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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Family Dinners?

Tomorrow's NY Times has a piece up about how families are increasingly working their schedules around making time to eat dinner together:
After decades of decline in the simple ritual of family dinners, there is evidence that many families are making the effort to gather at the dinner table. A random nationwide survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found a recent rise in the number of children ages 12 to 17 who said they ate dinner with their families at least five times a week, to 58 percent last year from 47 percent in 1998.

Getting everyone around the table can be a huge juggling exercise for overworked parents and overscheduled children. But many parents are marshaling their best organizational skills to arrange dinners at least once a week.

"There's definitely an awareness that was not there a few years ago," said Miriam Weinstein, author of "The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier" (Steer Forth Press, 2005). "All the factors that have been working against family dinners are still in full force, but it's very much a subject on people's minds."

Not to underestimate how valuable it is, but I really don't know anyone who manages to eat together with the whole family on a nightly basis. Every Shabbos, sure, and almost every Sunday. But I just don't see how it's possible to make that happen with the work schedules most men (and some women) I know keep. There is no way I can see myself making my kids wait until 7 or 8 (if OrthoDad, by some miracle, gets home very early), to feed them.

I actually will take some points from the article under advisement, though, when it comes time to feed the kids. Generally, when I am trying to get supper on the table for them, I haven't yet fully disengaged from work, and I rarely - if ever - am ready to sit down and eat dinner at 5, when the kids eat. But I will certainly try to make more of an effort in the future to sit down with them instead of standing up and washing dishes, opening mail, checking knapsacks, etc. It certainly can't hurt to make that effort.


Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

So let me understand this -- the organization that did the survey was the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Does that mean the article is saying that kids who require the services of said organization are those who eat dinner with their families? :)

Seriously though, we make a point of eating together as a family, even during the week. The exception is when I'm traveling on the road, but more often than not, we eat together just about the entire week. Granted, I usually work from home, so it's easier to do so, but it's important enough for us to do it. It's also a way for me to hear about the kids' day at school -- something that unfortunately, many parents don't do.

12:26 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Trust me, I get plenty of time in the long evening to talk about their day in school. It's just extremely rare to almost nonexsistent that we get to eat all together. OrthoDad does not, alas, work from home.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most kids want to eat dinner at 5, while most adults eat a little later. And what HS kids get home from Day School or yeshiva that early? If there are siblings of different ages, it's really hard to coordinate the kids, let alone both parents. But thank G-d for Shabbat!

1:19 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OM: When I started reading this posting, I was wondering, "how in the world can she (you) be serious...the whole family eating together on a weeknight???"

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw your take on the article -- and that you also thought it was unrealistic.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

My parents were big into family mealtime. Since my father was gone at the most random hours, we ate at the most random hours.

I remember plenty of dinners, even when I was young, as late as 9PM.

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