As health officials continue to push for a return to family meals in an attempt to improve the diets of Americans, parents struggle to find the time to make it happen. As most households today have both parents in the workforce, being able to find the time to get a homecooked meal on the table, as well as get everybody around the table to eat it, is a challenge.
In a new study from North Carolina State University, researchers note the stress associated with planning family meals may outweigh the perceived benefits of home cooking. Stressers cited include lack of time, money, and picky eaters. Furthermore, despite fathers participating more in domestic tasks, the stress of family meals still falls on mothers. The majority of middle-class mothers today work 40 or more hours a week and normally don’t get home until 6 pm.
The study examined the experiences of 150 mothers of varying races and incomes, noting that all mothers, regardless of background, felt strained by the demands of meal times. Sinikka Elliott, associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University says,
I was very surprised at the consistency across all social classes… It didn’t matter if they were poor, working class, or middle class, there are added burdens being placed on mothers and on families today. The expectations are getting ramped up and are increasingly getting harder to meet.”
The added pressure to cook fresh places higher expectations for women, turning their combined roles in the workplace and the home into what sociologists refer to as the “double shift.”
Researchers say to alleviate the burden of meals for families will require a high level of creativity, from both families and the community as a whole. Suggestions include community suppers, food trucks serving healthy products, and schools offering take-home meals, and to make use of slow cookers.
Read more here- “Farewell, family meal? Stress of cooking may outweigh benefits,” (Joan Raymond, TODAY)