Making a Meal of It
Forget moving into a new home or starting a new job. American parents are stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of day-to-day stress — which often starts and ends with pancakes, according to a new study.
The most stressful times of the day for moms and dads, according to the survey of 2,000 people across the country, are breakfast time and dinnertime.
Over 40 percent of parents say that serving food that everyone likes and they feel good about serving is the biggest meal-time challenge and more than a third say it’s coming up with quick recipes for dinner and encouraging their children to eat what is put in front of them.
It’s enough to make you throw in the towel – and over 50 percent say they cut corners by feeding their families left-overs, while one in three confess that they end up serving breakfast meals at dinnertime.
Most parents say they are leaning towards being “health conscious,” but they often struggle with finding healthy recipes that are convenient.
“Mealtime shouldn’t be a stressful time as it is the time you gather together and share with your loved ones,” said Gavin Kennedy, a spokes man for Gorton’s Seafood, which commissioned the study and just launched its new Smart & Crunchy fish sticks. “There’s no reason why convenient food can’t be easy and healthy.”
The good news is that parents today, especially dads, are more involved with their children than their parents used to be. Four out of five parents say they are more involved with their children than their father was with them.
Overwhelmingly 85 percent say they spend more quality time with their children at home. Three out of five say they read to their children regularly and parents spend more than an hour a day driving their children to sports and other activities.
One in three parents admit they cut corners and save time by ordering out, while one in five pop frozen food into the microwave. Unfortunately most respondents say their daily stress takes a mental and physical toll. Three out of five feel frustrated and more than half are tired and exhausted.
￼”Before I became a parent, it never occurred to me that mealtime could be such a major source of stress,” says Susan McLean, a mom of three, author and blogger at divinesecretsofadomesticdiva.com.
“I always envisioned dinners as a time for the family to gather and enjoy a meal that I thoughtfully prepared, but that’s almost never the case.
￼”In my housegold, with three young children, often dinner results in tantrums or tears — and I’m talking about me,not the kids. Coaxing picky eaters to ear well- balanced meals isn’t as easy as some might think.”
Gorton’s spokesman Gavin Kennedy adds: “Our goal is to provide solutions that are both kid- and parent-approved, and that hekp reduce the stress of mealtime.
“We know that there are a lot of demands on parents today. That’s why we decided to explore these pressures and why we’ve worked so hard to offer mealtime options like Smart & Crunchy Fish Sticks, which solve the challenge of finding something that kids will enjoy eating and that moms and dads will feel good about serving.”
Almost half of parents say they are always looking for ways to simplify their lives. Among their top tips for alleviating the stress of mealtime are planning a menu at the beginning of the week, keeping the refrigerator stocked with healthy options and preparing everything ahead of time.
“Dads are a much bigger part of the tough, but extremely fulfilling, process of parenting these days,” said Andy Herald, a father of three and writer at howtobeadad.com.
￼“But being more involved definitely means being more stressed. To make it through the 24/7, full-contact sport of parenting, you just have to be able to laugh about it. It’s like a release valve. Sometimes the laughs are a little sobby, sure, but it’s important to keep a sense of humor about it all.”
Not surprisingly, more than half of those surveyed said more money and rest would help alleviate the stress. But until that happens, most say they just grin and bear it.
Parents’ 10 most popular tips for making mealtime easy
- Plan a menu at the beginning of the week 43.3%
- Keep the refrigerator/freezer stocked with healthy options 41.9%
- Prepare everything ahead of time 40.8%
- Ask kids what they want to eat ahead of time 34.2%
- Keep a mental list of “go to” products for a quick meal on the go 26.1%
- Wash and cut up fruit in individual containers 17.9%
- Turn leftover stew and pasta into a comfort meal 17.5%
- Bake a casserole in two dishes to create two meals out of one 17.3%
- Cut foods into bite sized pieces for the kids to eat 16.5%
- Order out 15.4%
Top 10 things parents do to alleviate daily stress
- Grin and bear it 53.6%
- Go on the Internet 35.7%
- Have a cup of tea/coffee 34.7%
- Prepare for everything ahead of time…lunches, dinner, etc 27.4%
- Create shortcuts to make things easier 26%
- Delegate household jobs to partner/spouse 20.7%
- Go for a walk 20%
- Find time to exercise 18.3%
- Call friends/family to complain 13.1%
- Find time during the day to read a book 12.1%