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Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority (and what we’re doing instead)

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

For years, I was under the impression that, “Good families eat dinner together almost every single night.”

I’m not sure where it came from, but I certainly believed it. And every week that went by where we missed multiple nights of eating together, I would feel guilt.

I would feel guilt that I didn’t seem to have my act together enough to make family dinners a priority. I had guilt over the fact that we had made commitments in the evenings (even though they were good commitments and things that we loved and that were adding to our family in a positive way).

We’d sometimes have weeks where we were really good about having family dinners, but then there’d be other seasons where it felt like most nights we weren’t eating around the table together because life happened.

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

I would beat myself up about it. I’d come up with unrealistic plans to make it more of a priority. I’d consider that maybe we should just stop all evening commitments altogether.

Most of all, I just felt angst over it and I couldn’t seem to come up with a realistic fix. But I also couldn’t allow myself to just let it go and convince myself that it was okay for us to just not have regular family dinners.

Finally, after a lot of thought and talking with my husband, we came up with a unique and outside-the-box plan. We’ve followed this since the beginning of 2016 and it’s been one of the best changes ever in our family.

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

What We’re Doing Instead of Family Dinners

At the beginning of 2016, my husband and I sat down and reviewed our goals for the year and talked about areas we wanted to improve in. As we thought over the past year and discussed our hopes, dreams, and goals for2016, one goal both of us realized we wanted to make a big priority for 2016 was having breakfast together around the table as a family every morning.

This was one of those things that we’d always planned to do. In fact, we would often commit to it and do it for a few days, but we always fizzled out. Life happened, mornings would be hectic, and that time together talking and being together as a family would fall by the wayside.

We both committed to make 2016 the year that we actually made family breakfasts together not only a priority, but a habit… something we did without contemplating whether or not we had time, or whether or not we should do it. We wanted it to become as much a part of our mornings as getting out of bed and getting dressed.

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

How It Works For Us

We get the kids up around 7 a.m. and they get dressed, make their beds, clean up their room, and do their morning chores. I’ve usually gotten up before the kids and already had my time in God’s Word, so while the kids are getting ready for the day, I usually check in online — checking on emails, posts, talking with my team, and taking care of anything that needs to be taken care of before I log off to spend the morning with my family. Around 7:30 a.m., I head upstairs to take a shower, make our bed, and get dressed and ready for the day.

During this time, Jesse usually spends time in God’s Word and a little time online, and then heads to the kitchen to make a hot breakfast breakfast. Our goal is to have a hot breakfast every single morning. I’m spoiled in the fact that Jesse makes breakfast for us every morning. (Yes, for real!)

When we say “hot breakfast”, though, that term is a little loose. 🙂 We stick to simple and quick breakfast ideas — and we usually just rotate between a few. We either have bacon & eggs, oatmeal, or Cream of Wheat. This makes prep, planning, and clean up very simple. And we all really like almost all three things (I’m not much of an oatmeal person, but everyone else loves it!)

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

We usually sit down at the table together around 8 a.m. and we pray and eat breakfast and then Jesse reads to us from The Fighter Verses study and we have a discussion about it.

While he reads, I usually hand-letter and/or color and the kids color in their Fighter Verses coloring books. We often get involved in pretty deep discussions as a result of what we’re talking about. Jesse’s really good at asking questions that make the kids (and me!) think and that lead to great conversation.

Sometimes, we get way off track and end up sharing funny stories or tidbits from our childhood or elsewhere, but it’s always a time that we love and look forward to.

Family Breakfasts have become our “Family Dinner”… as in, it’s when we gather around the table, hang out, talk, and share our hearts. Sometimes we have disagreements. Sometimes, we have to deal with bad attitudes. But we treasure this time.

And even if we don’t end up having dinner together around the table that evening because of other commitments, we’ve already spent time around the table together. So it’s become such a perfect solution for us at this season of our lives.

