiet. Then, to minimize messes, I serve the boys food while hubby feeds the baby. As soon as I have finished passing out the mashed potatoes, cutting up the meat, and pouring the dressing, the ones I served first are asking for seconds. It’s a busy, noisy 20 minutes for me, but my boys love it. I don’t interrupt with more “adult” conversation, but listen in on some interesting discussions. I’ve hear everything from arguments about Hernandez de Cortes (don’t ask), how to defeat a creeper, negotiations on chore bartering, and, of course, the nightly “who can make the baby laugh loudest” (which daddy always wins). I don’t know if it qualifies as a family dinner, but it’s the way we do it. Hopefully, the boys will remember those times fondly.

Good job, SEE

July 2nd, 2013
10:30 am

…you are a wise one…

Good job, SEE

July 2nd, 2013
10:31 am

…you and your husband may not eat at the same time as the boys yet you are both present and interacting with them when they eat and that is the important part.

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
10:36 am

@Goodjob,SEE….there’s a special place in heaven for the Mom of 5 boys!!! I don’t think I could do what you are doing. Keep up the good work!!!

MG

July 2nd, 2013
11:58 am

Uh, food and a family. Hello?

jmb

July 2nd, 2013
12:46 pm

For 20 years my now ex-husband expected a full course meal every evening no later than 7:30 to be ready when he got in from working in his shop or yard. Not once did he take us out for a meal nor a vacation and he expected meals like fried chicken, veggies, mashed potatoes etc. every night. He also did not allow the kids to have any sports activities. They went to school, went out to play, came in for dinner and then it was homework, bath and TV time. This was done pretty consistantly during our entire marriage. I came to hate the routine and my kids did as well. When I married a man the exact opposite of my ex, those routines were out the door. Yes, we had many meals together but they weren’t manadory nor expected. They became times to enjoy. I still cooked quite often but sometimes it was 8 or 9 at night. Whatever worked out for us all and we ate out when we felt like it as well. Now that the kids are grown, we still eat when and what we want. No set schedules and it works great for us. If everyone in the family is happy with their eating schedule, that’s all that really matters. Whether you sit down for dinner every night together or just eat on the run, just make sure the whole family is happy.

CC

July 2nd, 2013
1:24 pm

It does not have to be the same time everyday but any family members that are home and can eat at the same table should do it everyday. Families that do this stay strong!

Becky

July 2nd, 2013
2:33 pm

Growing up, we never ate a “family” meal at the table..Due to my Mom’s strange work hours and eight kids at home, this just wasn’t possible..My Mother worked one week from 11 pm to 7am, the next week she worked 3pm to 11pm, then the next week, she worked 7am to 3 pm, she did this for 25 years.. She cooked and we ate when we were ready..Last one to eat had to wash and clean..I cook for my two and lots of times we eat at the table, but there are times when all of us eat in front of the TV..We do plenty of things together to make us happy..Of course, I also let the kids help plan meals and I will cook veggies and a different meat for them at times..So guess whatever works for each family is ok..

Mayhem

July 2nd, 2013
2:44 pm

How many out there let the kids take an active role in meal preparation/planning? All 3 of mine were heavily involved as they hit the teen years. I made sure my son learned to cook, and my daughters as well.

malleesmom

July 2nd, 2013
2:51 pm

It depends on the time of year. Right now, we sit down to dinner most nights all four of us. I try and shoot for dinner around the same time. If my husband is here, fine. If not, the girls and I eat without him. During sports season we’re more flexible due to school & practice schedules. If the girls eat early i.e. 3:30/4:30 and then go to practice you can be sure they’re hungry afterwards. They will either eat a bit of leftovers, yogurt/fruit, cereal etc. Nothing too big and typically not right before bed unless it’s a late practice i.e. after 8p. I prefer not to have an open-all-night kitchen so we strive for mealtime, clean up, kitchen closed by a reasonable hour.

