How to Make Family Dinners a Reality (Even When You're Busy)

How to Achieve Work/Life Balance

If you're a working parent, few things balance out a crazy day at work like a sit-down dinner with your family. But when it comes to family dinners, what often feels rewarding also can feel extremely stressful. After a busy day of meeting planning, you might not have the energy for planning a family meal.  

"Dinnertime is one of the danger zones of working parenthood, where the strains of your dual role feel the most acute," author Daisy Wademan Dowling writes in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review. "After racing home from the office, with the kids' bedtime looming, it feels impossible to get everyone eating at the same time and around the same table … You wish the whole family could close out your days with regular, proper, happy, nutritious, sit-down meals, but instead your nightly experience leaves you feeling conflicted, stressed and guilty."

But family meals can be more doable than you think, provided you're willing to change the rules. Instead of family dinners, for example, what about family breakfasts?  

"Chances are, when you think 'family dinner' you imagine hearty, hot, home-cooked meals, served nightly and on real china," Dowling says. "Recast your expectations and take some of that pressure off. Maybe you commit to gathering for a meal once a week: every Friday evening, for example. Or maybe it's a family breakfast instead of dinner, if school and work schedules make that easier. And it's fine if the meal itself involves the microwave, leftovers or paper plates. Perfection isn't the point here. The point is to eat together -- regularly."

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