Meet the Geller-Pynes! This family of three juggles the commitments of an active middle schooler and two working parents, including one job with highly unpredictable (and often lengthy) hours. They also stay active in their community and hold a number of volunteer positions, making family dinner a challenge, but also a much-needed respite from their busy schedules.
Bill, Stephanie and daughter Neala, 12. The Geller-Pynes hail from Cranston, RI.
Currently, Neala’s sports and after-school schedule is at its peak, while Stephanie’s job in educational policy has added many late work nights to the calendar. Trying to make sure to squeeze in a sit-down meal for all three family members, most nights of the week, is their main goal this Spring!
With so many commitments on the calendar, plus middle-school homework to deal with, the Geller-Pynes are feeling the pinch. In order for Neala to get a reasonable amount of sleep, dinner needs to be eaten and cleaned up by 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. at the latest, but that can feel like an ambitious deadline during the 7th inning of a softball game. Currently, Stephanie says, the only way that she and Bill have managed to consistently get dinner on the table at the desired hour has been to make sure that the parents do their best to split responsibilities: One handles activities, carpooling and cheering Neala on at her games, while the other heads home as soon as possible after work to get dinner started. “It’s helping,” Stephanie says, “but it’s a bummer to have to miss her games and practices.”
Besides trading off who stays home and who gets to be the cheering section at the field, the family has developed simple strategies that help them get food on the table fast as needed. “Rotisserie chicken in the cold weather, and lots of grilling in the summer!” The bonus of grilling or using store-bought cooked chicken as the basis for a quick meal is that both strategies also minimize cleanup, so there’s more time to relax at the table (or a more realistic chance of making the bedtime deadline).
Neala, like many pre-teens, prefers burgers and grilled corn on the cob. Her parents have more sophisticated tastes and make sure to serve a wide variety of foods and flavors. One dish that everyone can agree on is chicken baked with pancetta and olives, which appears on the Geller-Pyne table frequently during the colder months.
The good news about having to put in a lot of effort to keep family dinners on the schedule is that it can really help define what the priorities are. “Sometimes family dinners are the only time we’re all together all day, so we really appreciate them and need them, even, and maybe especially, during busy periods,” Stephanie says.
The Best Part:
The Geller-Pynes can all agree that the best part of family dinner is having fun and spending time together, “even if that means eating at TV tables and watching a favorite show, like Bob’s Burgers.”
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Tags: busy, family, older, real family dinner projects, schedules