K's Mom

July 2nd, 2013
3:12 pm

@Mayhem, I think that involving kids is super important. My 3yo is not super involved yet, but he helps me clean out the dishwasher, put groceries away and take his plate to the sink. I am also starting to talk about nutrition with him. In another few months he is going to get his chefs hat and apron and begin helping me a little, I just want him to follow directions a little better so that he does not burn himself.

The best thing that helped me get him to start doing chores was to have major surgery last december. I could not bend from the waist for 6 weeks and he started helping with all of the low to the ground chores.

joe

July 2nd, 2013
3:22 pm

Mikey D’s!!

Scarlett

July 2nd, 2013
3:22 pm

There is also the school of thought that we are too focused on food in our society. Why is it assumed that you can only have family conversations and learn what your kids are doing if food is involved. The same conversations can occur in the car, on a bike ride, while putting together a puzzle or playing a game. Some of my best conversations with my kids take place when it is just one kid and me in the car.

jarvis

July 2nd, 2013
3:29 pm

Am I alone in that I wish I had some time away from my kids? I’m either at work or with them…..

They are 6 and 9. Maybe someday I’ll miss the constant togetherness, but for godssake….I’d love a half hour to myself.

Denise

July 2nd, 2013
4:28 pm

@Jarvis – That is funny. But I understand needing alone time. I’m alone too much lately, though.

We didn’t have the “constant togetherness” growing up. I don’t have these wonderful memories of family dinners. We just ate, mostly in front of the TV, watching whatever game was on. It seems like there was ALWAYS a game on. I will say that I envy the closeness that some of you say you have in your families and “family dinner” sounds fun.

We did a lot of things together that didn’t have to do with food, though. My brother and I both played sports so we’d go between courts and fields and tracks together as much as possible. We played cards and dominos a lot. I guess with all the back and forth with the parents it was hard to develop that “family” atmosphere for more than a few years at a time.

I have a question, though, and this is not from a judgmental place. Why is it okay that the husband/father is not included in these family dinners? I understand work schedules maybe precluding his joining every night but if the whole point is a FAMILY dinner, is it really one when the whole family isn’t there? I think fathers and husbands sometimes get pushed to the side even in “good” families. I don’t see a where a lot of moms would be okay with “it doesn’t matter if Mom is there”.

Uh, jarvis...

July 2nd, 2013
4:39 pm

…you can be “alone” after they are grown – until then, keep up the good work…

mom2alex&max

July 2nd, 2013
4:39 pm

Denise: I can’t speak for everyone, but in my house I am always home when they get home from school. My husband might be home by 4 or it might be 8. During the school year, my kids are starving by 5, so we have to go ahead and eat. Specially if there is an evening activity on the schedule.

If I worked too, I would be fine with my husband cooking dinner and the eating it without waiting for me.

FCM

July 2nd, 2013
5:02 pm

@ jarvis…mine are with their Dad for a few weeks. I miss them so much I cannot stand it. I am counting the weeks until they get home.

However, it is nice to not look for my phone or remote. It is nice to not have to stop doing something to refree a spat. Or to listen to who took the dog out last, etc. There is no extra people to get out in the morning and the house is quiet/calm…..to quiet and too calm…oh I am getting antsy again! (And do not tell me to think how their father feels when I have them…not going there.)

Denise

July 2nd, 2013
5:52 pm

@mom2alex&max – thank you. I was just wondering, really. I hear so much – no specifically on here – about what fathers are not doing but what I see sometimes is that moms aren’t letting the dads do things or are acting like his presence is not important. I thoroughly understand that meeting the needs of the family may not resemble the Cleavers! (And for the record, I’m hungry ALL the time so I know I wouldn’t want to wait for the “just in case” someone made it home at a reasonable hour. :-) )

DB

July 2nd, 2013
10:02 pm

@commoncents: “What about what is important to the kids?” In our family, the children had a voice, they had a chance to express their opinion — but they did NOT have a vote. This is not a democracy, it is a benign dictatorship :-) As I pointed out to my kids ad naseum “The United States is not a democracy, it is a republic. When you’re old enough to vote in the United States, you will be old enough to vote in this family. Until then, there’s only two votes that count.” As parents, we are responsible for having a realistic big picture view of what is important and what a child needs to become a productive, happy member of society.

