(Contributed by Osheta Moore. Read more about our writers here.)
Whether it’s Pinterest, advertisements, or other parents’ Facebook brags, Moms are constantly sent a message: you can do better.
Last year, I was drowning in “have to” and “should” and “not enough”. Everything seemed to be
THE MOST IMPORTANT thing.
My middle child was struggling with reading, so a well-meaning friend told me I HAD TO explore
getting an individualized educational plan for him. He may be special needs, she cautioned, and I
didn’t want miss out on a chance to help him, right?
My daughter was going through her first (and sadly not last) triangulation of girl drama. Her best
friend from the year before invited a new girl in and the three just couldn’t find their stride. Daily,
she was coming home crying over misinterpreted glares and inside jokes she didn’t get. Her
second grade teacher sent me an email saying, it was IMPERATIVE I meet with the other moms
to figure out their funky dynamic.
My oldest couldn’t decide between Chucks or Nikes and apparently, in middle school the shoes
you wear determines the group you’re in, “Mom, am I a jock or a nerd? I can’t decide. I HAVE
to decide!” He moaned one morning getting ready for school.
How many of these “shoulds” can we really get done at once?
Last year, we were closing the doors to our church plant, wrestling with racism and gender
equality in our marriage, and adjusting to my husband’s new (smaller) salary as an at risk youth
Last year, I just couldn’t handle another push to do more. Then the blog posts on the family and
meal planning and the glory of life around the table started flooding my inbox. They seemed to
speak to all the issues in my family: more conversations, better connection, contentment, and
confidence all waited for us at the table. With every written, witty reflection I felt hopeless that
we’d come out of this crazy season unless we figured out how to have dinner around the table,
EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!
The pressure of “every single night.”
I think what overwhelmed with me the various meal planning apps and posts about family dinner
time is the EVERY SINGLE NIGHT implications of it all. Every night we sit around the table.
Every night I plan something new to make. Every night we have deep intimate conversation
that raises well adjusted, conscientious people who have amazing hygiene. (I have boys. That
hygiene thing is iffy, at best.)
USA today said, “The more dinners a week the better.” The problem was, I didn’t have more.
I was stretched thin enough as it was. If the table was the remedy, then maybe I’d prefer we’d
I wanted all the benefits of family dinner time, but it didn’t fit into my life at that moment.
I knew there was some truth to all the research. The stories were too inspiring to ignore. I just
needed to figure out how to write our story of family dinner time. So, I took an afternoon and
thought about my family’s personality: we are not table people. We’re lounge in front of the TV,
taste from the pot, hip against the counter people. We’re load up in the van and eat burgers in
the park people. I could count on my hand the number of times I’ve put my foot down and had
dinner at our table in any given month. Sure, some of that may have been laziness, but most of
it was just our family’s rhythm and I wasn’t sure I wanted to change it completely. Just tweek it
What are your family’s needs?
Then I factored in to our family’s needs: structure for all the moving parts of life, confidence and
encouragement that we can handle the stress of school and work, laughter and fun to
remember that life isn’t a series of to do lists and appointments. And I decided that for a season, we’d go to the table, but only three times a week. Once to plan or have family meetings, once to flex our bravery and try a new dish, and once to celebrate anything
The other nights we’d eat dinner in whatever way worked for the evening. If we were all too tired
to talk, we’d watch a Good Mythical Morning together over a dinner of sloppy joes and carrots. If
my husband worked late, we’d have cold cereal and catch up on school work. Committing to
three nights a week created fixtures of peace in the midst of our busy weeks and relieved the
pressure for the other nights to live up to some ideal of family dinner time perfection.
There’s always going to be some piece of advice that is a MUST. There’s going to be
persuasive voices for this camp or that. Well meaning friends will give advice or share a post on
Facebook and if we’re not careful we’ll feel like we have to do it all. Maybe not. There’s some
wisdom in making small consistent meaningful changes to our parenting. Our small changes
was adding three family dinners to our schedule, what could be your small changes?
Image Credit: Robert Parzychowski
Originally Published 12/4/2015