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Resources We Are Using:

  •  — This is a 52-week study that we are going through as a family. It focuses on one verse from Scripture each week. There are coloring books with one coloring page per week to go along with the study that our kids really love.
  • My Favorite Hand-lettering Resources: , ,
  • My Favorite Coloring Books: , , , , .
  • My Favorite Colored Pencils:

Why We Stopped Making Family Dinners a Priority

Do you have tips for how to make meals as a family more of a priority? I’d love hear — tell us in the comments!

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69 Comments

  • says:

    I love this Crystal!!!
    Isn’t it amazing the self induced guilt we experience as moms! I hate it when I fall into this trap.

    I’m super curious now about the Fighter Verses Study you mentioned!

  • says:

    My goodness sweet friend…you literally eat, drink, sleep your family day in and day out! If you and Jesse went to work every day and your kids went to school and no one ever saw or interacted with each other, then family dinners would be more important. Instead, your kids are homeschooled and you and Jesse work from home! Seriously, you guys prob need a meal apart…or a week. 😀 So glad you are feeling freedom from having to do the family dinner thing if it isn’t working. I know you and your family are spending a serious amount of time together that your kids will not ever forget! It might not seem like it now, but I know that you are giving them the attention they need. When they get older, you never know what they are going to reminisce over, but I know they will look back at fond memories with you and Jesse being home with them…actually, I know they will!

  • Robyn says:

    I love this creative solution!

    There is no “magic” in the family dinner…it’s really just about taking time to connect with family. I love the way you are making this happen!

  • Sarah H. says:

    I have had to let go of the guilt as my husband is gone breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But we are *trying* to carve out one night on the weekend to do dinner and some family games. It happens once or twice a month but the key is that we are trying and honestly we are finding we are connecting in so many other ways. I had to grieve and let go of the thought that I would have family dinner each night. Just not practical in the current work force and with so many fun activities. Just adjusting and finding new time is just fine.

    • Emily says:

      I’m here too. My husband leaves at 6:15 and gets home around 8. We try some nights to all eat late but everyone is so tired, it isn’t very pleasant. We are generally very happy to get one meal at the table Monday-Friday and we try to get in as much family time as possible Saturday-Sunday. I’m home with the kids, so I spend lots of time (and meals) with them, but my husband isn’t included as often as we would all prefer. :/

  • Rita says:

    After my dad passed away when i was in high school, my mom went back to college in the evenings. So breakfast became our family time. It was a great way to start anew each morning.

  • Sara says:

    I love this! My husband leaves the house at 5am, or I would seriously consider using your idea in our home!

  • Karen says:

    I love the Fighter Verses app, and am using it with my kids. I didn’t know this devotional program existed though & love the idea of it, especially the coloring books. Thanks!

  • saba says:

    This is a one of a kind idea…must make it happen.

  • Michelle says:

    I work late evenings and I have struggled with not having dinner as a family! It is refreshing to read this post, as I had considered a family breakfast instead. We try it, but I’m inspired to be more intentional about it now!! It does mean early mornings after my late nights, but it seems worth it!!

  • Kim F says:

    Love! You completely nailed it for me! I always had this picturesque dinner time in my head. My husband owns his own business and puts in many hours so I am able to stay home with the kids. Therefore, he usually comes home after kids are in bed. Forthe last 7 years i allowed his work schedule to tear me down, knaw at my heart, and fuel my depression. Just about a month or 2 ago, I had a come to Jesus meeting with myself. I realized that for my kids and I tobget into a routine, supper would have to go on whether or not he was home. I’m not a morning person, because I stay up too late catching up with him or doing housework. I need to makeover my mornings and implement this breakfast time! Thank you for sharing!

  • says:

    I love this- I grew up with my mom and dad mom read the bible in a year to us and dad made breakfast every morning. One of my favorite family times even through high school though some days I didn’t appreciate it in a I wan to sleep in I’m a teenager phase- I’m so glad my parents did it so kudos to you!

