Why We Don’t Always Eat Dinner at the Table…and it’s OK

We don’t always eat dinner at the table. Especially right now. Our dining room table has morphed into a cubicle for my husband and a desk for my daughter. I’d like to say the current surreal way of life for many of us contributed to our current behavior. But, truthfully, this set-up isn’t completely new for us.

I am passionate about families sharing meals together. Therefore, It should come as no surprise that my family practices it and I write about it https://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/5-reasons-why-eating-meals-together-is-so-great-for-your-family.html . Research shows multiple benefits of family feasting. Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, says “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school).” 

What may surprise you is the fact that we don’t always eat at the table. This is the kind of revelation that is tempting to disclose in a hushed voice. It appears hypocritical at best and an indication of “culture caving” at worst. But sometimes, we have to acknowledge what is the best means to the end. Because sometimes something which appears to be the best practice for others may not be the best practice for you.

In my pre-child days, I balked at the idea of families not taking advantage of time together around the table. As an experienced youth and family pastor, I saw the effects of breakdown in communication and the temptation to find opportunities which led to further alienation. With the increase of food on the go and family activities fracturing time together, I longed for parents to keep meal time together as a priority. I viewed it as sacred. And still do.

But there can be more than one way to meet a goal. While my husband and I incorporated creative ideas for keeping the practice of eating together at the table fresh, dynamics in our family made it challenging at times. Mood disorders came to the table too. It’s our truth. And rather than forcing a venue that harmed, we created one that restored.

The point is about engaging and building relationships around the table. So sometimes, the “table” moves. And yes, a couch may be involved. But while we sit on the couch, we watch a video from Bible Project https://bibleproject.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9ZzzBRCKARIsANwXaeJ-fsjj_r0Wk_9Z0kiUQadwxK9leqAghIw7fS-mIdpxMtmM0gkmEtkaAk8FEALw_wcB ) and discuss it. Or play a game. Or laugh through a shared favorite tv show. Every family comes to the table with different needs. The question is: How can we meet them?

We still gather around our table intentionally (and invite others to it!). But we know that the sacred act of gathering with others to nourish our bodies and souls can happen in more than one way. And we thank God for those opportunities. Because now, more than ever, we need to cherish time together.

4 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Always Eat Dinner at the Table…and it’s OK

  1. Jeannie Prinsen

    I can definitely relate to this, Stephanie. We do this a lot in our house too, and for some of the same reasons. I think if you say it out loud (as you’ve just done!) you’d find a lot of others are the same. And that’s OK. We don’t want be so wedded to the form (sitting on chairs around a table) that we sacrifice the content (time together).

  2. Katha von Dessien

    Eating together is huge in my family. We spend hours at the table, talking and laughing. When we were younger, it was never allowed to eat anywhere besides the table – how fun to see my parents now taking food into the living room!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    We don’t eat at the dinner table
    (and it’s because it is a mess);
    it’s the only place where I am able
    to set up the reloading press.
    Long-rifle shooting is an art,
    powder and bullets form the palette,
    and at some point one must start
    to dive quite deeply into it
    by handloading what one uses,
    keeping records of results,
    and it is thus that one chooses
    the combo with the fewest faults
    to hit the black, yea, with style
    at a range of over half-a-mile.

  4. Anita Ojeda

    As all parents know, parenting requires flexibility and creativity! We had our ‘dinner time’ for breakfast most days when our girls were in high school–it was the only time of day we didn’t have competing schedules.


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