How Often Do You Have Family Dinner? (And How Often Should You?)

I got an email from a friend and reader recently.  She’d seen a blog post on another site that asked “How many nights a week do your kids eat the same things as you do?”

All of the comments were along the lines of “7 days a week”, “I’m not a short-order cook.”

She wrote:

I think eating dinner as a family is important, but OBVIOUSLY it’s not as high a priority for me since I’m not making it happen like these women. I try to eat at least 3 dinners a week together as a family, but I’m no where near 7. BUT, let me offer some reasons:

1. I typically feed the kids right when we get home from daycare (5:30 or 6pm) so I can get them to practices or we’re ready to tackle homework etc. They go to bed at 8:15, so I’m working within about a 2-hour window to get everything done. I know, I can use my crock pot to get things done, and do. . .BUT. ..I know some people would say, you shouldn’t have them in extracurricular activities at 5 and 7, etc.

2. My husband and I have been working out. I go at 5am in the morning, but he has been going in the evenings about 3 times during the week. I think exercising is really important, and I don’t want to mess around with his schedule. Again, something else we have going on in the evenings.

3. I’m an involved parent in the kids’ school and often have volunteer meetings on the weekday evenings. Therefore, again, I’m trying to get home, get the kids squared away (fed, homework, etc.) so I’m ready to go to my meeting. This is not an EVERY-night thing, but some weeks are more hectic than others.

4. I consider it a win if I get my kids to eat SOMETHING healthy. I know, this isn’t mutually exclusive of COOKING dinner for the entire family, but if my kids will eat turkey slices, carrots, and applesauce without complaint and I don’t feel like eating that. . .somehow I feel it’s better for the family dynamic than the battles at dinner and at least they’re consuming healthy stuff.

Reading all of those posts about women never having their kids eat something different really made me feel sh*&Ty! I CANNOT be the only one with these issues. . . .can I?

BUT, I’m finding it nearly impossible to coordinate time and schedule wise more than 3 times a week. I’ve been focusing on getting the kids healthier choices.

AND, I’ve been personally trying to alter my eating habits since January. SO, following my “diet” also puts me at a slightly different situation than the kids (although, I know it doesn’t need to be different).

I hope I’m not the only ONE with these issues.

First and foremost, we all know that she is NOT the only one with these issues!  Can I get an amen?

hundreds of paths

What choices are you making?

Here’s the thing.  We all make choices.  And if your choices lead you to feed your kids a different dinner at a different time than you, the real question isn’t is that good or bad, the question is: are you OK with it?

So, all those things my friend listed—extracurriculars, and working out, and dieting and picking your battles—those are the choices she’s making right now.  And it sounds like those choices are more important to her than having her family all eat the same dinner.  AND THAT’S OK.

In my opinion, it’s more important to just recognize the choices that you’re making and the reasons you’re making them.  If you’re OK with the reasons and the outcome (like not eating the same things at the same time) then there’s no problem!  It’s only if you examine those things and are not OK with it that you need to make a change.

If you’re not OK with the outcome, then you need to examine your choices—and remember that they ARE choices, no matter how important they seem.  (She mentions that she could keep her kids out of after school activities, or not volunteer as much, or ask her husband not to work out at dinner time.)

All this food stuff is not one size fits all!  As I told my friend, if your kids are eating turkey and applesauce and carrots, I would call that a WIN.  That is a healthy meal with a fruit AND a veggie! Plus, if you’re sitting down together three times a week, that’s three times more than a lot of people. In fact, the very fact that you’re concerned about it puts you head and shoulders above most people.

So, first of all, give yourself credit for what you’re doing well. Don’t focus on the ways you think you’re falling short of some impossible ideal.

And finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone not living your exact life. Only you can make the choices that are right for you.

Have you got a question you’d like me to answer here? Leave a comment below or drop me a line at lacy @

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