  • Kandra Hawkins says:

    Since we have late sports practices, we have chosen car trips to and from practice to download our day. We ask each other questions (even Mom and Dad get asked!) about what they learned in school, how they are fairing with any friend challenges and what is on their minds. We very rarely have meals together but I think the essence of what we are doing is the same hust without food.

  • Jess says:

    I love this idea but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work for my family and I wish it could. My husband is self employed and leaves the house very early. He also works very late and in result, we miss having dinner together too. Have any suggestions on how to get that family time in through the week? I feel like this is the biggest thing we struggle with.

    • Kadee says:

      Same here – my hubby is self employed, leaves very early, and works late. While I wish we could all be together, I figure there is no reason for the kids and I not to have a family dinner. We still get nourished and have great conversations that draw us closer. We just make sure that when dad is home, like on weekends, that we all eat together. I grew up with a dad working different shifts (police officer), so I guess I got used to having a family dinner meaning whoever was home was expected to eat dinner together. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    My husband is a preacher and is gone most evenings at Bible studies or events, so years ago when we realized that it would be impossible to make family dinners a regular occurrence with his schedule, we did exactly this and decided to make breakfast our family mealtime. It’s easily my favorite time of the day and I can’t imagine NOT starting our days together gathered around the table eating a big breakfast. Like you, though, it took me a while to let go of the idea that we had to follow everyone else’s normal, but I’m so glad I did, because this works so much better for us.

  • says:

    I loved reading this! We just started family breakfasts last week & are still working on making it a daily habit, but I’ve been so amazed at how much reading the Bible over cereal or eggs has had a positive impact on our day. There’s something special about gathering in the morning, still feeling a little sleepy and just being together <3

  • says:

    This is such a wonderful idea! Our evenings are packed full of practices and therapies, making family dinners near impossible. I think we will give this a try! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Amanda says:

    When our evenings got full, my family did morning breakfast and devotions together and all 5 kiddos went to public school:) we had to get up a little early, but it was totally worth it! I’m so grateful for that time together. Now, we are all grown and have families of our own and when life gets crazy and we can’t find time to schedule an extended family dinner, someone always suggests a Saturday morning breakfast and that usually works;)

  • Katie Hostetter says:

    I have felt the dinner guilt as well. I try to make sure we connect as a family at some point during the day and try to create other traditions my son will remember–like going for a walk together, etc. Your post resonated with me! 🙂

  • Tabbetha says:

    This is an amazing idea. My husband works second shift so we would only be able to have a family dinner like once a week if we didn’t have plans on his days off. However, I believe that this idea would work for us. Thank you so much for sharing! Makes me very excited. 🙂

  • says:

    I’ve been thinking about your post this morning & I love the takeaway from this. I realized that your point is not necessarily just about dinner or breakfast – the point is to think outside the box, lose the guilt about what isn’t working, and find creative ways to connect with our families that works for us. You are a blessing and an inspiration, friend!

  • says:

    My hubby works outside the home and 4 of our kids attend public school. Supper is the best time for us to come together as a family and enjoy each others company.

    It sounds like breakfast is working out really well for you! The quality family time is the important thing, and the way each family fits it into their own schedule is going to look as different as each family does.

    Your children are going to remember those breakfasts fondly, I’m sure! That’s a special tradition.

  • Adrienne says:

    We have done this at various times in our family and it worked great! Good job thinking outside of the box!

  • says:

    I have this guilt too. I grew up in a house where family dinners happened most nights, but my husband did not. I have to admit that I’ve slacked off seriously in that department since being married, and now that my kids are getting older is when I’m realizing how very important it is to have a meal together every day. But, it’s also hard to break habits that have been set for 9 years! Especially when it’s not exactly a priority for my husband, since he never had that as a child. I’ll have to take the reins on this one and just make it happen in some form. Great idea to try breakfast!

    • says:

      Hey Alicia,

      My husband grew up in a home without family meals too! We managed to change our routine to family meals when our twins were 2 (they’re 10 now). I got him to agree to 2 months of dinners together at least 4 nights a week. After that he realized how much it helped us connect and it became a habit. He was quite surprised but now we both miss it if we have a busy week with few nights home eating together.

