This Is Why Family Dinners Don’t Have to Be Perfect
You may or may not know this about me, but when I’m not here writing for Grit and Grace Life, I actually run a fun little faith-based food blog, which I know is a strange combo, but it works somehow for me. I’ve been doing this for years now, and I feel blessed that I get to combine my passions for cooking, writing, and sharing Jesus with people all over the world. When I got the wild hair to start this thing, I never imagined that it would grow the way it has, that my words would touch people and help people and maybe (hopefully) even make people laugh at my expense—because truthfully, I’m really quite ridiculous.
Since starting my blog I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I’ve talked with people that I haven’t seen in years—sometimes reaching as far back as middle school (yes, they knew me when I was at my most ridiculous and most awkward), and have realized that though time and distance may separate us, many of us are pretty much in the same crazy space of life right now; we’re mostly moms fighting the same fights and struggling through the same struggles.
And through many of these connections and conversations, a subtle theme has started to show its face. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a food blog so people assume things about me as a cook, but there is a thread among many of my conversations with other mothers. It’s almost shame, but not quite. It’s almost an excuse or guilt, but not quite.
The common statement…
I’m not even sure what the word or emotion is behind it, but in an overwhelming majority of conversations with other moms there is always a disclaimer that goes something like this:
“I don’t have time to cook. I want to, but I just don’t know how to manage it.”
Or, “I don’t know how to cook. It’s all so intimidating to me.”
Or, “I can’t figure out what to make so I make the same four things over and over.”
And you can tell by the way that these words are said that there is a tremendous amount of guilt here. Almost defensiveness, too. As if I am judging them because they ran through the drive-thru that night instead of putting a glorious home-cooked meal on the table in front of their family.
And I’m here to tell any mom that feels this guilt: stop.
Just stop beating yourself up!
Somewhere along the way our thoughts and feelings about food got screwed up. Somewhere we got the idea that if a meal isn’t 100% from scratch featuring a rainbow of vegetables and food groups that we aren’t doing our job as a mother nurturing her family. The pendulum swung rapidly from our parents, who were pretty ok with microwave dinners and canned vegetables to our generation that feels that if our kids aren’t eating kale each day we’ve failed.
Where is the middle road here, people?
Allow me to let you in on a little secret about my life. Yes, even as a food blogger I fail at dinner all of the time. Last night my kids had boxed mac and cheese and applesauce. No vegetable. Not a green in sight. Because that’s all I could muster after a long afternoon of driving all over town for activities. The night before—pizza—because my husband and I wanted to eat something special that we knew they wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.
I live by the 80/20 rule when it comes to meals. And sometimes, on rough weeks it’s more like 50/50. Or even 40/60. And I’ve learned to make peace with this.
None of us get it right all of the time. And there’s no shame in that. Working moms—I know your pain. I know how hard it is to work a long day and come home to homework, activities, and sports and then feel the push to get something good on the table.
Moms with toddlers and babies, I know how exhausting it is to follow a little human around a house all day just trying to keep them alive, and then to feed them something that won’t get launched across the room is sometimes just too much. Stay at home moms to older kids—those activities are killer. Some nights we have three or four separate activities in separate parts of town and we can barely figure out how to get the kids to each. We need color coded spreadsheets just to manage our lives. Dinner? Forget about it!
Why don’t we redefine what it means to cook family dinners?
Does it have to mean something that comes from a recipe? No. Does it have to be a complete square meal with all food groups and colors of the rainbow? Nope. Does it have to come from our kitchen exclusively? Not for a second.
Let’s just call it a meal when it’s brought to the table with love, no matter how it gets there. Does that work?
Feeding our families does not have to be as complicated as we make it. Give yourself grace—God did not say that we have to be moms who are creating gourmet meals for our kids every night. He wants us to love them and bring them up right.
So, stop beating yourself up. Dinner shouldn’t be stressful. If you have time to get just two meals on the table a week, but you give those meals your all, that’s awesome. If your kids only eat chicken nuggets and pizza but you manage to get some fruit on the side, consider it a win. Do what you can do each day, and fill in the want to do when time permits.
It’s far more important that you are there for them and loving them and living life alongside of them than it is that they get some delicious meal every night. It’s far more important that you shape their souls and hearts than their taste buds. There’s plenty of time for the food, not so much for the spiritual foundation.
So cut yourself slack. This mom understands and refuses to judge. I am right there alongside you, saying this momming thing, it’s hard. I’m doing my best. And that’s all I can do today.
Don’t miss this episode of our podcast: Mom Hacks: Help You Need in Every Stage – 026