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5 Reasons Family Dinners Are Overrated

The ever-amusing Ana Gasteyer, who plays Suburgatory's resident PTA mom, Sheila Shay, is serious when it comes to keeping her household running smoothly. The mom of two shares how her family spends quality time together—it doesn't include sitting around the dinner table. By Ana Gasteyer So there have been a million studies that say your children will be perfect violin-playing, early-acceptance-to-Harvard types if only you get your whole family to sit down and have dinner together every night. But let’s face it—this just doesn’t work for every family, and I’m pretty sure there have been wonderful people whose moms never followed this tradition, and some degenerate criminals who learned to say “Please pass the peas” at three and half years old. Here are my top reasons why it’s okay to give up on family dinners.

1. No more battling over the menu. My husband is a carnivore, my daughter’s a vegetarian and my son is kind of a nothing-atarian. The poor kid is allergic to dairy, and getting him to eat anything is a challenge. Dragging him to the table so everyone can stare at each other, eating food they don’t want to eat—it’s not my idea of quality family time. I’d rather have everyone happy. 2. Everyone can eat when they’re hungry. When 5:30 hits, my kids are starving because they basically just got home from school. It’s a documented fact that they eat better, sleep better and are at least 200% less crabby when they don’t have to wait for Dad to get home from work. Plus, I don’t necessarily want to eat at early-bird-special hours either. 3. You don’t have to eat together to spend dinner together. I’m not suggesting that you plant your kids in front of the TV (unless you happen to have dinner on a Wednesday evening at 8:30, in which case, Suburgatory makes a great family dinner tradition). My kids eat so early that I still have plenty of energy. I use that time to hang out with them and make their lunches for the next day. 4. It gives you a chance to have more grown-up time. Because of our different work schedules, by the time my husband gets home, our kids have already eaten. They’re happy. Their bellies are full. And that gives me a nice window of time to have an adult evening and enjoy grown-up food with my husband. We both do Weight Watchers and love to cook delicious food, so we’ll experiment with ingredients, but I’ll always be a fan of a good go-to cookbook. One of my new favorites is What to Cook Now from Weight Watchers. We love the chicken pot pies with cornbread crust or the lemon-yogurt tart because they taste amazing and I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. 5. You can focus your energy on family bonding that everyone enjoys. What I’ve realized is that parenting is like one of those weird mathematical equations, so you adjust until you find what works. We don’t have family dinners, but we walk to school together every single day, and we have a regular night that we go out for dinner. The best days in my life are when we get away, unplug and live a very simple, card-and-bingo-playing life together—while all eating totally different foods. Read more of Anna's amusing parenting anecdotes on