family meals in the evening

(138 Posts)
applebread Sat 07-Sep-13 09:48:31

In a number of European countries it is normal for families to eat together in the evening with a proper meal of two or three courses. We sit down together and eat at the same table at the same time with cutlery and we all eat the sametthing except where a person has a special diet.

The meals do not need to take a long time to make. It may be something like a bit of fish and some steamed vegetables with a mousse after or a pasta dish then poached pears.

The time for eating together is seen as sacrosanct and it isununusual for people to prioritise other things instead of the meal in the evening. It is normal whether the parents work full time or not. The other thing is that with a proper meal that smacks are not so common and not normal (so toddler wandering around with sippy cup and raisins would be seen as odd).

From mn I read threads where posters say there is no tlme t to eat together and kids are fed special food different from adults and sometimes it is even a sandwich.

Although I have lived in the UK for my whole life I didn't encounter much of this in my childhood as I always ate with my family and when I was a student and in my early twenties I thought it was just people being busy and a bit rebellious making them choose not to eat traditional meals.

But I know that some of my dc friends have meals from the microwave all at different times and the children eat fishfingers and beans while the adults eat normal food .it is also very common to snack and especially for toddlers the dc nursery found it odd when I asked that the dc didn't snack between meals. I didn't insist on this in the end as it would have been difficult for them.

Aibu to think the uk way of eating patterns is less healthy and ddoesn't expose dc to family conversation and greatervvariety of food?

Pobblewhohasnotoes Sat 07-Sep-13 10:42:58

DS is a toddler and can't wait til DH gets home to eat. Some people work OP. DH and I eat together once DS is in bed. Last night we had a take away in front of the tv, shock bloody horror...

forevergreek Sat 07-Sep-13 10:46:28

We all sit down together in the evening. Both work full time. Difference is we eat around 8pm instead of feeding children at 5pm like most. Ours have one snack at 4pm ( and usually leave it)

Last night children slept 9.15pm- 8.45am this morning. They will nap later

It's perfectly possible, but not if you want a 7pm bedtime and childfree evening. People have different priorities and preferences

marriedinwhiteisback Sat 07-Sep-13 10:50:18

Hmm. We eat together at weekends, dd and I do duriing the week too. DH comes home far too late so I usually just sit with him while eats and we chat.

Would you prefer meals to be like in Italy OP in the last century when oeasant families ate from one huge shared bowl in the middle of the table.

Please don't generalise and seek to judge; there may be things in your culture that some english/european families would find odd. Hoping all your dc say please and thank you - I find it shockingly lacking amongst some groups who have made the uK their home.

Two points I'd like to make :

1. "In a number of European countries it is normal for families to eat together in the evening with a proper meal of two or three courses ... The time for eating together is seen as sacrosanct ... *Although I have lived in the UK for my whole life*"
Presumably then your parents came from another European country? What often happens is that whilst the 'home country' moves on and continues to grow and change, the emigrants 'stick' at the point they left. So whilst your parents would have clung to the ways of the in old country, their old neighbours may well have changed their habits. You can't really extrapolate the habits of a whole continent from your personal experience. You have to consider that your parents might, over time, have become the odd men out.

2. "the uk way of eating patterns is less healthy and ddoesn't expose dc to family conversation and greatervvariety of food"
There is no one 'UK way of eating'. There are many.

marriedinwhiteisback Sat 07-Sep-13 10:55:09

Hmm. We eat together at weekends, dd and I do duriing the week too. DH comes home far too late so I usually just sit with him while eats and we chat.

Would you prefer meals to be like in Italy OP in the last century when oeasant families ate from one huge shared bowl in the middle of the table.

Please don't generalise and seek to judge; there may be things in your culture that some english/european families woucld find odd. Hoping all your dc say please and thank you - I find it shockingly lacking amongst some groups who have made the uK their home.

Jinty64 Sat 07-Sep-13 11:04:36

I'm very glad for you that things are done just as you like them in Europe. Here, in the Scottish Highlands, we also have children who eat "normal" food, can use cutlery and make conversation.

We do not eat together during the week. Dh and I both work different hours. Ds3 (7) has his main meal at lunchtime and is at after school club until 6pm 3 days a week where (god forbid) he has a snack. He then has a light tea later - which may even include a sandwich. On the other week nights he goes to a sports club, beavers and piano lessons. Ds's 1&2 have after school/college orchestra practice and evening orchestras they attend and ds1 has violin lessons outside school so, although I always cook a meal, the number of people eating at the same time may vary.

