I’ll admit it. Once my wife and I made the decision that we were ready to have kids, my next thought was: well there goes our social life.
I had heard enough of parent stories to know that our entire lives would soon revolve around our children. Spontaneous happy hours after work would be a thing of the past. Dinners with friends would require weeks of planning to ensure that we had lined up the necessary babysitter.
A few years later and a couple kids since then, I am happy to say that my fears were completely overblown.
Yes, it is possible to have a social life as parents. The trick of course is finding the time to be social while lining up a babysitter. Of course it’s even better if you can get your parents, in-laws and friends to watch the kids for free. But as my wife and I recently discovered, there may be yet another way to be social while not shirking your parental responsibilities.
The idea is “Sunday Dinners.” The inspiration came from my wife Josie after reading a blog post titled, “Friday Night Meatballs,” where the author describes how their family has been having friends over for dinner just about every Friday. As the author Sarah Grey puts it,
Working from home (as a freelance writer and editor) can be incredibly isolating, and we’d spent most of the year so busy with work and other obligations that we had almost no time for a social life. People were always inviting us out, but by the time we factored in the cost of babysitting and the loss of what precious time we get, as working parents, with our daughter, we rarely said yes.
I can relate completely and bet that others reading this can too.
That’s why hosting folks over for a casual, informal, and slightly chaotic dinner is the perfect solution for the busy parents with young children. The key is to keep things simple. For the Grey family, pasta is the staple.
We have opted for more variety, but we’ve embraced the simplicity of the concept by having lots of soup and simple meals. This works because it keeps the prep time down, but also lends itself nicely to the general casualness of the evening as folks come in and out – especially those with young children who are at the mercy of bedtime and feedings.
The other thing we like about this idea is that it allows us to have a ready invitation for all of our friends and acquaintances. Instead of trying to coordinate schedules, it’s great to know that we host folks over for dinner regularly. As Josie puts it:
Establishing that Sunday supper is a regular event, internally within our family, but especially externally, by issuing an open invitation to friends, forces us to do it and get better at it. Though I’ve loved the idea of hospitality and having an open, lively home, historically I’d get really stressed out when people came to dinner.
Since it’s a weekly event now, hosting is less elevated and more friendly. We’ve gotten better (I think) on both ends: letting go of an ideal and not flipping out when the house isn’t clean, but also improving in efficiency with practice so that the house is actually cleaner and the meal is less of a hassle.
Finally, Sunday Dinners is a great way to bring together a group of people from different worlds in your life. Family, friends, co-workers, folks you go to church with, yoga classmates, you name it. It usually makes for interesting conversation and is a visible reminder of the compartmentalization of our daily lives. Break out of your comfort zone! Disregard George and Kramer’s advice about how doing this makes the world collide.
Sunday Night Dinners, Friday Night Meatballs, whatever you decide to call it, and however you structure this gathering is part of the charm of customizing this recurrence in a way that works for your family.
Give it a shot and let me know what you think!