top of page

The Rhythm of Meal Times: How Structured Eating Shapes Family Life



Introduction

When our children were growing up, meal times served as more than just feeding moments in our family home. They were the heartbeat, the rhythm of our daily lives, providing structure and fostering a sense of togetherness. Our diligent house helps faithfully upheld these scheduled meal times, and it was around these that most other household activities revolved, ensuring a smoothly functioning household. But even in their absence, such as during illness or holiday, the structure remained intact. As I share my reflections on these pivotal times in our family's daily life, I invite you to consider your own family routines and their influence on your life.


Our Family's Time-Bound Meal Times

Breakfast (7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m.): Breakfast was our morning's starting point. During school terms, it was served promptly at 7:00 a.m. On weekends and holidays, we allowed ourselves a little extra rest, serving breakfast at 8:00 a.m. This was more than just the first meal of the day; it set the tone for everything else that followed.


Lunch: The Day's Refreshing Pause (1:00 p.m.): Lunch, always at 1:00 p.m., was our day's sweet pause. This meal was not just about refuelling; it was our chance to slow down, come together, and enjoy a moment of relaxation and connection. Sticking to this schedule helped keep our day on track and emphasised the importance of these regular family moments.


Afternoon Delight (High Tea, Our Way): The afternoon was brightened by our version of high tea - a light, unfussy snack, often consisting of fruits and a glass of juice. This served as a delightful pick-me-up to keep our spirits high and energy levels maintained. In our home, it was always 'good afternoon' until we had enjoyed this little delight, our own special twist on high tea. As I would often jokingly say, it was never truly evening until we had enjoyed our afternoon treat.


Dinner: Nite's Gentle Unwind (8:00 p.m.): Dinner, served by 8:00 p.m., marked our day's gentle unwind. The children and I usually dined together between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m., while my husband preferred his dinner a little later, after his evening drink. Unlike lunch, dinner was rarely a formal affair because the children would often be tired from homework or play. We did not set the table in the traditional sense; instead, we served our food directly from the pans to the plates. By the time the clock struck 9 p.m., all pans were empty, and the house help would retire to their separate quarters. Dinner signified the end of our family's culinary day.


The Upside of Routine

Our structured meal-time routine brought several benefits. For one, it cultivated a sense of punctuality in our house help, ensuring that most of our home-related activities ran smoothly, almost like clockwork. Our children consistently arrived at school on time, thanks to a breakfast served promptly, setting them off for a great start each day.


This routine also made planning easier and, crucially, it almost consistently ensured that my husband and I could share meals with the children. These shared moments at the table also served as daily lessons in table manners for our children. Their consistent interaction with us during meal times provided ample opportunities for learning—from the proper use of cutlery to the art of polite conversation.


Beyond that, having set meal times fostered an appreciation for homemade food, subtly imparting the value of nutrition. It also became a platform for nurturing their social skills, contributing to their overall development.


For us, these benefits were the icing on the cake. The routine didn't just create a framework for our day; it created precious moments of connection and sharing that we continue to cherish to this day.


Key Benefits of Structured Meal Times

  • Promotes Better Nutrition: Regular meal times often lead to better nutrition, encouraging more thoughtful meal planning and healthier eating habits.

  • Encourages Conversation and Communication: Shared meal times are a dedicated space for family conversation, helping to strengthen family bonds and improve communication skills among younger family members.

  • Fosters Appreciation for Homemade Food: Regular, home-cooked meals can instill an appreciation for homemade food and may inspire children to learn to cook as they grow older.

  • Helps Establish Routine: Consistent meal times can establish a daily routine, beneficial for overall time management and planning skills in children.

  • Teaches Discipline: Adhering to a meal schedule imparts the importance of discipline and time management to children.

  • Cultivates Social Skills: Shared meal times offer opportunities to learn and practice social and conversational skills.

  • Imparts Table Manners: The regular interaction at meal times provides ample opportunities for children to learn—from the proper use of cutlery to the art of polite conversation.

The Balancing Act

The strict nature of our meal times, while beneficial, also presented its own set of challenges. The lack of flexibility occasionally disrupted other activities or work commitments. Striking a balance between this home ritual and the demands of professional life was a delicate dance, a continuous process of adjustment and compromise.


Early on, I had consciously chosen to work from home, which fit well with my teaching role at the university. This allowed me to comfortably join in for lunch with the family. However, when I started undertaking consultancy work, the balance became more difficult to maintain. The teamwork often required in my consultancies, and the crucial role that shared meals played in team building, sometimes meant that I could not always join the family for lunch. This challenge was even more pronounced when the assignment involved travel.


Despite these obstacles, my husband managed to consistently have lunch with the children throughout their primary school years. The strict meal schedule was occasionally disrupted, but it remained a central part of our family life. This experience underscored the complexities of maintaining work-life balance, a topic I look forward to exploring in a future post.


Conclusion

The rhythm of meal times in our home brought both structure and challenges. It provided a framework that helped us manage our daily lives while also creating opportunities for shared moments and connection. However, it also required flexibility and adaptability, especially when balancing home and work responsibilities. Through it all, these routines became a central part of our family life, shaping our days and nurturing our relationships.


Join the Conversation!

We're eager to hear your stories and insights!

1. How have structured meal times impacted your family routine? Have you faced challenges in balancing home rituals with work demands?

2. I invite you to share your experiences and tips in the comments below. Remember, every small step towards healthier eating counts, and every shared story can inspire change in someone else's life.


Feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family on social media. Let's create a community of home cooking enthusiasts together!



About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is an Independent International Consultant known for championing 'Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity.' As a working parent, she has first-hand experience in maintaining family traditions and managing a work-life balance. She has always prioritised her family's well-being, with a specific emphasis on structured, nutritious meal times. Nite shares her personal journey in her 'Mama's Reflective Musings' blog series, offering practical strategies and insights to assist other parents in harmonising their personal and professional lives.

16 views6 comments

Recent Posts

See All

6 Comments


Guest
Nov 05, 2023

Structured eating can help establish healthy eating habits and , promote family bonding

Like

Guest
Nov 05, 2023

Eating together as a family improves communication and bonding.

Like

Guest
Oct 27, 2023

When I first left home after joining university. I threw out all the family "rituals" like eating on time. My health suffered and I gained a few pounds...I would eat junk food lost times late in the night.,

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Nov 04, 2023
Replying to

Your experience is a valuable testament to the significance of structured eating habits developed during our upbringing. It is interesting to observe how veering away from these routines can impact our health and well-being. Your honesty about the consequences of late-night junk food habits serves as a reminder for all of us about the importance of maintaining mealtime structures, especially when transitioning to independent living. I hope you have found your rhythm again.


Cheers,

Nite,

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

Like

nsabimana canisius
nsabimana canisius
Sep 04, 2023

Structured meal times help with disciplining the children

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Sep 04, 2023
Replying to

Hi Canisius,

Thank you for your insightful comment. I completely agree that structured meal times can serve as a valuable tool for instilling discipline in children. It's not just about the food, but also about creating a sense of routine and stability, which can be beneficial in many aspects of family life. Your perspective enriches the dialogue on this topic.

Cheers,

Nite 🌟📝

Like
bottom of page