I let my kids eat dinner in front of the TV, I admit it - but I'm not alone

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My name is Heidi and I have a confession to make. 

I let my kids, aged two and four, eat their dinner in front of the television. And I'm not just talking about Saturday nights. I'm talking about on a regular basis, AKA all the time.

I'm not at all proud of this situation. Far from it. And I'm bracing myself for the hatred and vitriol that may come my way for this terrible admission, but I've decided to come clean anyway.

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Why? Because I'm sick of parents drowning under unrealistic expectations and feeling embarrassed about their choices - that sometimes aren't even choices, just a series of necessary actions to survive.

We are all so busy and overwhelmed and we are all doing are best. And if our best means letting our beautiful babies tune into Bluey with their fish fingers and broccoli after a long day at preschool, then surely we shouldn't be crucified for it. 

And it seems I'm not alone. A new study out of Monash University has found that families are increasingly eating meals at the kitchen bench or in front of the TV while balancing busy lifestyles.

According to lead researcher and professor of Sociology, Jo Lindsay, "the traditional sit-down dinner is not the reality we're seeing in most busy Australian households". 

"Instead, families configure meals in a variety of practical ways to provide nourishment and manage time pressures and relationships," she says.

That's right. The traditional sit-down family meal is, quite frankly, "unattainable".

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As part of the research, primary school-aged children in Victoria from 50 diverse families kept photos and video of family food consumption.

Families interviewed by researchers revealed working long hours, long commutes, conflicting schedules, children's sports, and parents' commitments all impacted on evening meals, with some children eating in the car between activities.

Professor Lindsay believes it's time to collectively challenge the dated and potentially harmful expectations of the role of sit-down family meals.

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"Reinforcing nostalgic versions of family life is just not realistic," she said. "We don't want parents feeling like a moral failure or that they are compromising their child's health because they are eating separately or in front of the television, it's just not the case."

HEAR, HEAR Professor! And thank you. 

It's not that I doubt that the many benefits of sharing a family meal every evening, as espoused by previous scientific literature - better social skills, higher self-esteem, improved vocabulary and academic performance, plus a lower risk of depression and obesity.

Not to mention the sense of connection it can foster in our increasingly fractured and technology-driven world. 

I wholeheartedly agree it would be the most wonderful thing to do every night - and I am in complete awe of those parents who can manage it. 

But apart from anything else, I am working four days a week, my husband works full-time, my dad is very sick, we have zero outside help and I am terribly disorganised. (confession number two) . 

Plus, I don't fancy eating at 5.30pm when my toddler screams blue murder and unfortunately, our kids will rarely eat the same meal as us.

My youngest is so fussy right now - his current 'yes' list consists of plain pasta, nothing with sauce, cheese is allowed (but only on toast) as is fruit (as long as its orange or pink), and corn and sultanas are (usually) a-okay too. So you know what? If he needs his old mate Fireman Sam to help him chow down, while I take a minute to sip on my wine, so be it. And quite honestly, I want chilli on my dinner. And lots of it. 

I do try to batch cook on a Sunday - so we can all eat one of the few meals where our taste buds align simultaneously (I'm looking at you spaghetti bolognese), but nine times out of 10, my kids still prefer to throw it against the wall or do anything other than consume it. 

We also try to sit down for at least one shared meal at the table over the weekend or for birthdays - even if it's a casual barbecue in the backyard or a quick meal in a family-friendly restaurant - and I assure you I will keep trying to increase the frequency.

Because I love food. And I love the shared experience of creating and devouring food. And I desperately love the idea of sitting down with my boys every night at the table and chatting about our days. 

But right now, I'm sorry, it simply isn't possible.