The Truth: Are Dinner Groups Really Worth the Work?
When people find out I’ve been in a dinner group that’s been going since 2009, they’re astonished – especially when they find out we’ve stuck to it through 4 moves, 2 weddings, 2 house renovations, 3 (soon to be 4) babies, career changes, and all sorts of other challenges that would make any reasonable person bow out from having friends over for dinner. As you can imagine, there’s major curiosity about how we’ve made it work, so here’s a roundup of the questions I get asked most.
“Is This More Work Than It’s worth? I still have to shop and cook…”
Crazy as it seems, we’ve never thought of our dinners as work. And this is coming from someone who’s least favorite part of the day is figuring out what’s for dinner! Sure, there are some months when life’s crazier than others, but even then, it’s other things that felt like the chore, not having to make a dish. From the very beginning, creating and sharing a meal together has been an experience – and the cooking, a creative act of love and appreciation for great friends.
We’ve had just as much fun sharing the excitement of a trying a fun new recipe and telling the story of whipping it together (or the disaster when it didn’t go as planned), as we have drinking wine and talking about our lives, families, hopes and dreams. At the end of the day, the small investment of time to prepare a dish is beyond worth the value we gain from our time together and the creative outlet it provides.
“What am I supposed to do with my husband and kids?”
None of us had kids and most weren’t married when our dinner group started. But that picture is very different today. What I find most amazing, is that all the men (and kids) that have to “deal” with us being gone for dinner one night a month, don’t see it as a burden at all. When we get out of the way and let them take over, they get space to shine, to take care of us, and the freedom to create their own traditions on the nights we’re away. And, turns out, they are all perfectly capable of fending for themselves just fine without us, shocking as that might be.
Before kids, the guys would all meet up somewhere to watch a game and grab a beer. When kids started coming along, it became a fun night alone with Dad. Maybe the bath got skipped that night or dinner for the kids was mac n’ cheese in front of TV. And maybe that’s not what we’d want every day. But one night isn’t the end of the world — and a small price to pay for the kids to get invaluable one-on-one time with Dad and for Mom to take a much needed night off.
“I could NEVER do this at MY house…it’s not conducive for entertaining”
This is my all time favorite — because it’s complete and total BS. If images of picture-perfect tablescapes and pristine surroundings worthy of the cover of Martha Stewart Living are dancing in your head then, yes, of course your first thought is “my house isn’t worthy.” But that’s simply not real-life for most people. Homes are a work in progress, they are lived in and imperfect. And none of that is a good reason to keep you from having friends over.
Our very first dinner we crammed around a tiny kitchen table in Amanda’s 2 bedroom condo, where she lived with her sister. She and I were still cooking when the girls started arriving, there was no fancy centerpiece, and the mismatched tupperware containers used to transport our dishes doubled as serving pieces. And it was absolutely amazing! The night was so relaxed, comfortable, and casual that we were able to focus on the great food and company. While our homes and kitchens have certainly matured, we still have just as much fun eating off paper plates on the couch as we do at a beautifully set table. The most satisfying dinners are when you come together to connect, not to impress.
“What do you really get out of it?”
Before we started our monthly dinner, I doubt any of us realized we were missing anything. But if this space we have to come together went away tomorrow, there would be a huge void in our lives. We’d be more stressed, feel more alone, and probably not even know why. This is our place to go – for announcements, celebrations, to get advice, share funny stories, solve problems, and sometimes even to grieve. It’s where we get that much needed reminder and validation that we’re not the only ones feeling a certain way.
A lot of us get complacent and stop investing in friendships, especially after coupling up or having kids. Moms especially just accept that life’s not their own during the toddler years. But that simply doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible (and healthy) to carve out a space just for you. But without giving it a try, you’ll never know what you’re missing.
When is the best time to start?
Right now! Here at Bold Dish, we believe you shouldn’t have to do it all – in life or in the kitchen. That’s why our dinner group starter kits are designed to walk you, step-by-step, through every detail, from recruiting some great girlfriends, hosting your first dinner and keep it going with our best practices for scheduling. There’s no better time than the present to make time for yourself and your friends a priority. What are you waiting for?
Get Me Started!
I promise you won’t regret it!