The first step to a happy, relaxed table

March 14, 2013

OneHungryMama happy family dinner

Six years and two kids into this motherhood gig, I’ve come to learn that judgement from other parents is an inescapable part of the job. Six years and two kids into this family food gig—from starting a baby food company to writing to working with clients—I’ve also come to learn that the way we feed our families is an easy target for anyone looking for target practice. And I’m not just talking about organic-eating-local-buying-vegetable-feeding parents sniping at those who feed more conventionally. It’s also the other way around. And, sadly, everyone in between.

As I talk to more and more of you lovely parents as part of my client practice, I’m hearing a lot about judgement. You judge yourself, you feel judged by others, and you judge others as well, from the folks who run the school lunch program at your kid’s school to family members who don’t eat—or feed your kids—the way that you do. It’s sad that there’s no strong, unifying American family food culture, but it’s even more sad how we’ve burdened food with so much judgement. And lets not forget judgement’s faithful sidekick, anxiety. That guy (gal?) is along for the ride, too.

I’m tired of it. You too? Then join me! All you have to do is stop judging yourself and others for the foods they eat.

(Can you handle it?!)

We Americans have lost our connection to real food. Go into a supermarket and compare the number of foods offered in their natural state to the number of manufactured foods packaged for convenience. While looking around, consider how little the food industry and government support our ability to make smart food choices: labels are confusing, package claims unregulated, unhealthy foods more affordable than healthy ones, and so on. It’s hard to know what’s good, what’s real, what’s healthy.

Our relationship to food has become impossibly complicated and helpful information can be hard to access or discern. With so much confusion, it’s no wonder that judgement is rampant! Parenting is the most important job that we do and we never really know if we’re doing it right. This constant uncertainty makes us vulnerable, and when we’re vulnerable we want to protect ourselves. Throw in the emotional nature of feeding and confusing state of food: it’s the perfect storm and food judgement may feel like your only protection.

If you can see that—if you followed what you just read and agree (go ahead and re-read it to make sure!)—then you can find compassion for yourself and others. You can see how hard it is. You get that kids don’t come with a feeding handbook, certainly not one that makes sense of the madness that we’re dealing with. You can find it in you to believe that we’re all just doing our best.

Maybe someone feeds their family differently because they don’t know what you know. Maybe they know more, and not because they are smarter than you, but because it just happened that way. (It just happened that many—many—of you know more about geometry than me. I’m okay with this.) Maybe they just don’t agree with you. That’s okay, too.

At the end of the day, all you can do is make sense of it for yourself and your family. I hope that you make sense of it in a way that keeps your family healthy (so much so that I’m willing to work with you personally and keep writing for you always), but I also know that you’ll never be able to re-think, debate, open your mind to new, maybe healthier ways of cooking and eating if you don’t stop judging so much. It’s only with a joyful, open approach to food and feeding that we can return to the healthiest food of all: food shared around a happy, relaxed table.

Ready to take the next steps towards a happy, relaxed table? Email me at RealFamilyFood@onehungrymama.com to sign up for a free Family Meal Breakthrough Session. You’ll walk away from our call inspired and also learn about how we might work together personally.

6 Responses

  1. Brandi K. says:

    Stacy, this is a great post! I agree that we’re too darned judgmental and lose sight of the joy of sharing food together. Last week, I suddenly realized that I had a lot invested in making sure my baby is not a picky eater. I was willing to think that picky eating was evidence that I was doing a bad job as a mama, and it would be the perfect evidence for anyone who needed it that I am a complete failure as a human being (um, yeah, crazy town!). So, I quit. I just stopped caring if baby is picky or not, and I made his food out of love and joy, rather than as part of a campaign to scrub pickiness from his mealtimes. And you know what? Eating with him is fun. I’m grateful to have a healthy, privileged baby who isn’t hungry. I’m grateful for the time we sit together at the table, even if he never touches a Brussels sprout for his whole life. And if someone takes pleasure in thinking I’m a failure for that, then I have to imagine that they have very little in their lives to get real pleasure from, and I’m sorry for them. Thanks for the reminder that we’re all doing our best!

  2. One Hungry Mama says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Brandi! You made my day. I love your story!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I was, and still am a little like Brandi K. My 15 mo yr old used to eat everything I gave him, and I gave him lots of different nutritious foods. Suddenly he started rejected tons of foods he happily ate before. Sometimes he only touches something with his tiny little finger and decides he doesn’t want it. I worked so hard in his first year to expose him to and help him develop a likeness for different things, and yet he is still becoming picky. I’m trying to relax more about it, especially after realizing I haven’t done anything wrong besides worry too much about what others will think or say. His development is right on target and he’s super healthy. That”s what’s important. We have years to come to work on developing that palette again….I hope. Your post and Brandi’s comment are just what I needed to read right now. Thank you both.

  4. One Hungry Mama says:

    Thanks for commenting Jennifer, and so happy to hear that you needed to have this conversation right now. I get it and am glad that you found it! Relax, indeed. You are doing an awesome job, I can tell just by the thought that you’ve put into your comment. And when you need support, help, advice or to ask questions, I’m here, along with so many other resources. In the end, though, just remember that you’re doing the best you can, which is the best you can do!

  5. Sheila says:

    I have always had so much anxiety about food, and now with twin 2 year olds i fear i may pass it on to them. i am overjoyed that they love eating and eat such a variety of things (we worked hard on that) but get frustrated when they throw food or only want to eat crackers and cookies (even though they are only 2!!!). I am already terrified of school lunches. But i ate a mix of healthy and unhealthy food growing up (my poor mom couldn’t control everything) and I gradually now eat much healthier and eliminated most highly manufactured food. And i am in good health, so ultimately my kids will be fine too.

  6. One Hungry Mama says:

    Sheila – it sounds like you are being very thoughtful and rocking it! yes, your kids will be fine, especially as you’re giving them such a good foundation for eating a variety of food. keep calm and carry on. you’re doing awesome!

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