The other day, I was asked a question on Instagram that kind of stopped me in my tracks a little.
And my response:
Honestly, I want to eat together! But at this stage in life, it’s just easier this way. Mainly, the kids eat really early (5:00) since their bedtime is 7, and we’re usually not ready to eat quite that early. We’ve been thinking about pushing the time back a little so we can all eat together, but for now it works best this way. Also, we can tag team them lol and then they actually eat. ;)
The question came from a good place, and wasn’t at all accusatory or judgmental, but it made me think. So naturally, I took to my internet friends (ie all of you, duh) and asked your thoughts on the topic. And I was flooded with so many great messages- some helpful tips or suggestions, some simply cheering me on where I am and saying “Me too!” (love these!!) and I knew I had to share here on the blog. Too much goodness to keep to myself!
Bottom line is this though: you do what is best for your family and your situation. Everyone’s reality looks different, and you do whatever is the best solution for you and your family at this current stage of life. And you try, really hard, to be okay with it and embrace it and LOVE where you are! :) Please don’t read this and leave feeling guilty or like a “bad mom.” That is not the intention. And I think you’ll find something to relate to, in one of these quotes, no matter your situation. I sure hope so.
Now, some tips and encouragement for dinner time with littles…
“I try to have at least one dinner meal together on weekends so that we eat together one night a week, but I think at this point (with a 4 and 6 year old) the early bedtime is much more important than eating as a family. In my opinion, too much emphasis is put around meal time, you can have fun, quality family time without it revolving around meals. We have a lot of it! I think it’s great! You are doing what is best for your kids!! Every family is different!” – Julie L.
“We do the same thing! I’m guessing you get a ton of people saying the same thing to this… This feels normal at this stage! We do eat together sometimes, but eating later I at least get a chance to talk with them during dinner. I barely every can eat when they’re eating because they need so much help!” – Casey A.
“We eat at 5:30-6:00 and then the kids go to bed at 7 for the little one and 7:30-8 for the older one. If my husband’s not home from work I eat with them and save something for him. It’s really important to me that we do family dinners as best we can and that the kids eat the same thing (or a similar version) as us.” – Diane
“I’m in the same boat. If I try to eat with them it’s mostly getting up every 2 seconds for something. And yes they eat earlier because they’re little and go to sleep early. I enjoy dinner with hubby alone too. I know it’s a stage, too.” – Lau V.
“I kind of like to eat in peace, without anyone stealing food off my plate. LOL. I think things will change as my girls get older…” – Melissa B.
“This is one of my huge areas of mom guilt. The twins go to bed at 6:30/7, I’m not home from work until 5:30, so they and my older son always eat then we eat together after they go to bed.” – Jamie G.
“My kids have an early bedtime and my hubby wakes up really early for work, so I eat alone. I usually clean the kitchen while they eat and then I eat after they’re in bed. Just whatever gets us through the evening! Also I can’t bring myself to eat that early!” – Emily W.
“I like to eat in peace and quiet, feeding only my face and my face alone!” – Pat B.
“We only have one kiddo but I try not to snack after lunch so I’m hungry at 5:00 when my husband gets home and we eat, bath and then the 2 year old goes to bed!” – Heather N.
“Eating together actually helps my kids eat better since they see me eating too. And I only make one meal for everyone (with respect to age appropriate foods), and it gets eaten!” – K. P.
“This is the way we do it! It’s sooo much easier. Maybe one day we will eat together, but for now, no thanks.” – Brittany S.
“This. Is. My. Lifeeee. My son goes to bed at 6 so unless we eat at 5 (which is usually not realistic to prep and cook by then!) then we eat after him. It’s just this season of life and eventually we will be able to eat as a family. :)” – Dani K.
“We eat dinner with the kids. We don’t get home from work until 5 so I make something quick and we are usually eating by 5:30.” – Catherine Y.
“We usually eat between 5:30 and 6. Our son’s bedtime is at 7 and I feel like it gives enough time after dinner for play, bath, winding down, etc. And then if we get hungry later, I just grab a small healthy snack or a salad after he goes to bed. It’s what works best for us, but we also only have one toddler to feed and get ready for bed!” – Jamie S.
“My son is usually ready for dinner at 4/4:30 so instead of giving him snacks we decided to do dinner early for him and I sit and work on his conversational skills. He is in bed by 7/7:30 so it makes life easier and he actually eats a healthy meal.” – Stephanie R.
“I always feel judged when I tell people our little one goes to sleep at 9. My husband works very late hours so if we were to do an earlier bedtime, they wouldn’t get time with each other. So we decided on a 9:00 bedtime and it works for us, and we’re happy.” – Jackie S.
“I think when they are small you just do it like that. We do too because bedtime is serious. We can break bread together as a family when they get older.” – Carrie B.
“We eat dinner as a family. At 6:00! It means we have a small lunch around noon, that way I’m hungry at 6 (who am I kidding, I’m always hungry!), 6:30 we are done, quick 10-15 minutes of running around, hubby cleans teeth, plays monsters, I wash up or vice versa. 7:15 little one is down. 7:30-7:45 big one is down. After that we don’t have to worry about dinner, plates or anything. It’s just us, a cup of tea and TV. :) Works for us!” – Vanessa
“We all eat together on weekends, but most dinners we eat after they go to bed (they’re 4 and 5). We try to sit with them while they eat so we are together, but sometimes we are busy cleaning kitchen or something and they have the best time hanging out with one another. :)” – K. W.
“We never eat dinner together either, but we eat breakfast together, and lunch when possible. Honestly, I’ve never given it much thought, it just doesn’t work for everyone!” – Steph F.
“We do the same thing! We have a 5, 3, and 1 year old and they eat so early and we like to eat later (and also when it’s quiet). We do try to eat together one night a week with something that is kid-friendly, like spaghetti or tacos so everyone actually eats and we all enjoy it more.” – Jessica B.
“I usually try to prep during nap time or around 4 so we’re able to get to dinner by 6/6:30. Works well and we’re all able to enjoy a meal together. :)” – Christen R.
“My daughter goes to bed at 7 and eats at 5, but we’re not ready to eat at that time, so we all sit together as a family and my husband and I eat a small snack. And then we’re ready for dinner after my daughter is down for the night!”
“Some of my best family memories were made at the dinner table so it’s super important to me that we eat together as a family every night. It’s NOT easy but it’s worth it because we talk about our day, what we’re eating and why it’s good for you, etc. It’s our time to connect. We eat early, usually 5:30 and start bathtime around 6:30/6:45 so baby goes down around 7:15 and my older girls are down by 8. I try to start prepping dinner early while the girls play or watch a show. Right now it’s working for us! Also, it is total chaos most evenings!” – Lauren
So there ya go. Lots of good stuff. Lots of encouragement for this crazy motherhood journey. Lots of great advice and tips for anyone looking to incorporate family mealtime and still keep bedtime. Lots of words of encouragement for this busy season of life that we’re in. And it’s okay. And there’s nothing wrong with it. And it works, really well. I think that’s really important to keep in mind and remember: that every family is different, and what works for one may not work for another and that’s OKAY. It’s awesome.
There is NO judgment here. We are all doing the best we can. We are all doing what’s best for us and our family. And that, my friends, is what makes us all AWESOME MAMAS.