Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Family Meal

Maybe this post would be a better fit on Wendy Can't Cook, being about dinnertime and all, but I think in my world, it's perfectly appropriate to post it here.

Over the last few months I have struggled daily just to keep the basics covered. Life went from moderately crazy to completely overwhelming and then settled back down again. The trucker and I seemed to hit a brick wall and that made life even more difficult. When you don't feel like your partner is on the same team, reaching your goals becomes almost impossible. But we are back on the same side again and continuing to work on communication. I think that is something that evolves constantly in a marriage and we need to make it a focus ALL the time. ("We" meaning anyone who is married!)

One of the things he told me during our 'getting to know each other again' stages here was that he is very frustrated by the fact that I don't always (okay... don't often) have a meal planned for supper. When I was feeling raw and hurt, all I heard was "you are home all day and can't even make ME dinner." I felt like a failure. As a wife and a mother. I mean really... what's one meal? Then I got angry. YES I'm home all day... but I WORK too. I have three kids to raise and clean up after. I am TIRED too.

But... after much discussion (yes, discussion, we'd passed the argument stage by then) I finally started to understand what this meant. He doesn't care if there are toys on the floor. He doesn't care if the kids rooms are messy. He doesn't care if homework is done. He just likes to know what we're having for dinner. It's a long day for him, when he leaves for work at 4 a.m. and sometimes earlier. He's practically starving by the time he gets home.

Slowly, I've come to understand that it's not about FOOD at all. I was still missing the point. 

A few years back, we both worked out of the house. I had child care in home and they would usually have dinner ready for the kids around 5. I would get home around 6 and just throw anything together for the two of us. But when I started Mat leave after Angel Baby, I changed the rules. I WANTED dinner to be a family affair. I enforced harsh rules on my family and forced them to adjust. Basically normal rules for many homes, but new and hard rules for us. Supper is at the table. Everyone. No exceptions. No TV on, ever. And you eat what I make. End of story.

It took a long time for the family to adjust. Seriously. We ALWAYS had the TV going. Someone would be in the kitchen, someone in the dining room, and sometimes I didn't even try to make all of us eat at the same time. It was crazy. But after a while, it got easier. Everyone noticed if the TV was left on, everyone started to at least try some of what I made. And suddenly, everyone started talking.

I am a very involved mother. Not a helicopter mom, but I make a point to know what's going on at school and with my kids friends. I know how their day was by supper time because I ask about it in the van on the way home.

BUT... The trucker doesn't get that. He works weird hours. Sometimes he can be home before they get home from school, sometimes it's not until after bedtime.

Do you see where this is going? He's not upset about food (yes, he is hungry, but he can feed himself too), he's upset that our Family Meal is getting missed. I indirectly steal those moments from him. Unintentionally, I take away quality time for him to provide direct attention to the people in his life that matter most. Myself and the kids.

If you think about it all... not just him, but family dinners in general... it HAS to be something we are hard wired from birth to look for. There are so many benefits to eating together that I won't even try to make a list here. But we MUST BE BORN KNOWING THAT MEALS ARE MEANT TO BE SHARED.

After all... how fun would a Tea Party for One be?


  1. You are very right, on all counts.

    We are terrible about eating at the table. The kids are usually in the living room, and I'm eating while I'm doing dishes or whatever. I don't have a man around to deal with, so we don't have that aspect of it, but we need to sit at the table and eat more - just for the quality time.

    Awesome post! Love it!


  2. I want TV off and all of us sitting around the table, my husband can not stand NOT having the TV off and could care less about talking to us during dinner. Welcome to my dilemma, and another reason I keep a divorce lawyer's number in my contact list.