      Lea

  • says:

    I hear you. With 3 of my 7 being teens, multiple extracurriculars, etc, dinners are getting harder. Eating dinner together is **correlated** with many benefits, but not **causative**, it’s more likely that the *kind of parents* who value family dinners produce the kind of kids who so better in life. So no guilt!

  • Karen says:

    What a wonderful idea. I am actually a bit envious. I wish I had something like that growing up. What memories you are creating for your children. Also, don’t worry about what other people say/think. The important thing to find what works for your family and obviously you have found it.

  • Holly says:

    This is great! Glad you found a working “family time” plan!
    What pencil sharpener do you recommend for your colored pencils? I have problems with my sharpener breaking tips and I end up losing a lot of the pencil trying to sharpen over and over again.

  • Kadie says:

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a bible study I can do with my girls this summer. They will be 7 and 9.

    Everything I find is a little to old for my 7 year old. I am not looking for “girl talk” we just want to read the bible and discuss it.

    Thanks

  • Kadie says:

    Does anyone know if the handwriting book would be good for kids? My daughter would love this.

    Or does someone have a better suggestion for a 9 year old?

  • Shannon says:

    I had guilt for years about morning devotions. Seems as if people associate morning devotions with godliness. However, this is NOT my best time of the day. I would go through the motions of reading my Bible, but not remember a word of it once I finished. I tried all sorts of strategies. I finally realized that to give God my BEST, I would do my devotions after the kids went to bed and it was quiet. This is my best time and sacrificial, and I am now able to have great devotions with the Lord. I still sometimes feel like I’m “doing it wrong”, and might even feel a little judged (by others), but this has been a game changer in my devotions (and I find myself looking forward to my time with the Lord, rather than another thing to cross of my to-do list. 🙂

    • Jo says:

      I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Awmeme says:

      I so agree…I found out as a teenager that for me doing my devotions right before bed was best. Especially since due to health issues all but one day a week I had to get up between 5-5:30 am. I found that by doing this most nights the last thing I thought of was what I read, the first thing I thought of was what I had read and often dreamed about what I read. But unfortunately that judgment from others is so real.

  • Christine says:

    thank you for encouraging us to invest in our family over a meal or special time during day. it speaks love to our kids, spouses, that we care enough to make time to listen, share, pray as a family.

    as a foster parent i have seen a simple commitment to eat dinner together every night have enormous positive effects on behavior, self esteem, social and emotional well being.

  • says:

    Don’t you just hate mommy guilt? I’ve felt it plenty of times about things that I am sure were very silly to feel guilty for.

    I love how you found a way to fit in that family meal in a way that worked for your family! Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. 🙂

  • Kelly says:

    Crystal-
    This just made me smile. I follow your blog as I am still a money-saver, but my kids are now 20 and 22 and away at college. Somewhere in the middle school years I remember God speaking to me as I was bemoaning never having everyone together at the same time for a meal– “Everybody is home together in the morning.” I am embarrassed to say it felt like a tremendous sacrifice to get up earlier and prepare this before everyone (including me) had to head off to work and school, but the payoffs were HUGE. The time we spent and the nurturing they felt just started everyone off in the right direction. And they still talk about “Pancake Mondays” and “Cinnamon Roll and Smoothie Fridays.” 🙂 It is so heartwarming to see the love you give to your children- the (at times) hard work WILL pay off!

  • Theresa says:

    I love this! We are a homeschooling family and my husband is an Athletic Director. Many evenings he’s setting up various sporting activities, so we have a family lunch. We do the bulk of lessons after a light breakfast while he goes to the office for paperwork, then a big family lunch together. Years ago I would have thought this schedule was crazy, but it is such a blessing for our family. Thank you for pointing out that outside the box is sometimes the best place for your family!

  • Mary says:

    My husband worked a 12 hour rotating shift so it was difficult to plan for meals together. We did the best we could, but when it came down to squeezing a gathering around the table sometimes I would bake something and have dessert by candlelight. The children thought that was really something special.

