By Lisa Cucinotta
When Brian and I first bought our house in the suburbs eight years ago, we spent time remodeling it ourselves before moving in. Every weekend we’d work from sunrise to sunset and then drag ourselves to this diner we’d found in town to scarf down dinner and try not to fall asleep in the booth. After we moved in, we established a routine of going out to dinner every Friday. More often than not we found ourselves at the diner.
When we had Julia, my sister suggested that we continue to go out for dinner even when she was a baby. She said she’d started taking her kids out when they were babies and they learned from an early age to behave well in restaurants. Parenthood cramps your style in all sorts of ways, so we figured we’d try to keep this particular routine alive even with the variable of a newborn.
We made it through diaper changes, crying and nursing in the booth Then we made it to the high chair, tantrums, and food throwing. We also made it through some very fun, easy dinners, don’t get me wrong. We started making friends with other families who frequented the diner at the very early hour we did. We got to know the hosts and hostesses, found a regular waiter who knew all our favorites – diet cokes, pickles and coleslaw for everyone before the meal, a bread basket to keep the kids busy, but no vegetable tray (who eats radishes by the way??).
I’ve written previously about how demanding my career is and how long my hours tend to be, especially when you add my commute to it. I’ve also mentioned how early my kids go to bed. Diner Friday requires that I leave work at the very early hour of 4:30, well before my colleagues, in order to make a train that gets me in at 6, and at the diner by 6:15. By the time we’re finished eating we’ve pushed past both Luca and Julia’s bedtimes, but they seem able to rally somehow specifically for this night.
That’s why I do it every single Friday. Four days a week, I only see my kids an hour a day. But Diner Friday is my chance to have a meal with my kids. My industry has a lot of young people in it, folks who can eat dinner at 8, 9, or 10 o’clock at night if they so choose. That’s awesome for them, and I certainly enjoyed my time doing the same thing when I was younger. But if I want to keep our Friday dinner tradition alive, I need to make the decision that’s right for me and our family. At each job I’ve worked in since I had kids, I made this part of the deal. Need me to put in hours of work Saturday and Sunday nights? No problem, I’m home most weekend nights because babysitters are expensive. But try to schedule a meeting with me at 5pm on a Friday? Nope. That’s family diner night.
Mom tip: Decide what your non-negotiables are, at home and at work and stick to them.