Having a child’s mini-society (family) turned inside out to accomodate their pastimes doesn’t give a child a clear view of how the world works. Millenial children have grown up with what I consider to be an over-inflated view of “me, me, me” Their toys and their pastimes are increasingly solitary, their families units are smaller, the number of divorces have shifted the focus from the family unit to a laser-focus on the children. Even in intact families, many parents allow the family to be run by the kids — and we ALL know families where that is true, where a child argues, talks back and treats their parent as a not-too-bright equal. A child who can converse well without mumbling or peering down at their shoes, make eye contact, one who can eat with good manners (napkin in lap, don’t talk with food in your mouth, etc.) are becoming more and more rare. The parents who have given up on family dinners have priorities that are very different from mine. I will be the first to admit that not every dinner I put on the table was a homemade marvel — sometimes, it was take-out (thank you, Publix rotisserie chicken!), combined with a salad or a veggie side dish. But the important thing was that it was on a plate, at a table, with silverware and family. AND NO PHONES. My kids know that, even now, phones at the table are verbotten. The world will continue to turn without them for 15 minutes.

@jarvis: Every parent needs off-duty time — moms do, and so do dads. I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking a weekend afternoon for golf with friends, or just closing the bedroom door and reading by yourself for a couple of hours. My husband runs and bikes, and always uses that time to clear his head and mentally shift gears. I encourage it — he’s always less frazzled after an hour run.

BehindEnemyLines

July 3rd, 2013
2:01 am

If I weren’t so hard to shock, I’d probably be surprised about all the delusional commentary here. On the bright side the people clinging to a 50’s mentality in the 21st century made for pretty good unexpected comedy in the middle of the night … err, morning. I did get one surprise though: the NYT blogger has a pretty good grip on reality, not something I usually find from that particular source (NYT, not the blogger)

atlmom

July 3rd, 2013
5:18 am

We eat together. Sometimes my youngest has already eaten. Sometimes they all eat a second time before they go to bed–but we sit down at the table, give thanks to God for lives, eat, talk. I time it to make sure everyone has sat for 15-20 minutes. I am so proud to say that my 3 year old always asks “May I be excused?” We make eye contact and wait for each other to finish our sentences. Usually someone is crying, another gets put in time out. . . but they are learning manners from it and we are building relationships.

Mayhem

July 3rd, 2013
6:57 am

@Jarvis – don’t wish this time away. They will be grown and gone in the blink of an eye. In the meantime, go have a beer with a friend. Do what DB suggested.

My husband and I each get a night off to do something with our respective friends. Back when my kids were younger, I always referred to it as “Mayhen Time”, where I could have adult conversation, or just giggle and be silly with my girlfriends. I think that’s so important. We get so busy with kids, work, life in general, that we forget to take that important time for ourselves, to regroup.

My advice, meet a friend for a beer after work.

motherjanegoose

July 3rd, 2013
8:05 am

@DB…thank you: A child who can converse well without mumbling or peering down at their shoes, make eye contact, one who can eat with good manners (napkin in lap, don’t talk with food in your mouth, etc.) are becoming more and more rare. The parents who have given up on family dinners have priorities that are very different from mine. I will be the first to admit that not every dinner I put on the table was a homemade marvel — sometimes, it was take-out (thank you, Publix rotisserie chicken!), combined with a salad or a veggie side dish. But the important thing was that it was on a plate, at a table, with silverware and family. AND NO PHONES. My kids know that, even now, phones at the table are verbotten. The world will continue to turn without them for 15 minutes.

Also,. many adults and children do not understand the manners of waiting until everyone is served to begin the meal. Or eating what is served graciously. How can you learn this skill when you do not sit down to eat as a family?

YES Jarvis…you do need to take time for yourself. YES your kids will be grown and gone very quickly!