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We don’t eat dinner together as a family – and I’m okay with that. It wasn’t always that way, but we stopped having regular family dinners not long after my youngest son was born in 2006.
According to Cornell University, whether or not your family eats dinner together is not what keeps families together or increases the well-being of children in the family. Being raised in a family who prioritizes quality time together is a much better indicator of family and children outcomes. That quality time may or may not include eating dinner together.
When I was growing up I ate dinner with my family every evening. It was an expected part of the day and mostly I enjoyed it. (Well, until I became a teenager in the 90s and was forming political and social opinions. Only hearing one side of every issue got old quickly.)
I knew when I had a family of my own that I would prepare dinner, call everyone to the table and eat together as a family. I had heard that families who eat together stay together, so it was a priority.
So, what made us stop having family dinners every evening? Real life was probably the biggest culprit, but freedom and sanity also played a big role.
3 Reasons We Don’t Eat Dinner as a Family
We Aren’t All Home At Dinner Time
With two boys in travel soccer and a husband who coaches two travel soccer teams, 3/5 of my family can be found on a soccer field about four nights per week and most of the weekend. The truth is that for 9-10 months out of the year, we’re just not all at home during dinner time.
I and my middle son prefer to eat our dinner around 5:00-5:30 pm, if we’re home, and my husband, oldest and youngest sons don’t get home from the soccer field until close to 9:00 pm. There is no time for us to sit around the table and eat.
I’m not complaining one bit because soccer has given us so many opportunities to be together as a family. We make so many special memories as we travel to soccer games that it far exceeds the benefit of sitting down to a meal every evening. In fact, we’d probably take it for granted if we did eat together every evening and wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as we could.
Which leads me to my next reason that we don’t eat dinner together as a family.
We Want Family Dinners to be Special
When we do sit down to eat dinner together as a family it’s special to us. We enjoy it. Thanksgiving, for example, is always an incredibly beautiful holiday for us. If we sat together every day for dinner, we’d likely take it for granted. I know I did when I was a child. By the time I was in high school, I even dreaded dinner with my family sometimes.
Our family is 4/5 introverts – most of us truly enjoy eating alone. In fact, I enjoy my food less when I eat with other people. I can’t savor it in the same way and usually wind up eating just to be eating. There is usually so much conversation happening at a table with more than two or three people that the food is an afterthought. All of that talking is exhausting for introverts.
If we had to sit down together for dinner every night, it would quickly become a miserable experience for the majority of us.
We Connect as a Family in Other Ways
We might not have regular family dinners together, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t connecting as a family pretty often. Here are some things we do instead of family dinners.
- As a homeschooling mother, I’m with my children all day. I sit with them while they eat breakfast, snack and lunch. It’s low-key and no pressure. Some days we talk and laugh, other days we eat quietly.
- On nights when we don’t have soccer, my husband plays card games or board games with the boys individually or sits in their room and chats with them one on one.
- We often play games together as a family. We travel away from home once or twice per month for soccer, as well. Those soccer trips have been the source of so many moments of bonding and memory making.
- We cook together. Yes, that’s right. My kids help me make dinner – if they want, I don’t ask them to help, but they offer. But, I don’t make them sit together to eat the meal they’ve helped prepare.
- If we’re all going to be home at dinner time and someone asks if we can have a family dinner, we try to accommodate it. It’s rare that someone (usually one of the boys) will call for a family dinner without everyone showing up to the table. Once in a while, one of us will chose to eat alone instead. This child-led family dinner arrangement makes the family dinners we do have together fun and relaxed.
Whether or not family dinners are a priority in your home they aren’t the only way to build a strong family foundation and improve the well-being of family members. So, if you can’t make family dinners a priority, don’t sweat it. We don’t eat dinner together as a family and we’re not only just fine, we’re great!
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