Amazingly, despite this, or perhaps because of it, at 18 and 16 my boys are often complimented on their lovely manners and kind, helpful natures and have managed to grow up both capable of adult conversation and with the ability to eat adult food. I hope your teenagers are blessed likewise.

Did you mean your OP to sound so smug?

Doshusallie Sat 07-Sep-13 11:05:23

My children eat at 5pm. They couldn't wait any longer. 4 nights out of 7 this is at their childminder's house. Dh and i eat at about 8/8.30 when they are in bed.

We try and have family meals together at weekend, and of course we eat together on holiday. On these occssions they eat exactly what we eat. or they go hungry. They use a knife and fork, they have table manners and we can all converse.

DramaQueenofHighCs Sat 07-Sep-13 11:09:26

We eat off our laps every night! The reason is that we have a TINY kitchen and a TINY living room. Fitting a dining table, even one only just small enough for the three of us to sit round or a folding one, would just take up too much space! (We also own lots of musical instruments that take up a lot of space.) We do however hold conversations during meals and don't sit glued to the tv, except once a week on 'treat night' where we watch tv or a DVD and get a takeaway.

Just because someone doesn't do the same as you or have the same standards doesn't mean they're inferior!! Different people have different priorities and circumstances!

DipMeInChocolate Sat 07-Sep-13 11:09:36

Ideally yes we'd like to eat as a family. I get home at 6, probably don't eat until nearer to 7 by which time its DDs bedtime. Also my DH works nights so we have a brief 10min handover between me getting home and him going to work.

Silverfoxballs Sat 07-Sep-13 11:10:46

We eat together but my dc are older now so can wait and I no longer work very long hours.

It is lovely if families can do this and it should be encouraged but it is just not possible for some families.

Shenanagins Sat 07-Sep-13 11:12:45

I guess each family has their "thing" and this is ours. It is important to us to sit down as a family to the same meal every night.

until recently we got in at 6 and made a meal from scratch for us all to sit down to for around 6.30. It did mean that we had to work together, with one playing with our toddler and the other making dinner.

now that i am on maternity leave with am 8 week old baby, i have now brought dinner forward to around 6.

it isn't easy and will probably have to adapt as the kids get older and go to clubs in the evening.

as i said this is our "thing" so we make it work but other families have their own priorities which work for them.

ModreB Sat 07-Sep-13 11:13:30

We always sit round a table and eat together in the evenings and always have done. We are all so busy, its the only time that we get to sit and have a conversation as a family.

nokidshere Sat 07-Sep-13 11:19:58

Blimy we are barely all in the house at the same time these days let alone long enough to sit down for a meal together.

Strangely though neither of my boys have ever had trouble eating real food, holding a conversation or using cutlery!

ByTheSea Sat 07-Sep-13 11:32:42

We eat the same food around a table each evening. And we both work full-time with a fairly long commute. Easy meals can still be enjoyed together. Since they were quite small, DC have waited until 7.30 or 8 for dinner.

TheOnlyPink Sat 07-Sep-13 11:36:51

We eat together for breakfast and dinner, every day.

But, I'm a sahm and dh is home by 5.45 every evening. He leaves at 7.30am and the kids are up in time for breakfast together. If any of those things change then we would change our approach to family meals. People do the best they can with their own situations. What difference does it make if they get quality time together reading in bed, playing footie in the park at the weekend or eating a meal together, as long as they do get time together?

we ate in France recently, mine ate off the normal menu, salad, pasta, chicken.
The French children on the two tables next to us had chicken nuggets and chips and behaved appallingly.
Op you sound very smug.

ToysRLuv Sat 07-Sep-13 11:49:06

I am an "European". In fact half southern and half northern European, whose family has also lived in central Europe for a long time, and now live in Scandinavia. So, I know "Europe" (albeit not France, which I suspect you mean by "Europe").

In the country I come from lunch is the main meal of the day. My df loves cooking, so cooks often, but only 1 hot meal day, even now that he is retired (when we had meals at school we didn't have another one at home). Dm doesn't like cooking and prefers good fresh bread with cold meats and/or cheese fruit and veg, yoghurt, to many hot meals.

