It took a bit for me to come to terms with this, but now dinnertime is so much more enjoyable and beneficial for several reasons.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

Last night, we sat around the television and had leftovers. The night before, my oldest heated up some pot stickers, and my two younger children threw some soup in the microwave and we sat around the table for about 10 minutes before we rushed off to our evening obligations.

These days as we pile in the door from school, then out the door for lacrosse practice, making dinner has fallen through the cracks.

The guilt surrounding this was pretty intense when it first began. I missed the days when my kids were home every night and I planned, prepped, and made a meal for my family even if they complained about it.

Before I had a family, I always imagined dinnertime would happen around the table with everyone present every night. But I've learned in order to keep all the things straight, and accommodate everyone's schedules, something has to go.

And there are times when that something is dinner.

There are nights we all eat at different times and make our own food, and when we are able to sit around the table and linger a bit longer it's extra enjoyable.

In fact, there have been many benefits to letting the last meal of the day be what it is on any given night.

My kids are learning to cook.

I love this for many reasons, including the fact they can cook for me if I'm busy or not feeling well. It also makes me feel like they have some culinary skills under their belt for when they leave home. I also worry less if I have a tight deadline for work, or a late meeting. Now that the children are older and capable, dinner doesn't solely fall on my shoulders.

I don't have to hear them complain about what is being served.

Of course this is a huge bonus. We have a lot of evenings we call "whatever nights" which means everyone grabs whatever they want, we sit and eat together, and everyone is responsible for cleaning up their own mess. This equals no complaining about what is on the table.

These are some of the evenings I look forward to the most. I may be almost 44 but I'm not immune to buying something at the grocery store for dinner, then losing the mood to cook or find myself wanting a sandwich instead.

We get along in the kitchen better.

When I used to make a complete dinner more regularly, I used to assign food chopping chore, someone to set the table, another one to stir the sauce or grate cheese. My kids have no problem cutting a piece of celery in two pieces for a salad and calling it good, but I take issue with that and it always led to a bit of tension in the kitchen. Now, if they want to eat half cooked pasta, that's their call and doesn't concern me in the least—my kids make it their way and I don't have to nag them.

Life has a way of pulling us in so many different directions and which always seems to leave us longing for a simpler time. Somewhere along the way, I feel like many moms felt it was their duty to bring families together over dinner and if you skipped several nights, or your family schedule changed because of play or sports practice you start to feel like you are missing something.

While I do feel that very much, and long for our traditional Friday pizza time that never happens anymore, I decided to focus my attention on the ways we do bond. Like going to the movies, or when I'm at the sidelines with my kids as we cheer their one of their siblings on and hit the snack shack for a plate of onion rings.

Honestly, letting go of dinnertime guilt and leaving a big part of what my kids eat at night has been a positive thing in our house. Even my kids agree it beats sitting around the table and eating my homemade lasagna together.