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?

MadeOfStarDust Mon 09-Sep-13 11:19:09

My best friend is Italian - if I suggested to her that she eat at the same time as her kids, she'd think I was nuts....

she runs her own business and eats at 9 with her hubby after the kids are in bed...

SignoraStronza Mon 09-Sep-13 10:50:54

Ha ha ha ha!!!!grin ALL the Italian people I knew, if they did all eat at the same time, were glued to the telly blaring out with Berlusconi's latest mediaset offerings.
Mostly, the nanny/housekeeper/grandparents would cook something basic for the kids (who, if secondary school age, had grabbed a pizzetta on the way home anyway) and the parents would eat later when they got in from work.

Silverfoxballs Mon 09-Sep-13 10:31:33

Good grief I have been giving dc some of that fancy Le Gouter malarkey without realising it at quatre heures for years.

Pobblewhohasnotoes Mon 09-Sep-13 10:22:46

I get home from work at 21.30. Should I keep my toddler up until then just so he can eat with us?

Eating at the table as a family may be the ideal but there are lots of reasons stated on this thread that means this is impractical. so there's no need for some of the smugness on here.

Incidentally my 19 month old stayed up to eat at 7pm last night, resulting in a grumpy, tired and hungry toddler. So if it's alright with you OP I'll let him eat earlier without us.

I think it's very important to sit at a table together eating socially often. The DC do not eat meals away from the table unless a picnic or other unusual circumstance. We never take food upstairs (including if ill).

But before DC2 we lived in a small flat. The only accessible table had a computer on it. British houses are famously the smallest in Europe. If you don't have a table to eat at, you can't eat at a table. One of the things we were looking for when househunting was an easy dining space. We'd have to walk past our dining table to get from the kitchen to anywhere else, which means we tend to have even a drink and a biscuit at the table.

MadeOfStarDust Mon 09-Sep-13 09:50:09

We eat together... mainly.... I work til 8 on Wed so leave something like cottage pie that the rest can have and I can have later... but generally we like to and can eat together...

Everyone is different.. I have a friend who's child has eaten a sandwich in the car on the way to dance classes for the past 4 years - ( she has school dinners too) ... I would not want to live like that, but her daughter just got a dance scholarship and they feel it was all worth it!

pinkdelight Mon 09-Sep-13 09:09:51

Ha ha Tondelayo - spot on.

Also, on the healthiness aspect, seems like we're often being told stuff like five small meals, eating little and often, is better than a slap-up dinner every night too. And cheese is no better than a sweet pudding, so don't make health a smokescreen for your smuggery, OP.

Sorry to be harsh, but if you hadn't even considered shiftworkers, you hadn't thought it through very much at all.

PaulSmenis Mon 09-Sep-13 09:01:12

I think a majority of UK families eat dinner at the table don't they? hmm

Last time I visited family in Europe, I couldn't get my head around why people would take so long eating a bloody meal. That, and all the kissing and stuff.

I like a good meal as much as the next person, but I've got stuff to get on with and don't want to spend ages over it.

ToysRLuv Mon 09-Sep-13 08:56:52

kilmuir: Yes, you're bang on! RT, ffs!

ToysRLuv Mon 09-Sep-13 08:55:05

I understand that for some families togetherness has to/is good to be "done" while eating, as if you are short on time it's really a bit of multitasking. Also, you often need an "excuse" to sit all together, so food is excellent for that.

kilmuir Mon 09-Sep-13 08:50:41

British are lazy and moany. ' oooo but i am so busy' my mum had 2 jobs and always managed to cook a healthy meal for us. My dad worked shifts , so was not always there, so no help with children.

ToysRLuv Mon 09-Sep-13 08:44:15

MrsMook: Having had anorexia myself, I don't like the way you speculate about the causes of someone's illness. Also, from all the materials I have ever read (loads), actual food is hardly ever mentioned. Anorexia is really not about food, as such. Finally, if you are referring to a lack of communication or togetherness (or perhaps to the stereotype/classic anorexia family set-up of meddling mother and distant father, which does carry some weight) - well, again, nothing to do with food or mealtimes. You can always eat together and still have issues. Why does communication and togetherness have to happen over a meal?

MrsMook Mon 09-Sep-13 08:14:22

We eat together at about 8pm. DH is rarely in before 7 and frequently after, but it's important to me that we sit together around a table and have conversation. DS is 2 1/2 and goes to bed around 8.30 to 9, and wakes around 7.30. It may need to be tweaked on timings in the future but at present it works well for us. A late time for eating and bed allows DS to nap around 4-6. If he napped earlier in the afternoon, it would write off several activities we do. Despite DS's allergies, we've usually managed the same adapted meal. Sometimes there are variations, but rarely something totally different.

It's important to me, partly because it was a family time growing up, and my friend's fragmented eating time put me off that concept. Her DF came home from work late, then went running so ate later. The DCS ate at around 6 and their mum had a partial meal/ snack, and then ate with the DF which contributed to her being overweight (and trying to diet). My friend was anorexic. I know what the root cause was, but I think the fragmented, incidental way that food/ meals was treated didn't help support a healthier attitude to food in the face of the other issues going on. I'm not convinced that a 2wk holiday of quality time was enough to compensate for 50 fragmented weeks a year.

Oriunda Mon 09-Sep-13 08:03:16

My DH is from a European country. Friends of his came over to stay. Kids went to bed 10/11pm. Wake up around 9-10am next day. I asked how they managed at school. Answer: they often go to school without breakfast (which is only usually milky coffee and a biscuit, very healthy that) as they are so hard to wake. On, and they're not doing very well at school. Wonder why?

