Breaking bread together. It’s one of those family things that will never become outdated. That’s hard to say in this ever-changing, technology driven, the busier-the-better world we live in.
Growing up in a family of six, we were all over the place. On any given day my mother may be delivering babies through the night shift. My older sister might play in a field hockey game. I would be juggling competitive cheerleading practice and piano lessons. One brother may have a golf invitational and my baby brother a field trip. And, my father would be in the midst of advising a whole lot of clients in their financial investments. (Insert the added stomach bug, dramatic high school break up, orthodontic appointment, parent-teacher conference, New York traffic, and a never-ending list of household chores on any given day.)
Quite honestly, the fact that my parents did not forget to pick one of us up somewhere on a regular basis is impressive in itself. But to add to their parenting wins: WE ATE TOGETHER. All six of us. We ate dinner together every.single.night. We ate, and we prayed, and we fought, and we shut off the TV, and we laughed. I drove my siblings crazy as I danced my way through setting the table. Maybe my baby brother threw a tantrum as my mom pulled the meatloaf out of the oven. Or my sister’s boyfriend called the home phone JUST as we sat down to pray over our meal.
But there was almost always a home cooked meal. There was always a conversation, and more nights than not there was fresh baked Italian bread that my father picked up on his way home from work. We were sometimes loud, often silly, and usually messy . . . but we were always together, and that’s what mattered.
So, when I abruptly became a single mother while twenty weeks pregnant with my second baby and a two-year-old, I grieved a lot of loss. One thing I remember grieving the most was the loss of family meals. Sure, I cooked for my children despite being suddenly alone in this parenting journey, but it did not feel the same. Being a single mom was not in my life plan, and it was certainly not familiar to me. It took me a while to even feel like a family again. Our family felt broken. A big piece was missing, and the other pieces felt shattered and mixed up and messy.
I remember cooking beautiful and healthy meals for my children and wishing another adult could be there to appreciate it. And, not just the food, but the conversations and the precious little prayers that came from my toddler and the delight in my baby’s eyes as she tried avocado for the first time. I did it for the well-being of my children and for the sake of preserving traditional family values, but for a while, there were quite a bit of lonely and discouraging evenings, even if I held back the tears until my babies shut their eyes to sleep.
It’s been two and a half years now. A lot of healing has taken place as well as a lot of acceptance. I no longer have a traditional family, and even if I remarry one day, I will never have a family that completely resembles the one I grew up with – a family with one mom and one dad in one home with their children, breaking bread together.
Some days I barely keep my head above water, and other days I feel like supermom. But amidst the chaos and bliss one thing is for certain: WE EAT TOGETHER. All three of us. We eat dinner together every.single.night. We eat, and we pray, and we fight, and we shut off the TV, and we laugh. Maybe I still dance my way through setting the table (some habits never die). Or, maybe my four-year-old spills her almond milk (twice) just as we are sitting down to pray over our meal. I may even stop to Instagram my tomato sauce covered toddler slurping up her spaghetti, finding comfort in the ability to share this precious season of parenting with other adults.
But there is almost always a home cooked meal, there is always a conversation, and more nights than not there is fresh . . . WINE. (Sorry, I tried to stay consistent with the whole fresh Italian bread thing, but, those carbs y’all. I prioritize with mommy juice.) We are sometimes loud, often silly, and usually messy . . . but we are always together, and that’s what matters.
One perk of being a girl squad with only one adult making the rules is that dinners are often laid back. Some dinners consist of fruit salad on the beach or smoothies on an evening walk, but we make the best of this life and find joy in sharing a meal together. Finally, I feel like we have found our groove, and we have discovered comfort and familiarity in our new normal. Despite the challenges, there are many perks to single-mommy-hood, and I have chosen to embrace them.
Cheers to all of the single parents out there breaking bread with your kids and no other adults tonight. Or even moms and dads who have spouses who work nights or long hours. I know the evenings get lonely sometimes, but try to be present during this precious time with your little ones. Though it may not be your forever plan and you may be longing for the day that you have someone to share this with again. I promise you that you will one day look back on this season with joy and a thankful heart.