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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?

DuchessofHaphazard Sat 07-Sep-13 13:07:34

Also 'European' here, and growing up we always ate as a family. It's something that is important to me, and so now we do as well. Both work full-time, so we usually eat around 6.30 - 7pm, kids in bed by 8pm. I think the big difference though is bedtimes - if your kids are in bed at 6.30-7pm then eating as a family can be a lot more difficult.

Mind you, although it is important to me to eat together, part of it as well is that working full-time, the thought of cooking two different meals in the evening is just bonkers, especially as I often have to work more once the kids are in bed, plus as I get in from work no earlier than 6, it would be more work to feed the kids separately anyway.

forevergreek Sat 07-Sep-13 13:10:30

I can't see how many people can eat at 5pm with bed at 6.30pm unless one parent stays home and the other home early. Or I suppose that's why most eat seperatley.

Working and living in London I know very few people working 9-5. Most 8-7, 9-7 or similar, so everyone we know does eat together but later. 8pm dinner is normal. Children go to bed around 9pm after. If children are under school age they all nap a few hours in the afternoon, and if over school age sleep 11 ish hours at night.

Ours are at the nap in day age, but friends just wake children at 8am, dressed, breakfast and out the door by 8.30am for school.

According to the NHS, 11 hrs a night is perfect for a 5 year old, which is roughly school age

AnneUulmelmahay Sat 07-Sep-13 13:14:55

Ofc you hadn't thought of folk working shifts, especially them there Continental Shifts eh.


Dawndonnaagain Sat 07-Sep-13 13:18:19

I am from a European culture, brought up here, but with Spanish cultural stuff thrown in. My children are all in their late teens/twenties now. We have always had an evening meal together, as they got older, it got later, we all sit down around half seven now. It's a nice way to catch up on the day. However, it really isn't possible for some families to do this and judging helps no-one.

AllSWornOut Sat 07-Sep-13 13:33:07

I currently live in a European country and the only people I know that have a cooked evening meal are British confused

All the "continentals" eat a main meal at lunch and then sit down for a light evening meal (we have bread, cheese, meats and salad).

So I would say YABU and come over as being pretty smug as my French friends' children eat plenty of crap and the supermarkets here have as big a choice of fish fingers as the British ones

BalloonSlayer Sat 07-Sep-13 13:43:06

We don't eat together all that often as the DCs used to have their tea at 5 and be in bed at 7, then DH would have our "us" time.

Now the older 2 DCs don't go to bed till later, although the 5 yo still goes quite early. I am thinking about starting to have the family meals again - the DCs love it. Recently we had my sister staying and we all had dinner together at about 6pm and it was great (and I lost weight!)

It will also be good to make the older 2 socialise as they are getting a bit teenagery hmm - stuck in their rooms sort of thing.

Hogwash Sat 07-Sep-13 14:50:05

We'd have only eaten every four days then as DH was often away. Life just isn't like that for a lot of people, as idyllic as it sounds.

ouryve Sat 07-Sep-13 14:58:12

Well, OP, I've lived in my UK for my entire life, as far as I can recall, and we usually all eat together in the evenings. There will be some variation in who has what because the boys don't like spicy food or rice or potatoes that aren't chips, DS1 has some food intolerances and DS2 gags violently with certain food textures (he has ASD) but we all sit down at roughly the same time, around our sociable, circular table and get shouted at by DS1 because he is facing DS2 and the only thing worse than that is sitting next to DS2

CharlotteBr0nteSaurus Sat 07-Sep-13 15:00:01

we eat together pretty much every night

I'd like to say it was to promote good table manners, eating habits, and the social aspect of family meals, but in reality it's because I'm far too lazy to cook and clean the kitchen more than once. TBH if I had the energy I'd rather eat later with wine DH.

PaperSeagull Sat 07-Sep-13 15:27:36

When I was growing up, my parents always ate separately from the children. My father was a writer who organized his time to suit himself, which meant he stayed up half the night writing and slept half the day. He could have eaten with us, but for whatever reason decided he didn't want to and my mother went along with it. I hated having separate meals. To be fair, I don't think my siblings were all that bothered, but I really disliked it (probably because it seemed as though my parents just didn't want to spend time with us). It is one reason I have made family meals a priority. I love sitting around the table together.

On the other hand, I can certainly see there are situations when a family meal would be logistically impossible. If one partner works very long hours, of course it would be madness to make young children wait until 9:00 p.m. for their evening meal.

catgirl1976 Sat 07-Sep-13 16:07:44


Lots of people in the UK do what you describe. It's the norm

Those that don't generally can't due to work or other commitments. The world hasn't exploded because some people get home too late to eat with their families and I have no doubt that happens all over Europe and is not confined to the UK

SpiceAddict Sat 07-Sep-13 16:17:09

Well I don't want to bloody talk when I'm eating my meal! I don't get the sitting at the table making conversation thing. I want to eat my dinner in PEACE while watching my favourite programme.

