If your family doesn’t regularly eat together, the task may seem overwhelming. There are so many reasons that make the family dinner a challenge. Parents working late. Kids have afterschool activities and homework. It's well-known that just being in the same place at the same time is a challenge for most busy families. Lisa W. Foderaro from the NYT wrote an interesting article on this. (It seems to be a perennial topic.)
Then, there are the emotional issues at work, as well as the practical ones. The common laments: No one likes the same food, or maybe no one feels like playing "the short-order chef." One person may be overburdened with the lions' share of the meal-making and clean-up, the infamous second shift for working moms. Or a mom or dad may feel inadequate in the kitchen or may be angry if "forced" into a traditional role, be it the chef or the clean-up crew. To top it off, "togetherness" can sometimes mean fighting among the kids or between parents and kids.
Well, no one said it would be easy. But family dinners ARE important. The challenge of setting a meal on the table can be a way to work through some of the emotional and practical burdens of parenthood and partnership. No one's helping you to get dinner on the table? Well, maybe you need to find ways to enlist or insist on help. This is not easy, and it may not be quick, but having everyone contribute to the group is an important life lesson.
Work together with your partner and your kids to identify why you've been missing out on a family dinner time. If that is something you want to change in your life, think constructively about ways to bring about that change. Rather than "opting out," do the work that's needed, be it an attitude adjustment or a schedule change.
This isn’t about guilt. If it’s important to you, make the family meal a priority and a goal to work towards. You can do it!