The beauty of family is that it’s unique – no one family is the same. Sure, you may have a similar set up to the Stevens’ household down the road, but their dynamic, relationship and make up will be different to your own. Why then does the media and popular culture continue to portray all families as being the same?
We now no longer live in a time where the traditional nuclear family – married dad and mum in one household with child(ren) – is the only type of family. This setup is still hugely prevalent, but the focus on this alone means that all other families are ignored.
I regard my family as being normal, but according to things like adverts, TV shows and films, we’re not because we don’t conform to the typical white, middle-class stereotype. I’m a stay-at-home dad who is also a work-from-home dad, whilst my wife is a full-time working mum. In addition, I am White British but my wife – and daughter – are mixed race as Hay’s grandparents were Luso-Goan, i.e. moved to Goa from Portugal.
I therefore find it pretty frustrating to see certain aspects of my family life not shown in popular culture. In fact, I wrote a post not too long ago called where are all of the stay-at-home dads on film and TV because there are hardly any stay-at-home dads portrayed in the mainstream media. There’s also the very filtered view of what families should be – I don’t recall seeing an advert where the kid dropped food on the dog before sneezing on their dad’s plate during their family mealtimes.
It would seem that I’m not alone in this frustration. As part of new research commissioned by McCain, it was discovered that 49% of Brits don’t think popular culture reflects the reality of modern families, and a whopping 84% can’t recall seeing anything in today’s popular culture that featured a family like their own. In addition, it was found that 45% of Brits think more needs to be done to show the reality of everyday family life in popular culture.
These findings sadly don’t surprise me. With this in mind, I was therefore more than happy to get involved with McCain’s new ‘We Are Family’ campaign which is celebrating the unfiltered reality of family mealtimes. As part of this, I was asked to share our unfiltered and honest experiences of family mealtimes, which I’ll do by using a recent teatime as an example.
For us, mealtimes have always been an important part of the day. With Hay at work and Toddler L at nursery twice a week, eating as a family at dinnertime gives us an hour each day to catch up before L goes to bed – a little, stress-free window in the day to forget distractions and just focus on our nearest and dearest. Ha, I wish! A toddler ensures that dinnertime is far from stress-free. Depending on her mood, our family mealtimes can either be a pleasant affair or something akin to World War 3 – just with more destruction.
As we’d spent the weekend at my folks’, we got back to our house just before tea. After a three hour drive, the last thing I wanted to do was slave over a hot stove, so I decided that we were going to have a quick and easy tea. I checked the freezer and decided on McCain chips, fish fingers, beans and a cheeky bit of bread for a chip butty or fish finger sarnie depending on the mood.
The first ‘slice of reality’ was making space on the table. Since becoming parents, the dining table has becoming a dumping ground, so there’s a daily battle to push all the junk to the other side of the table. This was closely followed by a now hangry toddler deciding that she’d prefer to finish watching Doc McStuffins rather than fill her rumbling tummy. Toddler logic.
When we finally got her to the table, she complained that we’d put her food on an owl plate rather than the frog plate. Fast forward five minutes and we were still waiting for her to put food into her mouth because she’d not yet fully assembled her chip and fish butty. We’d sussed out it was going to be one of *those* teatimes.
You’d think that once she’d started to eat, everything would be plain sailing. Oh no, you’d be wrong. As she was in a particularly annoying mood, over the next twenty minutes, she was told to “stop banging”, “take your feet off the table”, “stop touching Mummy’s food”, “stop interrupting when Mummy and Daddy are talking”, and of course, “eat your food nicely.”. With her bedtime approaching, Toddler L got slower and slower. The missus and I had finished long ago, but were forced to continue sitting at the table until she was done.
That wasn’t quite the end of our unfiltered mealtime though. After being denied her request for chocolate – as she’d not finished all of her tea – we had a few tears, during which time she accidentally knocked her plate, thus providing the awaiting dog with a tasty bonus snack. With that, I called a slightly premature end to dinnertime!
Despite mealtimes not always being the easiest thing to manage with a toddler, it’s still something I look forward to each day. Knowing that we have a small window to focus purely on the family is really important when we’re busy doing different things.
Although the above may focus on some of the more annoying realities of mealtime, the flip side is that they’re often full of fun and laughter as we joke, sing and chat. Parenting is all about taking the good with the not so good and, for me, family mealtimes demonstrate that perfectly!
So that’s one example of our family mealtimes. Sound familiar? What are yours like? Let me know below!
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with McCain.