The Demise of Family Dinners

I never loved cooking, but I was an adequate maker of meals until a couple years ago.  Then, within a few weeks of each other, two things changed that brought my regular efforts at family dinners to an end.

First, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes.  Wanting to avoid medications, he began eating an Atkins like diet.  No carbs.  Tons of meat and salad.  He needed to learn what he could and could not eat, and wanted to do it himself, not have me doing the research and providing it for him.  He did great; his blood sugar levels fell back into the normal range after only a few months, so he stuck with making his own meals.

His meals did not appeal to me.  I rarely eat meat.  (I don’t like to make a fuss, so I will eat a small portion if it’s served to me.  Plus, I eat crab cakes in the summer when I’m in Maryland.  And I’m thinking about starting to eat chicken again, a couple times a month.)

The second change was our daughter attending public school.  Formerly homeschooled and eating all her meals at home, as soon as she started going out to school, she stopped wanting to eat breakfast and lunch.  She would take a lunch, but I don’t know if she really ate it.  I know that she arrived home from school at 4pm famished, and wanted to eat dinner immediately.

While I could have made her eat a small snack and wait for dinner, I didn’t.  I let her eat as much as she wanted at 4pm, then a smaller snack before bedtime.

Some days I’d cook a meal for the two of us, and eat with her after school, but her meal of choice was an entire frozen pizza and a salad, eaten while she reads a book.  I’m not a total derelict, though; I set a “two pizzas per week” rule.

It’s like the “two bowls of ramen per week” rule, but she actually follows the pizza rule.

That’s how we’ve muddled through the past couple years, but last week, I admitted to myself that we are not eating the healthy foods we started out eating.  I rarely cook for my daughter and myself anymore.  We are all eating a lot of pre-made foods, and we only sit down together for a meal at home once or twice a week.

We also have slowly picked up the habit of eating junk at night.  I don’t know when that started.  We were pretty close to junk-less right after my husband’s diagnosis, but the chips and chocolates and ice cream crept back into our evenings, nudging the nuts and veggies out.

So last week, we decided that we need to return to family dinners.

This time, though, I am only cooking twice a week.  My husband and daughter will each make dinner once a week.  That’s four nights of home cooked meals.  One night we’re allowing ourselves Costco meals (things like frozen ravioli, not frozen pizza).  One night is for eating out.  The last night is our flex night for leftovers or scrounging on our own or me cooking a third night.

Or maybe someone else will discover a love of cooking?!

What is dinnertime like at your house?  Does someone in your house love to cook?

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6 thoughts on “The Demise of Family Dinners

  1. We have trouble with this too. My husband has been working nights so my daughter and I tend to eat a lot of yogurt and oatmeal or other easy foods for dinner. Sometimes we have family breakfast instead, but that doesn’t always work out because my daughter eats as soon as she wakes up and my husband and I usually wait a while. Sometimes she eats two breakfasts and then has a small lunch and a small dinner later. It’s unscheduled and a free for all. I read that family dinners are important for raising kids, but we haven’t quite figured out how to do it with our weird schedules or lack of schedules.

    • My husband worked long and off hours for many years, so I know what you mean. I think it is important to find what works for your family, not to follow the “expert advice.”

  2. We do family dinner almost every night…its much later these days b/c of my husband’s job but he makes an effort to be home and have dinner with us…even when it often means the laptop comes home with him and he’s on it as soon as the girls clean up dinner. I’ve started ordering from an organic farm and they deliver every Tuesday. I love that and its really helped me get back my adventurous spirit and desire to cook nice meals.
    I’ve got the family dinner down, my main challenge is to get more consistent in letting the girls help more. They both love to cook and bake but I too often just do it myself to save the mess and energy involved in teaching them.

  3. i always cooked dinner. i can’t say i enjoyed it but i felt as a single working mother i needed and they might need for us to sit down together for dinner every night. i was never creative-i had set menus in my head that i knew they would eat and i baked so we usually had dessert. but we also went out one night a week. it was always nice to be out of the house, away from homework and housework.

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