I often think about the “big issues’ that a shared-meal ritual has helped me with in my life. One of those issues happened many years ago now, when I was divorced.
I was married when I was 21 years old and divorced when I was around 27 years old. My ex-husband and I were typical of many from our generation who moved on to marriage quickly as the default “next step” after serious dating. We enjoyed our time together for many years raising our daughter Jini and her younger brother John. It became clear as the years passed that my ex-husband and I did not have a unified vision or outlook on life, and valued different things. As much as we felt truly blessed to have a precious daughter and son, we ultimately chose the very hard (and in our case, inevitable) path of getting divorced. Fortunately for everyone involved, we did not have a messy divorce.
I can still remember the first few weeks as a single mom; the surreal feeling of coming home after work, hesitant, wondering what emotions to expect from myself and my kids. It was a scary time for everyone. I did the best I could giving them attention, smooches, and hugs as often as possible and kept an open dialogue with them about how they were feeling.
It was extremely important to me, and something I considered the top priority as a single mom, that I keep stability for my daughter and son, and maintain certain traditions. I felt that doing so was our best hope of managing through these domestic changes.
One of the major ways we kept tradition was through a daily shared-meal ritual. My kids and I had meals every evening, and breakfast and dinner on the weekends. They helped with various meal activities such as shopping, carrying the groceries in from the car, setting the table, and helping to prepare the food (in age-appropriate ways). Over a shorter time than I originally expected, I felt us finding a new way of being together. Although we certainly had not wished for the circumstances of divorce to bring about such changes in our home, we were getting through it and finding our way.
I believe our shared-meal practice was a major factor in helping us to feel like we were still a solid, loving, family unit. Some of my favorite shared-meal memories are from those early years. My kids knew that time was ours, and it was something they could count on. My ex-husband, my kids and I continued to have special occasion meals as well (such as birthdays, school functions, holidays, other celebrations through the year) and kept communication with one another cordial through the shared-meal times together.
Having a shared-meal ritual provided us with a focused activity in which we could relate and love one another, each and every day. It gave us the overall and lasting feeling that everything was going to be OK, and for this, I am grateful.
To learn more about how a shared-meal ritual can help you, visit my website.