DS is starving when he gets home from school so will have main meal at 4pm. He has schopl dinner, so is fine with a quick simple meal like sandwiches.

Dinner is cooked by 6:30pm and he can have some more then, of whatever we are eating. DD eats her main meal then.

I have mine at 7 when DC are playing upstairs with DH. Shock horror- eating alone is my favourite way to eat a meal! DH will have his at 7:30-8pm when I am putting DC to bed, as he also prefers to eat alone in peace too.

Our DC are small at the moment though so it will probably change as they get older. At the moment mealtimes is not a time that we want to make conversation!

everlong Sat 07-Sep-13 16:20:53

I think eating together is a good thing, an important thing. It can be quite hard to orchestrate mid week though with after school activities, music lessons, DH going out doing his hobby, youngest ds needing to be in bed at a reasonable hour etc.

But I hear what you're saying OP.

madmomma Sat 07-Sep-13 16:46:27

We'd love to eat together every night. But dh works long hrs and is only home once the children are in bed. So we make a huge effort at weekends to eat every meal together. My kids have nice manners, are well fed and can hold conversations just as well as any child. They don't wander round with raisins in between meals generally because they're harsh on the teeth, but they do get to eat between meals because sometimes they get peckish. I don't see what the issue is with a sippy cup of water. So what if europeans don't use sippy cups?

Icedink Sat 07-Sep-13 16:47:02

Wow condescending post hmm

We eat together most nights unless dh is doing overtime then dh and I have a later dinner together after dcs are in bed. Both dcs have snacks and the hv told me thats a good thing but obviously you know better

ToysRLuv Sat 07-Sep-13 17:07:47

Snacks are the food of the devil, dontcha know? It's really unsophisticated and bad manners to not eat at the table with cutlery in a ceremonial manner all the time. Crudites, breadsticks, cheese, yoghurt, fruit, all EVIL <waves crucifix>

ToysRLuv Sat 07-Sep-13 17:10:04

madmomma: Sippy cups are ugly and unsophisticated I use them a lot with ds 4, because he has a tendency to have a drink sitting down and then put the cup down on the sofa, so it falls over and soaks it

murvanutta Sat 07-Sep-13 17:10:06

Wow, so you just came on to brag did you?

I don't get what all the fuss is about food, it's like an obsession with mum's competing, trying to make an other feel bad if you do something different. ( something I've come across lots among friends, in toddler groups etc. ) I go with not making a big deal about anything, food included. We eat what I cook, they snack as necessary, we eat together when time/ work allows, sometimes we eat in front of the TV. My kids are healthy as are my DH and I.

Ifcatshadthumbs Sat 07-Sep-13 17:14:43

We all eat together and all have the same food. It's shit.

The dc's are fussy with food and generally look at me like they have been served a steaming turd. DH stresses and rants at the lack of food being eaten and I want them all to fuck off and leave me to eat in peace.

Tee2072 Sat 07-Sep-13 17:15:56

The only reason we are able to all eat together in this house is because I freelance and organize my schedule so I can pick my son up from school and make dinner etc.

Not everyone can do that.

You're attitude and opinion are very condescending. And rather rude.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Sat 07-Sep-13 17:18:46

My parents did the whole 'all eat together' thing, two or three courses, alway beautifully cooked. There are many good things about it, but these days both of my parents are overweight, my mum quite a lot so, because three courses is actually quite a lot of food, even if they're tiny courses, as you get older.

I like a proper meal on the table but it's also nice to curl up in front of the TV with a bowl of soup sometimes, too.

colourmehappytheresasofainhere Sat 07-Sep-13 17:22:32

We eat together as a family when we can. I hope you don't mean to, but your post can be read as judgemental and rude.

mumofthemonsters808 Sat 07-Sep-13 17:31:22

I was brought up with one meal being served at the table and all sitting down together. However, it does not work in our house, children come in hungry from school so they usually eat 4.15 ish, far too early for me. OH comes in later from work 6.30ish and eats, I then take the dog out and eat when I return. We all eat different foods also.None of us touch breakfast because we are not hungry (yes, food is offered to the kids but very rarely do they take anything but a drink, maybe a piece of fruit ). That's just the way it works for us.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 07-Sep-13 17:33:04

I love these 'child-rearing on the continent' threads. They are so 50s / Daily Mail.

YY we all know continental Europe is so much more child friendly than the UK. They have seven years paid maternity leave, the children start school at 14 but all are qualified rocket scientists AND existential philosophers by 18. They never have sordid teenage sex outside a loving relationship even though the age of consent is 11 and nudity is a regular feature of children's TV programming. They never binge drink because they've been supping Chateau-Neuf-Du-Pape since they had a sippy cup. Overall the children are politer, thinner, better looking, more sophisticated, richer and more intellectually gifted as well as trilingual.

And it's all thanks to having a two-course hot meal on the table at 5pm.

Tee2072 Sat 07-Sep-13 17:34:24

I love you Tondelayo. grin

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