My Top 5 Tips For a Joyful Family Dinner!

September 17, 2014

I came across an article today called “Study finds that home-cooking disproportionately burdens mothers“. I think this is for sure the case for most of us, would you not agree? But does it have to be?

Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank (UK) shows that eight out of 10 married women do more household chores, while just one in 10 married men does an equal amount of cleaning and washing as his wife.

So, not only do most of us moms juggle housework, a job (part or full time) and coordinator for their kids activities and school work, we experience the dreaded “what the hell am I going to make for dinner that everyone will eat” dilemma pretty much everyday.

But here is the thing…I do not think we have to just suffer through this. For most of us, we year for relief because we know we cannot be our BEST self as a mother, wife and rockin’ individual when we are pulled from all corners. The work that I do at The Joyful Mother is based on the idea that as we shift our internal perspectives, our reality shifts. I wanted to give you My Top 5 Tips For a Joyful Family Dinner that you can use and integrate in your evening routine in order to find that relief, that ease, that sense of “Dang! I rock at this mommy thing!” Because most of us fall asleep at night wishing things were different, that life was easier. It can be.

family-dinner-400x4001. Focus on the GOOD, focus on LOVE: Science has proven that the human mind is way more powerful than we have realized up to now. I am reading a book called The Field by Lynne McTaggart which documents how scientist have proven that what we focus on, our attention at any give time is what creates our reality. So what are you focusing on as a mom? How is that showing up in your day to day? Stressed out mind = stressed out family. When we see making dinner as a hassle, another chore to do, when we lock into the idea that what is the point of cooking when no one is going to eat our food anyway…dinner time will suck and you will struggle and you will hate it and dread it everyday. Sound familiar?

When I start feeling this way, I stop myself and make the CHOICE to remember to focus on how dinner is a sacred time for us. I am then able to shift into a state of mindfulness and focus my efforts on love. Because, for me, cooking dinner for my family is an act of love. I know that my attitude, my energy impacts not just how the food tastes, but the energy of my family around the table.

Here is a wonderful article about mindfulness and loving-kindness while cooking. My husband likes to cook on the weekend. I mean he loves to cook. It is sort of a de-stress-from-the-week kind of thing for him. But knowing him like I do, I also know that he derives much joy from making food that pleases his family. So I often find him in the kitchen with the music playing, a beer in hand and a HUGE smile on his face. And I swear to you, you can taste the LOVE in this man’s food…

2.  It’s NOT about you. So growing up, we would always have family dinners. My mom was a really great cook. But, as kids, sometimes we didn’t like the food she cooked. Oh man…it was like WW3 if we ever said we didn’t like the food she slaved over for hours. Don’t get me wrong. I have literally made dinners explicitly because I thought the kids would like it (based on past likes of course) and they don’t eat it. Sure, it is disappointing and frustrating because I want them to have the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. The difference between me and my mom, is that I don’t make it about ME. I don’t take personal offense to it. I have full understanding that my 6 year old is going through a very picky-eating stage and find joy in my 11 year old loving all that I cook! We have a “eat what is served or get no dinner” policy in our house. It takes the stress out of dinner for us. My husband used to get mad when the little guy didn’t eat. This felt like a sort of survivalist panic…pure instinct. And it made dinner time like a war zone. But I really made an effort to help my husband see that us setting a lovely table, making good and healthy food may not be appreciated now, but he WILL get it – even if if doesn’t turn out the way we want tonight, have faith that the little guy will learn! It is also about respecting his physical needs. He may have eaten a big lunch or going through a stage where he needs less food. Sometimes he looses his chance to eat dinner and is totally fine. And last night he ate 3 hot dogs in one sitting…I think he is going through a hungry stage…perhaps a growth spurt. We just have to ride the wave of his physical needs sometimes!

My point is that we get so bent out of shape if our kids don’t like the food we took time to prepare, but it really isn’t about us! Shift your focus to honoring your child’s needs and at the same time challenging him to learn good and healthy habits. And be patient!

3. Connection – Curiosity. I get frustrated when I hear of families NEVER sitting down and eating dinner together. I mean, as a family, we are busy…school, homework, activities, friends, the friggin’ internet… Dinner is a time for us all to just STOP and be together. I have started ringing a little bell when dinner is on the table. Everyone knows that the bell signifies a shift of focus from whatever it was that was consuming their attention a few moments ago into a choice to be PRESENT here and now at the table with the family. A coming together of our collective energies. Sitting at the table gives us time to connect, to ask the kids questions about their day, to talk about plans for the week or the weekend or summer, to laugh and reminisce. It may be easier to just plop dinner on a tray and hand it to them in front of the tv, but is that the BEST I can do as a mom? They need me to be tapped in, to ask questions, to feel the cohesive energy of a family – all 4 of us hangin’, to feel that making dinner was a loving act, I make good food because I LOVE them’! It is also a time to teach them manners, how to use a fork and knife, how to sit at a table properly without squirming and getting up (something that has been a challenge with the little one!). All of which adds to their BEST selves.

4. Organization and Simplicity. I think the times dinner making sucks is when it is 4pm and I am standing in the grocery store completely at a loss of what the hell to make for dinner. Been there? And then I just grab something less than healthy for lack of imagination and time. So we have just started a new school year and when that happened, I decided to manage my home with a bit more forethought and organization. On Sunday’s I sit down and plan the weeks dinners. On Monday, I do all the shopping so that everything I need is there, right when I need it. Oh, I cannot tell you how this makes me feel. Peaceful. It allows me to get excited about making dinner and, as I mentioned above, mindful! All of which helps me show up as my BEST self. There are some great apps for recipes. One I am really into now is Big Oven!

5. Communicate YOUR needs. Most moms experience burn out from time to time – that is natural and part of being a mom! But don’t just suffer through it!! Sit down and talk with your family, from a place of peace and a true communicating of your needs, without attack, without blame, without anger, ask for help. I think the main reason our men resist helping or that we experience conflict in the marriage around distribution of chores comes from the way we communicate our needs. I know from experience though that sometimes I don’t know I am close to a breaking point, until I am there. And then all hell breaks loose! But when I communicate my needs to my husband from a place of anger, he shuts down. It separates us from love. I challenge you to sit down with your partner, with your kids and put words on your emotions. Their lack of help makes you feel ________. And then ask them if a happy mama wouldn’t be better for everyone and then tell them what they could do to help you! Do not shoulder the burden of household chores on your own if you can help it!!

Hope these tips can help you make your home life a refuge, a place of peace and connection instead of a hotbed of stress and frustration. Do not accept stress as a way of life. Challenge it, learn strategies that support you and CHOOSE a new way of being and watch your reality change!!  Good luck!! Connect with me if you need support! Starting my Mommy Mentorships this fall and giving away your first 1hr session for free!

Would LOVE to hear your tips for making dinner an enjoyable experience for your family!! Post in the comments below!!

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