I’ve read all those articles and studies that say that good moms make family dinner a priority even when their baby is still little. So I’ve heard about all the benefits and I get it. Really, I do.
But while there’s supposed to be something positive about family dinner – something magical even – at my house, that isn’t always the case.
With two little girls as dining companions, dinner at our house is one of the most chaotic times of the day. And, since I’m being honest, it’s often one of my least favorite parts of the day. That’s because after we all sit down to dinner, I rarely stay seated. I'm always getting up to clean up spills or get my girls one more thing (another glass of water, a new napkin, a straw, a squirt of ketchup for their sweet potato fries). And back when I was breastfeeding, it felt like my always-hungry babies were on a mission to interrupt dinner every night.
My point is that most nights I spend as much time getting up and down as I do eating my meal or enjoying my family's company.
So earlier this year, I stopped making family dinner a priority. I stopped holding on to the hard fast rule that we had to sit down together every night. And I stopped thinking I was a bad mom if I skipped family dinner from time to time.
Now if you peek into our house at dinnertime, you’d see that some nights we all eat together. But sometimes, the girls eat first and my husband and I have a date night in later. Some days, when he’s working late, I feed my girls then wait to eat until after their bedtime. That way I can enjoy a quiet adult meal with a good book and a glass of wine.
Do I still worry that I’m doing the wrong thing and have doubts about this minor decision? Do I sometimes feel selfish? Absolutely. BUT – and this is a big but – when I come up against those feelings or when I start criticizing myself for not doing this small part of motherhood perfectly, I take a moment to look at the big picture.
When I do that, I can see that being a little lax about family dinner is ok. In fact, I can see that it’s actually worth it to bend the rules a little because it creates opportunities for me to give more to myself.
Your inner struggle might not be about family dinner. Maybe you think you have to make all your baby food from scratch or breastfeed your baby until they turn two. Maybe you think you have to have a perfect bedtime routine. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
But if you’re feeling pressure to continue doing something just because you think you should or because someone else says it’s what a good mother would do, it’s time to ask yourself: Is this thing that I’m doing for my family or my baby also the best thing for me?
If it is, then by all means keep doing it. But if it’s not working for you, then it’s probably not good for your family either. And if that’s the case, you might want to let it go.
It's not easy to learn how to stop chasing perfection and just let go. But it is possible, especially if you look at the big picture and if you remember this: There are many many ways to be a good mom.
And one of the most important ways to be a good mom is to show love to yourself.
P.S. I recently had the chance to sit down and talk motherhood with the women behind the baby sling company, Sakura Bloom. It was such an engaging and insightful conversation about the challenges and rewards of being a mother today. And now that it’s live, I'm excited to share it with you. (Read the full interview here.)