My DS has his tea around 530pm because he goes to bed at 7pm. In the uk, most children go to bed early so they have adequate sleep before a school day.

My MIL spends nearly all day in the kitchen preparing that simple 2-3 course meal (lunch - evening meal is either pizza out or something similar). She told me that the toddler groups I attend with DS wouldn't work in her country as the mothers need to be at home preparing their husbands' meals!!

Well, it depends what you all do after school/work doesn't it?

There cannot be this rule we all must follow-family dinner at 7pm. Because we are not all the same people.

I have 3 DCs who all do various extra curricular activities.
I finish work at 5:30. DH finishes anywhere between 4pm-6pm.

Everyone eating a 2 course meal at 7pm wouldn't actually work for us. Unless no one ever did any sports/drama/clubs in the evening.

It seems bizarre to assume that your way is the right way. It isn't, it's just your way.

We do what works for us. I have never felt the need to tell anyone else that their children must join a football team or a drama club or a swimming club, just because that's what my children do.

Groovee Mon 09-Sep-13 07:32:38

We mainly sit down and eat the same meal. But dh sometimes comes late and if I don't know then his tea is left for him to eat when he gets in. He does "On Call" every 15 days so I normally eat with the children then. Sometimes I meet friends for dinner, so if dh isn't home the children eat together and I sit with them with a drink of juice.

madmomma Mon 09-Sep-13 07:25:44

Haha jan I can just imagine how delighted gps would be if parents made appointments to tell them worriedly that their skinny teenage son or football-mad 4 yo wants to eat in between meals. I think the answer may well be that they are active, growing children and need more opportunities to eat than adults.

Therealamandaclarke Sun 08-Sep-13 11:28:28

ATM we all eat together at around five or six. Our work patterns allow for this. My eldest DC is not yet three, and I have discovered he sleeps best if in bed by 730.
I would imagine when the DCs are older, with a later bedtime, we might all eat later. I never ate before 7 before I became a mother (other than in childhood).
When in a hot climate DS woud nap in the afternoon and we all ate together at sound 8pm, because it was cooler then.

I like eating with my kids. It's quite fun. I love being with them. I can "show them how to eat" and only have one lot of mess to clear up and when they're in bed I don't have to start cooking again.
But sometimes I think I'd like to give them "tea" and pop them to bed and have a grown up meal, very occasionally, with my DH. This has not happened since my DS was born.
So, that is why I think that flexibility is the key.

LoopyLoopyLoopy Sun 08-Sep-13 11:12:49

I'm European (British) and we do as your family. Kids have a 'gouter' (French for snack...) a few hours before a proper cooked meal, with le cutlery and everything. This is pretty normal on both sides of la Manche.

Therealamandaclarke Sun 08-Sep-13 11:06:57

Eating together as a family is a positive thing. it's nice to have that time together and eat in one sitting IMHO.
I don't think it's particularly a uk thing to either snack or have seperate meals. Some ppl need to snack and others don't. Most kids will need to eat between a midday lunch and a 7 or 8pm supper. So either parents need to be available and happy to eat at five ish, or they don't eat supper together or the DCs need to snack.
I don't think a daily shared meal is essential tbh. Either for communication or nutrition.
If you eat too much you will become overweight. As there is so much food available it probably makes sense for ppl (within reason) to just eat when they're hungry.
What works for some families is undesirable for others.
What works on a week day might change at the weekend.

So, I think YAbu in your assertion because it's too simplistic and generalising of different cultures.

ringaringarosy Sun 08-Sep-13 10:52:34

we all eat together every night,dh comes home from work at 6 ish and i try to make dinner ready for around that time,i give the kids a snack when they get in,usually fruit with something else,so they dont get too hungry.

I have had au pairs from france and spain and they both said thts the way they did things too,but later,dinner over there is more like 8pm,but i guess the pace of life is different and they have the siesta in spain (not sure about france)I worked as an au pair in spain and italy for years and i saw it there too.

kids eating something for kids at an earlier time seems to be an english thing,as does them going to bed at 7 pm every night.i like to try and do things the more "European" way,its much more fun for everyone.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sun 08-Sep-13 10:21:53

The snack is in the afternoon around 3 btw

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sun 08-Sep-13 10:21:08

DS 4 has a Spanish childminder. I was shocked at the amount he gets fed there: fruit and yoghurt or biscuit at 10am, two course lunch (properly cooked meal plus pudding) at 12.30 plus a 'snack' of a sandwich / cheese and biscuits plus fruit or ice cream hmm

No wonder he is always in a good mood for her! I am under feeding him.

(She and her DCs are all slim as rakes btw)

dreamingofsun Sun 08-Sep-13 09:31:33

jan49 - as i said higher up the thread, if a child is growing very quickly they require more energy. at this stage i would expect a child to be constantly hungry, especially if they were very active and did lots of sport. under these circumstances i would be more worried if they weren't eating all the time

whatever5 Sun 08-Sep-13 09:27:34

We usually eat as a family but I don't see it as being that important. I give the children their food earlier if DH is going to be late home from work as I don't think that it is a good idea for them to eat just before going to bed.

I ate my food before my parents as a child even at weekends (my parents never eat before 8 p.m. even today) and I don't think that it has had any adverse effects. The main thing is that you eat healthily surely? Can't see the problem with snacks either as long as they're healthy.

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