I sometimes like to cook, but I don't love it despite df cooking a lot (granted, only at weekends during holidays, but it still feels like he cooked all the time) when I was growing up. I'm a grazer by nature so prefer lots of small meals/snacks (what's so terrible about "snacks"? In many ways having small meals spread throughout the day is healthier than 3 big meals) to a couple of big ones. Also, I love nothing more than a Greek salad with a hunk torn off fresh, seeded bread and a big slice of watermelon. Ds seems to be the same and dh (half central European) too. Ds knows what cooking is and practices on his toy stove. He also sees where fruit and veg comes from (berry bushes, apple tree and veg plot in the back garden). He loves nothing more than eating berries straight from a bush or a fresh crunchy carrot from the ground after the dirt has been washed off. On the days I don't cook, and have a bread based meal (not a sandwich, because we don't necessarily even compile the "ingredients" into one piece- quick get the crucifixes out! grin ) we do something else with the extra time, like paint or do crafts, or discuss space [smugface]

dreamingofsun Sat 07-Sep-13 11:49:11

yes it would be lovely to have such a simple lifestyle that everyone worked 9-5 and could spend evenings at home eating. Unfortunately in our house my husband is away working much of the week and some of the kids have to work during the evenings, or old people in care homes wouldn't be taken care of or people wouldn't be able to shop in a supermarket.

ToysRLuv Sat 07-Sep-13 11:56:19

I have to add that I work from home part-time and dh works from home-full time, so we are together most of the day and can converse until our lips fall off. We just don't always choose to do that over a (cooked) meal. Maybe we will in the future. As a true citizen of the world I know there are no hard and fast rules about how to do anything "right". There is only what is right, preferable and possible for each individual and each family. Personally, if everyone of us nourished, satisfied and at a normal weight, I'm happy.

daisychicken Sat 07-Sep-13 12:01:05

A few very generalised statements here - especially the OP's!

We eat as a family - always have done. Dh's work hours have changed often over the years but we've always done our best to adjust when we eat our main meal to fit everyone in. When the kids were tiny and DH had to leave for work at 5.30pm, we used to eat at 4.30. Now the kids are older and DH gets home around 6pm, we eat at 6.30-7. If he's away or working late then I eat with the kids most of the time. Occasionally I will delay my meal and eat with DH, in which case I have a cup of tea when the kids eat and still sit with them.

But every family has to do what works for them with regards to work hours and meals - it's a shame if they don't get family meals everyday but it isn't the be all and end all is it?

SuperiorCat Sat 07-Sep-13 12:02:01

Ok so DS at 15 is still up at 10pm when DH gets from work, but it is probably a bit late for him to wait til then to have his dinner, and DD would have been in bed for a couple of hours.

Do they not work shifts in "Europe"?

I see where you're coming from OP (my DH is French and we live in France) although I think you're generalising a bit much perhaps.

I think the biggest difference actually is the bedtimes -- it's going to be harder to cook a proper meal and all eat together if your kids are going to bed at 6.30/7.

We do as you do but then our DS(3) goes to bed at 8/8.30.

fedupofpoo Sat 07-Sep-13 13:00:23

Actually I agree with OP.many people seem to prefer getting the kids off to bed first so they can eat as a couple.true as well the kids food/normal food.why don't people just feed their kids their same food I don't get.there seem to be a culture of getting rid of the kids as much as possible/having them leading separate lives in the uk.different meals/mealtimes and the obsession with bedtime at 7,If not earlier.some kids go to bed at 6!

Jan49 Sat 07-Sep-13 13:04:59

I haven't got young dc any more but when I did, we always ate our evening meals together as both I and their dad were home at around 6pm or so and we ate dinner at around 8pm. My ds had the same meals as the adults from the time he was eating solids. We never had snacks. I still eat almost every evening meal with my ds. To me it seems very complicated to do different food for kids and adults or 2 separate meals.

I think it's nice if you're able to have meals together but sometimes it's not possible.

applebread Sat 07-Sep-13 13:07:21

I didn't expect flaming! I hadn't thought of shift work and of course families have to do what works for them. I work ft as does dh but I start early enough that I can collect the older kids after school.

There was one poster who said I probably had odd non uk habits - yes plenty smile

I don't think hmm at two courses is fair. It is not always a sweet course sometimes a starter and sometimes cheese. I don't spend hours in the kitchen every day.

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