Family Dinner


Some time soon after Nikki was born, my mother-in-law offered to cook dinner for us at her house. I think it was a gesture to help feed us as “new” parents, but also a way for everyone to hang out with the new baby. Before that we got together for birthdays and holidays. Even all living in the same town, those were the only times we gathered. Things were just too crazy, I think. They still had a child at home and we were busy with our lives. So, it may have seemed unusual to get together that Sunday for dinner with no holiday or birthday as an excuse, but we did. And we’ve done it every weekend since.

For the first several years we did it mainly at their house. Rarely at ours. But the last year or so, two factors have increased the amount of Sundays we eat at our house. 1) My new cooking tendencies since losing my job in August 2009 and 2) Renovations at their house. And while I love going over to their house to eat on Sundays? The weeks we have it at our house are always my most productive weeks. Besides the joy of hanging out with family and enjoying adult conversation – which is rare for a SAHM – there are other domestic benefits to hosting dinners at your home every week.

  • I Clean. I don’t know about you, but no one in this house cares too much about clean sinks and dusted bookshelves. Now, I’m really good about keeping the place “picked up” – there are rarely toys and books scattered anywhere but the kids rooms. The kitchen gets cleaned after every meal. But some things just get ignored until we’re having company. If we never had company? I don’t know if I’d ever clean mirrors or wash baseboards.
  • I Cook. Cooking for 10 people is a challenge. Especially when everyone eats different foods and some (my kids) won’t eat anything. Cooking for family dinners encourages me to try new meals and harnesses the abilities to adjust quantities in recipes. Which I still suck at. We always have gobs of leftovers because the voice inside my head says, “Better to have too much than too little!” My mother-in-law cooks the perfect amount at every meal. It’s like she’s magic.
  • I Decorate. In the old house this was more seasonal. I’d make sure to put out all of the decorations in plenty of time because it was a nice touch for family gatherings. But in the new house? I’m not sure if I’d ever be motivated to hang pictures on walls if it weren’t for these periodic family gatherings at my house. We’ve not hosted family dinner here for weeks but we are this Sunday since it’s Nikki’s birthday celebration. So what did I do this week? Finally print up some pictures to put in frames I’ve had for months. I also put out some more Halloween stuff.

So…while the weekly gatherings does a lot for my soul and for our family bonds, it also does tons for my domestic life. It motivates me to be better at a lot of things. I might just rest on my laurels all the time if I didn’t have anything to motivate me to do more. (Dude. I totally just used “rest on my laurels” casually in a sentence. Probably totally incorrectly…BUT WHO CARES?) I enjoy the ability to get weekly updates on everyone’s lives. Especially now that there’s a new baby in the family. But practically speaking? I’m also glad there’s something that encourages us to lint-brush the couches periodically.

Update from 2021:Β These family dinners became a lot more rare. Sometimes political differences cause conflict that is too difficult to surmount. We love each other in the way you love people who love people you love. If you love my husband or my children? I will have a love for you because of that. But we don’t do much deeper/beyond that. Boundaries are set so that you can love yourself and another person at the same time, and that could not be more true in our extended family.

11 thoughts on “Family Dinner”

  1. That’s why I always loved having friends over–at those neglected chores (and even small repairs) got done!

    And not only did you use “rest on my laurels” correctly, you also spelled it correctly! Double internet win! (Because I’ve seen one too many “lorels” online. : )

  2. Yes, this is one of the reasons we invite friends over every once in a while – so that I am actually forced to clean!

  3. You always do put on great dinner parties!! I used to look forward to Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner at your old place. Those huge tables lined up all the way through the place. It was always so much fun!!! You are a fantastic hostess…. πŸ™‚

  4. It sounds like you have fantastic in-laws like I do and that you treasure them. Good thing, because from all that I’ve read and heard, great in-laws are one in a million! (I’ve always said that I couldn’t have gotten a better Mother-in-law if I had handpicked her myself).

    Oh, and I also clean like a madwoman when I’m having guests over. It’s the perfect excuse for a deep cleaning.

  5. But but but… why would “rest on my laurels” be politically incorrect? Who are these laurels we’re offending? WTH are laurels anyway?

  6. This is such a cool idea. When we moved out here for me to go to school we had no family around.

    But now — much, much later — our son is due to have our first grandchild late next month. They live in town; our daughter-in-law’s mom and DIL’s siblings live in town, and it would be great to get together with them more regularly. Our house is cluttered and doesn’t have the space to sit more than 5 at a dinner table, but we could find a way to make it work. Of course that would include de-cluttering (most of the living room stuff is his πŸ˜€ ).

    It’s something we could be working towards while anticipating baby K.

  7. We have family dinners almost every single week. This weekend we were at my in-laws on Saturday and tonight we’re at my Dad’s.

    It’s awesome!

  8. We have friends over for “Pie and Movie Night” every Friday. It is the BEST thing for making sure we clean the house occasionally and plan our menu/shopping in advance.

    It’s not family, but it’s a great arrangement for us because we see our family ALL THE TIME (like, several times a week–Gma is 3 minutes away) since having kids, but we were neglecting out kidless friends. When my second kid was born, the only socializing I could cope with was having people come crash on my sofa for the evening. We provided dinner, friends brought the pie and the Netflix movie (we rotate choices, like a book club). It became a tradition, and it totally validates my existence as something besides a mom (I have friends! I can talk about something other than my kids!).

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