By Charlotte Hope, Lifestyle Editor @TLE_Lifestyle
I guess this is no news to parents, who I watch battling with their two precious (precocious) little kids as I sip fine wine with my friends, but children can be a massive hassle. Of course you love them, but don’t you sometimes just wish they would SHUT UP?
Forget moving into a new home or starting a new job. According to a survey of 2,000 people across the country, Americans say parenting is a top source of stress, with the most stressful times of the day for moms and dads being breakfast time and dinnertime.
Over 40 percent of parents say that the biggest mealtime challenge is preparing meals that everyone likes and that they feel good about serving, 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.
“Before I became a parent, it never occurred to me that mealtime could be such a major source of stress,” says Susan McLean, 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 household, with three young children, oftentimes dinner results in tantrums or tears…and I’m talking about me, not the kids!Coaxing three picky eaters to eat well-balanced meals isn’t as easy as some might think.”
It’s enough to make you consider takeout every night. Over 50 percent say they cut corners by feeding their families leftovers, 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 and that their kids will eat.
“Mealtime shouldn’t be stressful. It’s supposed to be the time you gather together and reconnect with your family,” said Gavin Kennedy, Director of Consumer Marketing for Gorton’s Seafood, which commissioned the study alongside the launch of all new Smart & Crunchy Fish Sticks, a product aimed to alleviate the challenge of finding something kids will enjoy eating and moms and dads will feel good about serving. “That’s why our goal is to provide solutions that are both kid and parent-approved, and that help reduce the stress of mealtime.”
The good news is that parents today, especially dads, are more involved with their children than their parents used to be. Overwhelmingly, 85 percent of parents say they spend more quality time with their children at home than their parents did. Three out of five say they read to their children regularly and spend more than an hour a day driving their children to sports and other activities. And four out of five dads say they are more involved with their children than their fathers were with them.
“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.” Herald and Charlie Capen, co-founders of howtobeadad.com, have joined with McLean and the Gorton’s crew to illustrate the challenges faced by busy, stressed-out parents and to celebrate the unique—and often hilarious—ways that parents today address these challenges. Almost half of parents surveyed said 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.
“We know that there are a lot of demands on parents today,” said Kennedy. “That’s why Gorton’s has teamed up with these fun bloggers to explore these pressures, and why we’ve worked hard to offer mealtime options like Smart & Crunchy Fish Sticks, which solves the challenge of finding something that kids will enjoy eating and that moms and dads will feel good about serving.”
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.