Is the Traditional Family Dinner Even Plausible Anymore?

family has dinner together
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You see that picture right above? When was the last time you had one of those?

Last night?

Last week?

Last month?


Since the beginning of modern American society, it seems like there was a very common sentiment that having a nice sit-down dinner was extremely beneficial in raising emotionally and socially healthy children. There's even a whole foundation that advocates for family dinners. 

But guess what? It's super hard to round up the entire family at 6 o'clock every night and have a serene meal with fellow family members. My family does a decent job with having regular Sunday dinner where everyone sits at the table and eats, but the serenity is never there. 

In an article from New York Mag, Jesse Singal talks about how while, yeah, the family dinner seems like a marvelous idea, it's not really possible to do anymore. He uses some information from a study that said “middle-class mothers reported being torn between their desire to spend quality time with their children and the expectation that they needed to provide the children with a home-cooked meal.”

The study also said that “mothers from all backgrounds reported difficulty in finding time to prepare meals that everyone in the family would be willing to eat.” 

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I can totally see where all of this could be problematic. “Leave it to Beaver” dinners are pretty tough to have. All of my brothers and I had some sort of sport in the evening, my sister was on yearbook staff, and my dad coached at least one of us in those sports. So the majority of the time, we had to fend for ourselves food-wise.

But do you know what we did to compensate for the time away from the table? We got together every Sunday, ate a meal together (which could have been frozen chicken for all I know), and then we sat out on the porch and just basked in familial glory (with the added bickering and mocking of each other, which is quite normal in any family, I presume).

In one of the comments to the article, the point was made that “it unreasonable to think that for one night/morning a week families can't make time to sit down and have dinner or breakfast together whether it is cooked or take-out or cereal and just spend an hour talking to one another.”

I agree 100%. I think that the family dinner is more of an environment that allows familial bonding. The quality of the food or lack thereof isn't the issue. 

It's the togetherness. 

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Please, tell me in the comments – how often does your family have a meal together at the table? 

What do you think?

Is the Traditional Family Dinner Even Plausible Anymore?

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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1 comment

  1. Profile photo of Austin Austin says:

    I think there’s a lot of variables that makes nightly family dinners workable. The first is obviously parents’ work schedules. Since I’m a SAHM I’m usually able to get dinner on the table by 6:30. My husband has a pretty consistent work schedule so he’s almost always there when we eat dinner. The kids’ ages have a lot to do with it too. Up until junior high, extra-curriculars aren’t going to be that much of an issue. As of now, having nightly dinner isn’t too hard. The bigger issue for me is trying to find a balance of healthy, affordable and varied meals. I can cook healthy dishes, but they seem to be a variation of two or three of the same thing.


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