  • Melanie Mize says:

    Awesome idea! It actually prompted me to think about doing family LUNCH instead. We are a homeschooling family of 6 and most of us are not morning people and the evenings are usually tied up. I think lunch would actually work for us! Thanks!

  • Lori says:

    I grew up with my mom always sharing a devotion and bible scripture with us at breakfast. A fond memory. When asking our own daughters what was one of their best memories of their childhood, they said eating dinner together as a family every night and hearing their dad’s work stories! Whatever works for your own family!

  • Lisa says:

    Our family has done the dessert or late night snack together at the end of the day. It was the only thing we could get to work with all the crazy practice/work schedules. Banana splits are always a hit, and hey there is some fruit involved 🙂

  • Kristen S. says:

    I love reading through all these creative ways that families spend time together! I think the point is – make it happen somehow in a way that works for your family! My husband is gone from about 6:30 am to 7 or 8 pm. So during the week, we don’t eat together as a family at all. But I’ve never felt guilty about it. The kids and I eat dinner together, and we spend lots of time as a family on the weekends, keeping our outside commitments to a minimum. Thanks for writing this post, Crystal! I’m sure many people will be freed up because of it! 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    The way my family’s schedule has been for years now, family breakfasts work the best! My family includes adult children, but it is still really helpful for our relationships and household management to eat together most mornings. We have a different person on “breakfast duty” each weekday morning. That person makes a nice breakfast while everyone else sleeps in or gets up to work out! One year, we even instituted a $5 late fee to encourage people to show up on time!!!

  • says:

    We were fighting to make everything ready at an appropriated time for the dinner. In the end we were forgetting plenty of things. So we were spending time to stand up to get the salt, the milk, the salad, the napkin… and we were constantly saying to the kids : eat properly, stay quiet, sit down.
    Family dinner resulting in an core more than in a pleasure.
    We decided that it was not a priority and that, once a week, the children would eat alone. I would prepare them sandwich and while they would eat it, I would prepare the hot meal for me and my boyfriend. It helped a lot. Just one evening for my boyfriend and I in the calm. This day allowed me to see why the kids eat unproperly and to focus on their eating habits.
    The other evening we don’t bother so much, it’s a pleasant time.

  • Natalie says:

    This is a great idea! I’m going to share it with my husband and see what he thinks. We could have breakfast together 4-5 mornings and supper 1-2 evenings. I don’t care when it happens as long as I can find creative ways to spend more time with my hard-working sweetheart.
    I just have to ask…how do you get ready (including a shower) in just 30 minutes?!? That’s awesome!

  • Melissa says:

    Which “items” from the fighter verse series do you use? I noticed there are several resources. Thanks

  • Sally says:

    Oh my gosh i can’t begin to tell u what a blessing this,was to me!!!! My hubby rarely is,off work to eat dinner w us and I often have anger or er this):… I love how u gave very real solutions for me,to grasp hold of I think I will try all of it!! So excited!!(:

  • Renissa Francis says:

    I do not think it matters what meal you choose to have together as a family as long as you do one. My kids are grown. When they were younger and very active in sports (I have 4 kids) in the summer the kids and I would have our main meal at lunch because we were always on the road to games and or practices in the evening. We missed dad but at least one parent was able to sit down and have a meal with them. Sometimes you just have to do what works for you in that season of life.

  • says:

    This is the most wonderful idea! We eat dinner in the same area, but not at the same table. I think breakfast together is a much better idea. It starts their day off with love and togetherness. Feeling as though they are a part of something good. Then they head off to school with that wonderful feeling.
    We homeschool our youngest but our middles child is my stepson (is wish there was a better name for that) and goes off to public school each morning. I have had to work really hard to be able to get up in the morning and make a breakfast and talk with them before school. But what a blessing it has been! (I have very deep rooted morning issues then to my childhood).
    What a blesing you are to all of us Crystal, and thanks for sharing!

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