Nothing in my service as a health coach is more important to me than when I can support and strengthen the family unit. Our honest and open discussions about the challenges of 2020 and the unique ways it has exacerbated the struggles for families in our country and around the world has given many parents the outlet they desperately needed. I love to share ideas, offer creative solutions, or just provide a listening ear.
2020 has indeed been a year to remember. It has confirmed our strengths and revealed our weaknesses, unearthed emotions, and exposed insecurities. However, in so many cases it has reignited our passion for family and caused us to re-prioritize our values. One such resurrected value is The Family Table.
Many families are experiencing the redeeming value of cooking at home and sharing a meal around the table. Together. All at one time. As a family.
Developing cooking abilities can be a very healthy change that leads to even more than the correction of blood pressure, cholesterol, and scale numbers. It can also lead to family connectedness, marital closeness, and depth of relationship between siblings.
There are plenty of cooking shows and YouTube channels devoted to the topic, and we have plenty of time to watch them now to improve on this all-important health-promoting skill. Food preparation takes time, I know, but even that can be a valuable experience for all involved and will come in handy some day for the younger generation that often doesn’t even know how to use the stove to cook rice or oatmeal that isn’t instant, or fry an egg.
It may surprise you to know that up until Covid19 hit our shores, Americans were spending more of their food budget on restaurants and take-out/delivery foods (50.3%), than they did on groceries (49.7%). For some perspective on that, in 1970 only 26% of a family’s food budget was spent on eating out. In 2010 it was 41%. Another staggering statistic I read what that the average American eats one in every five meals in their car; 25% of Americans eat at least one fast food meal every single day; and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. In fact, only 32% typically have dinner together all seven nights per week.
Here’s a discouraging statistic, when families do eat together the average dinnertime is 15 minutes! Compare that to the 1960s, when the averaged dinnertime was 90 minutes. While I’m not suggesting that we sit at the table for 90 minutes, I am, however, wondering if a healthy discussion and slowing the pace of consuming our body’s most valuable fuel – nutrition – would at least be worth 30-45 minutes of our time. I believe it would, especially if it was a warm place, a sacred space, filled with laughter and positive conversation.
More than half (57%) of parents say that even when they eat together as a family some of the members are distracted by technology, and it is not always the youngsters at the table.
My husband and I are empty-nesters. I am a blessed wife who has shared 46 wonderful years of marriage to my high school sweetheart and is a mother of two amazing sons, two great daughters-in-law, and three fantastic grandchildren. Our boys would both say that their dad is their hero, they openly show their love and affection to me as their mom, and even at age 46 and 42 they still call us for advice or input. We are not a perfect family, but we share a very close bond and it comes from years and years of togetherness.
The family table was a sacred space for us. We honored that time by protecting it and making it enjoyable family time. It wasn’t a place of negativity, gossip, or grumbling (at least for that hour). It wasn’t a place to complain, reprimand, or argue. We always looked forward to that time with our sons, and they looked forward to it as well. Later, the family table expanded to include wives and grandkids, now a total of 9, and we still enjoy the same unwritten rule and we love visiting our son’s homes where they too strive to keep family table a place of thankfulness, safety, and positivity.
“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.” Abigail Van Buren
Create your own family table - prep, cook, eat, and enjoy that sacred space – even if forced to by the current restrictions, consider returning to simplicity of dining at home and dining together as a family. For all to want to spend time around the table - for longer that 15 minutes – make it a warm, inviting, life-giving and positive time of connection for all members of the family.
My husband and I continue to build relationship during our dinner hour. We cook together, enjoy a deliciously healthy meal, great conversation, and often a glass of wine, with a toast for each year. Our 2020 toast at every meal this year has been “Time together - is time well spent.” Time at the family table is time well spent.
Our family has worked diligently throughout this complicated year to remain close – even if only virtually – but one day real soon we will gather together here in our home to again enjoy the friendly banter, the Wolfe sense of humor, joyful laughter, and our love for one another at The Family Table.
From our family table to yours,
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– STEPHANIE WOLFE, NBC-HWC