Is having cereal for dinner bad parenting?

June 17, 2019

I have a confession to make:

Sometimes I let my family eat cereal for dinner.

In my household, my husband and I have decided that it is my responsibility to lead the meal planning, do all the shopping, almost all of the cooking, and most of the dishes and clean up afterwards. Usually, I plan meals that consists of chopping and measuring multiple ingredients, using two to four pots or pans, and even implementing different cooking methods; baking part of the meal, steaming another, sauteing the rest, etc. Sometimes that job gets tedious and on some days I feel overwhelmed with other "mom/wife" responsibilities. I have, on occasion, thrown out the plan for the night and said "we're having cereal instead!" 

Is that bad parenting?

No, and here's why:

For us, those days aren't very often. Plus, there's nothing wrong with adding a little excitement to the day with an unexpected twist of events in an otherwise well structured week. If your family is like mine, cereal is a very welcomed surprise that makes us feel like we're bending all the rules. And the cool thing is, no one gets hurt! This little bit of spontaneity is a message to my boys that mom is still fun and cool and likes to treat them with fun surprises. The meal plan structure for the rest of the week shows them that they are cared for by a responsible mom who values their health. 

Sometimes moms are too hard on themselves and put way too much expectations on their own shoulders. Throwing out the plan on those days where you are just exhausted and dreading preparing what you've planned is like telling yourself (and your family) that YOU are more important than saving face. YOU matter, mom: your feelings, your body, your time. It is OK to give yourself a break and just get some food into your family the easiest way you can think of. Being a mom is hard, there's no reason you should make it harder than it already is by forcing yourself to cook a meal just because you made a plan. Simply move that plan to another day and don't feel bad about it!

Of course, there is a fine line between what I am talking about here and being just plain lazy. If you find yourself in a pattern of "serving" cereal for dinner three nights a week, you're going to need to get to the root of the problem. Are you depressed? Unhappy in your role? Feeling inadequate or have no idea what to meal plan? Or maybe your kids just want cereal and it's easier not to fight them? Whatever the reason, you should make sure that as the mom you are taking responsibility for your family's health. You should include your kids' and husband's input while making the meal plan, but ultimately, it is the parent's job to serve healthy meals at the appropriate times, and what is served is your decision. If I let my boys make the entire meal plan we would have nothing but plain noodles and pancakes all week, without a vegetable in sight!

The bottom line is this, parenting is more than just a sum of good or bad decisions. It's hard work to take care of a family. If anyone tells you parenting is easy- they are lying, or are just a terrible parent- don't listen to them. To be responsible for the lives and health of other people is no small task and it should be taken seriously. But you cannot do this effectively if you are stressed out or spread too thin. So go easy on yourself and have cereal for dinner sometimes. No one will get sick, no one will die, and you will not ruin your children, either. 

Good parenting consists of this:

  • loving your children
  • helping them to grow and find who God created them to be
  • focusing more on their heart and mind and less on their behavior
  • trusting God with all of the little in-between stuff
  • and not being afraid to have cereal for dinner every once in a while

...this is not an exhaustive list, but I think I made my point :)

Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels