The data comes from a study conducted by Mintel, who have found that families in 2022 eat together only 68% of the time, which is a marked decrease from the 78% of families who would eat together in 2016. To some families, the idea of shared mealtimes is antiquated, and it simply does suit their lifestyles, but to others, shared mealtimes remain an important element of family life, allowing the family to bond and spend time together regularly. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this trend.
Traditionally, there were fewer demands on families. Within the ‘classic’ idea of a nuclear family, the father would be the breadwinner and the provider, the mother would stay home and perform all domestic labour, and the children would go to school, come home and often go out to play with their friends. However, today, both parents tend to work, there are also a number of activities and clubs for children too. This has made it a lot harder for families to carve out the time to eat together. Often, they simply have to grab a bite when they can between all of their other responsibilities.
In addition to that, there are still a few lasting effects from the pandemic, even as we pass the three-year anniversary. The pandemic meant significant changes to people’s schedules, their work habits and daily routines, which has also affected their approaches to mealtimes. Some families have ended up with a much more casual approach whereby everybody eats in the living room in front of the TV.
Another reason why families have stopped eating together as much is simply because they aren’t eating the same meals. There has been an increase in families preparing separate dishes for the children either because of allergies, dietary restrictions or simply differing tastes. This would mean that in order to eat together, the parent preparing the dinner would need to prepare multiple different dishes at once, which is often a big undertaking and not ideal. This then means that the children are fed, and then the parents will eat later.
For some parents, separate mealtimes is a conscious and deliberate decision. The parents choose to feed their children separately, earlier in the evening; this is especially the case for young children, who are then bathed and put to bed. This then allows the parents to eat their meal together without – or perhaps more realistically with minimal – disruptions. A lot of parents view these meals together as an opportunity to connect with their partner and fortify their relationship. Making time for each other is important in a relationship.
Designing Your Home with Mealtimes in Mind
Regardless of whether your family eats every meal together or they only do so on special occasions, it still makes sense to consider the design of your home and whether it is optimised for these possibilities or not. The traditional idea of a dining space might not work for your family, and that is totally okay. Your home obviously needs to be designed with your family’s needs in mind, so remember to consider your family dynamic when looking into interior design choices for your home.
If you prefer to eat in the living room while watching the telly, then it might make sense to consider purchasing a coffee table which would allow you to eat more comfortably. You could also consider lap trays if you prefer to eat with your plate on your lap as opposed to leaning over a coffee table. You might be able to find a convertible coffee table; there are models with adjustable tops allowing you to bring the table closer to you.
If you want the option to eat together occasionally, or if your family still likes to eat at a table albeit at separate times, then it is worth looking for dining tables for your space like the ones available from Furniture Village. It might be worth opting for a smaller table that fits the space well, or if you would like to eat together occasionally, then it might be worth going for an adjustable dining table that is small enough for the space but provides you with the option to elongate the table when needed to ensure that the whole family can fit.
Spending time together as a family is incredibly important; it can impact your and your family’s mental health and even the development of your children too. However, the way in which you choose to spend time with your family is entirely up to you. Perhaps you simply are not the type of family that eats meals together, which is perfectly okay. You might prefer to do activities together instead. Obviously, your family still needs to eat, and it does make sense to ensure that your home is designed with the needs of your family in mind. You don’t need to follow trends or conform to norms if your family doesn’t fit within them.