Making Mealtime Happen: Dinner Time

Published by Recently Empty Nested

Dinner time. Choose one. It’s easier said than done, you say? Oh don’t I know it! Having raised 6 children, trust me, I get it! Like you, we were crazy busy. I gave it my best effort to make mealtime happen because also, like you, I realized that the time my family spent together around the table was important. Here is why; if I were to have said to my children “Stop playing with your toys, get off the phone with your friend and shut down the video game because we are meeting in the family room to visit with each other”, it is reasonable to say I would have encountered some resistance. Once in the family room, after fussing about who was sitting where first, the conversation would have gone something like this:

Me: So, how was everyone’s day?


Me: Anyone want to talk about your day?

Kids: (mumbled) No.

Me: Ok, want to hear about my day?

Kids: Sure. (Eye rolls all around)

Me: (Trying a new approach) Johnny, did your teacher like your project?

Johnny: (Shrugs)

Me: Susie, who did you play with at recess?

Susie: I don’t know — people I guess.

Me: Bobby, how was school for you?

Bobby: It was school.

Susie: Johnny’s foot is on my couch cushion! JOHNNY! Stay on your own side!

Me: Would you like to hear something funny I heard today?

Silence, shrugging, and eye rolling!

Bobby: If we listen to your funny story, then can I go back to my game?

Susie: Yea, I told my friend I would call her back. JOHNNY! I said stay on your own side!

Well, you get the point. However, put some yummy food on the table, call everyone for dinner, and dish it up — now we’re talking! And laughing, and sharing, and learning about each other. Mealtime is important.

Are you so busy that the thought of dinner on the table every night seems impossible? If you are, select just one night a week. As you begin to implement some of the ideas you discover here you will find dinner time easier and very pleasant. When that happens, mealtime will happen in your home more often!

Let’s Get Started!

Select a time. In a perfect world, when would you prefer to gather the family for dinner?

Get it on the calendar! Create a mealtime calendar. I’m not kidding. It can be part of your daily planner if you like, but write it down. I would suggest that you do this for a week at a time at first. Look at each day and consider the activities you have on that day. Some will be “Must-Do’s” and others will be “Nice-To-Do’s”. We are concerned with the “Must-Do’s”. Work your mealtime in around the “Must-Do’s” and do as many of the “Nice-To-Do’s” as will work around your mealtime. I know it might be a little tough at first, but this is important to you! If it weren’t you wouldn’t still be reading this. Choose a time closest to your ideal time to serve dinner on each night. EXAMPLE: You decide 6 PM is dinner time in your perfect world. In your real world there is basketball practice after school until 4 PM and Parent/Teacher conferences starting at 6:30 PM. You are home from work at 5. Given this scenario I would select 5:15 as dinner time on this day. This time allows 1 hour to eat, clear the table and head to the school. Your basketball player even had time to shower after practice and before dinner. Personally I prefer an hour and a half for dinner, but it is not always possible.

The next night dinner might need to be served at a slightly different time. What I found was that there was usually a time that worked on most nights, with a little adjustment required on the others. The key is to have a mealtime plan.

Select your menu. Oh you didn’t think I could hear you when I selected dinner at 5:15 after writing that you get home from work at 5? Oh, but I did! If you didn’t think “She’s fallen out of her empty nest and hit her head because she is nuts to think that is possible”, then you probably at least asked yourself “How is that possible?” — am I right? I have 1 word for you — Crockpot! Oooohh! See? It is possible. It takes a little planning, but it is not too hard. I found that if I got everything out or cut up and prepped the night before, dumping it all in the Crockpot on my way out the door in the morning only took a couple of minutes. I also created a sample mealtime calendar and a blank one you can use.

sample mealtime calendar
A sample mealtime calendar.

Finally, to borrow a slogan from Nike, Just do it! Stick to your mealtime plan. You might have to tweak it here and there from time to time, and that’s ok. The more you do it, the more incentive you have to do it!

How about this dialogue:

Your friend: That was a great PTA meeting. Now to gather the kids, fly home and get ready for the school program. It looks like we’re grabbing something on the way again. (cringe) Where do you think your kids are going to want to eat?

You: (smiling) At home.

Friend: Puzzled

Your child: We’re having chicken tacos tonight. Mom made ’em this morning.

Friend’s child: Can I eat at their house?

You: Smile

Friend: Really? Where do you get your cape?!

Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids were this excited about mealtime? C’mon! Make your plan. You and yours can be enjoying delicious, healthy, home cooked meals and each other! What’s better than that?

Get the Mealtime Calendar

Download the mealtime calendar