Notes on Single Mom Dinner
How it started, how it's going (and a little bit about what we're eating).
Because I wrote about how our culture approaches picky eating in my first book, I am someone who gets a lot of questions about family dinner. But this has never made much sense to me. I am not a dietitian, I am not a feeding therapist, I am not a food writer. I’m a good home cook who loves food, yes. I’m a parent of two cautious eaters (one with a dramatic backstory). I am a writer who has applied her journalism training to researching how and why “picky eating” happens and who thinks critically about how diet culture and patriarchy makes it worse. And I have a lot of (evidence-based) thoughts on how we can use the dinner table to foster body autonomy and push back against anti-fatness and diet culture.
But: None of this has ever meant I have perfect family dinners.
When I look back on the past decade of parenting, I can see that we’ve had stretches of a few weeks, or even months, here and there, where it all really clicked. We’ve had many, many individual meals that were delicious and joyful. We’ve tried different approaches, like family meal planning and dinnertime rules, and every strategy worked until it didn’t. But dinner, as a concept, has been a work in progress at my house for as long as I’ve been a mom. For years, I chalked this up to life with small children with intense preferences or to my ongoing dislike of the unavoidable mental load of meal planning. And these things were certainly part of it.
But when Dan and I decided to separate earlier this year, I realized: I had been using dinner as a kind of proxy for family happiness. When family dinner was working, I could tell myself that everything about our lives was working. And so of course, family dinner stopped working—again—when our marriage stopped working.