Mum’s The Word: Breaking Bread

It has often been said that ‘the family that eats together, stays together’, and my experience of the chaotic existence that comes with growing children, tells me that there is some truth in this statement.

Eating together, quite literally...

We are all so busy rushing around from one place to another that we sometimes forget the things that are important, like spending time with those we love. Sharing a meal ensures that there is at least one part of the day when a family can get together and talk to one another and it is, I believe, keeping the lines of communication open, rather than what is eaten, that is the key to maintaining a strong bond with our children.

My own mother used to shop daily at the local stores and prepare a nutritious home-cooked dinner every night for which we are all expected to be present. On Sunday, not only would she cook a full roast dinner but a choice of mouth-watering deserts such as apple pie or egg custard. The majority of us these days fall somewhat short of this ideal, in most, if not all areas.

Our hectic lifestyles means that family members often arrive home at different times, particularly teenagers who are hard to pin down, and younger children need to be ferried to and from Brownies or sports activities. Sometimes we are lucky if we have time to grab a sandwich let along conjurer up meat and two veg for the entire family. I have often organised what I call ‘shift dinners’ with different variations on a theme dished out at intervals throughout the course of an evening, but I try to keep these nights to a minimum because I much prefer it when we can all sit down together.

Sharing a meal provides an opportunity to catch up on the day and teaches children about sharing and listening as well as table manners. We have always had a rule of ‘no toys at the table’ and as my three have grown (they are now 16, 13 and 9) we have extended this to include mobile phones because, as anyone who lives with a teenager knows, if one of their peer group wants to contact them, they have to respond – right now!

On days when it really has proved impossible for us to have dinner together we have introduced evening tea, which means that everyone is home at a pre-arranged time for tea and biscuits (not often hand baked I must confess!). My son, who is 9, is usually allowed to stay up a bit later to join in. The TV is switched off and we have an uninterrupted half an hour together before bed, our own modern twist on breaking bread.

When we get the opportunity, we have always enjoyed eating out but the high cost of feeding a family of five means that we are unable to do this as often as we would like. Restaurant meals can be expensive and not all of them welcome families so I am always on the look out for reasonably priced, child friendly eateries. The kind of place where the proprietor is happy to provide a highchair and a children’s menu and the clientele doesn’t turn their nose up at a bit of noisy banter.

So if you have a favourite family friendly restaurant or café get in touch with Essex Mums or share your own tips for eating together.

By Essex Mums Guest Blogger, author of the blog Mum in the Middle

Essex Mums Newsletter May 2010

Hello everyone,

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. I’ll try to keep this short as I’m sure you’re all very busy!

Firstly a big hello to all our new forum members from the last month – we had around 50 new members join in April, which is just great. While some of you have dived right and and become familiar faces already, many are still being a bit shy. There’s no need! We’re a lovely bunch and always keen to meet new people, so please come and say hello! You can either introduce yourself or get stuck into an existing thread, and hopefully can meet new friends. If you need any further encouragement, take a look at this thread started by one of our members about life without Essex Mums and see some of the lovely things that are said about what other Mums have gained from the site.

Now that the weather is getting nicer (and hopefully will stay that way), more meet-ups are being planned, so come and take a look, or feel free to start one near you. Last month we had a great day out organised by one of the forum members at Wat Tyler Park, which had a great turn-out, though unfortunately lots of us got separated before the picnic! I know a few people have commented that the meet-ups often tend to be in the Southend area, and this is true, but the only way to combat this is to suggest something near you! I’m more than happy to put something on the Facebook Group too and invite people that way, please just let me know. I know it can be daunting starting something yourself, but perhaps suggesting a picnic in the park is a good way to start. Everyone is welcome to come along to the coffee mornings/afternoons too, and we’re looking for more people to hold them, so why not hold one yourself?

Evening Echo
Some of you may have seen me in the Evening Echo last week talking about the site. Well, keep an eye out this monday too as a few of our members will be in there talking about the upcoming election. When the articles appear on their website I’ll share them on Essex Mums too.

Shopping Guide
As the year is ticking by (how can it be May?!), all shopping guide ads are now reduced from £50 to £35, so if you’ve been umming and ahhing about being included, now is your chance!

As always, please send me any upcoming events you have, particularly for half-term or bank holiday. Also make sure your attraction is listed on the map and Places to Go section!

Your Input
Please take a moment to look around the Family-Friendly Eats and Places to Go sections as they need your input! They are very much works in progress but please leave your comments and ratings. Likewise, if there’s anything you would like to say on the Blog, please get in touch!

I always appreciate feedback about the site, whether good or bad, so please get in touch if you have something to say. Whether it’s ‘this part of the site looks wonky to me’ or some fantastic idea you have about how the site could benefit you, please do let me know.

At the risk of sounding like a nag, please do remember to vote on May 6th, both nationally and locally. I know Mums often feel like they have no voice, and wonder if their vote really makes a difference, but you only need to look at the political sway large Mums’ sites like Mumsnet have been having recently to realise this isn’t the case at all. Politicians know well that Mums are the ones who really understand what is needed in crucial areas like Health and Education, for example, and it’s important that you use your voice to try and get a better future for you and your children.

Hope to see you at a meet-up soon!
Kind regards

Essex Mums Newsletter March 2010

Hello everyone!

This month, Essex Mums turns two! I’m so pleased the site has made it this far, and changed so much – for the better I hope! We will be celebrating the birthday with a party at the Totz Parent & Toddler Group at St Stephen’s Church Hall in Prittlewell on March 25th, from 10am to 1pm, with lots of fun things, including music from Tara at Jo Jingles and messy play from Sharon at the Buttercup Club. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all! It should be a really fun morning, and I hope I’ll get to meet a few new faces, as well as catch up with some familiar ones. Check out the Meeting up section of the forum for more details and mention if you’re planning on coming along.

Competitions & Offers
An exciting new addition to the site is a page for competitions and special offers for Essex Mums users: I thought it would be fun to launch this page as a tie-in with the second birthday, so all winners will be announced at the end of March. If you would like to run a competition on the site, please let me know! The special offers are all great deals for Essex Mums from some of the fantastic companies advertising on the Alternative Shopping Guide: What better excuse do you need to get spending on some of the wonderful goodies listed?

Family-friendly Eats
I have finally got round to starting work on the Family-Friendly Eats section: It’s still very much in the early days, but more venues will be added over time. The idea is that people can rate places according to how family-friendly they are, as well as writing reviews, and maybe in the future we can use this information to both praise the places that have done well, and get those that haven’t to buck up their ideas! Take a look, and if there’s somewhere you think deserves a mention, please let me know.

Business Opportunities for parents
There’s now a brand new section of the forum with lots of great ideas for Mums (and Dads) who are interested in starting their own business, including everything from party organisers to franchises. If you’d like to be listed, please get in touch:

Other sites
The Dulwich Mums & Dads site is now up and running, though very much in it’s early days: It’s exciting to think of sister sites across the UK one day! If it’s something you, or someone you know might be interested in, please let me know.

Everything else
As always, we have loads of great ideas for days out, classes, groups etc. in the Things to Do section:, in-depth information about these places, in the Places to Go section:, helpful links for parents: and have had some really interesting blog posts this month: The forum now has nearly 1400 members, and once again I would like to encourage all of you to come and say hello! If there’s anything you would like added to the site, please let me know, or feel free to post it yourself to the forum.

Hope to see you at the birthday party!


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