Family mealtimes, are they a drama or a joy? As a theme, it is something we regularly find ourselves returning to at Grape and Nectar. In fact, we love to share food with our friends and family. In the wake of children becoming part of our lives, it has become a central part of our worlds. Especially since going out to eat is no longer the regular, weekly occurrence it once was!
We are also aware of how easy it is to get caught up in the crazy chaos of our day-to-day lives. In a world filled with deadlines and ‘to do’ lists, mealtimes all too often become rushed. The are regularly laden with stress, irritation and annoyance. But do they have to be like that? It may seem odd, but I think the answer to that question is yes and no. Let me explain myself.
On occasion, any mealtime where children and adults are thrown into the mix will, without a doubt, turn into a shit show. There’s often someone who doesn’t want to eat what made, or someone who sulks. Regularly at least one child will niggle and bicker with a sibling (or you will gripe at your other half….). Often, bigger folk let the stress if their day effect their mood and, therefore, the mood of all those at the table. This is certainly my reality at least fifty percent of the time.
However, the other half of the time, family mealtimes can be amazing, often even enjoyable and full of laughter and chatter. Yet, the harmonious meals are not consistently achievable. Ignoring the ‘people’ factor, logistics can make a sit down meal a challenge. Weekly commitments to swimming lessons, play dates, sports clubs and birthday parties are a constant juggling act. Then you’ll always have someone working later on random days or one parent heading out and handing over, as the other one walks in the door. As such ensuring family meals together is, quite frankly, bloody hard.
Finding a way to enjoy family mealtimes
As a solution, I have a few ground rules that have built up over the last decade. Many have now become habit. For example, all meals involving small folk are eaten around a table. We ensure that at least one parent has breakfast with the boys everyday. On weekends, we aim to have lunch and tea together, but it is rarely flashy or stressful to prepare. Devices are (usually) put away and we talk. On weekdays, if we are not on the hoof, one of us eats with the children. Initially, this last point was a tricky decision, eating with your partner is a great thing to do. However, given my husband’s work schedule, this works best for us.
I have learnt that in a world of constant ‘doing’, carving out some time to sit down together and share a family meal (even if that family unit is depleted because of other commitments) can actually be enough to help you press the reset button. Even if it is just a quick twenty minutes at tea time or some granola in the morning it can be enough to achieve a pause and connect. You just have to find a way to make it work for you, so it doesn’t feel like something else you’re doing to tick a parenting box.