By Eric LeClair, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student
I live in a small California farm town called Taft. This town is full of large hard working families who are making a living so their children can succeed in whatever they do. Unfortunately, ever since the economy took a hit, lots of families have had setbacks due to layoffs. Families who usually have one working parent and one stay home parent are now forced to have both parents working. This leads to times of trouble, whether it’s in finances, or the ability to get their kids from place to place. Among these hardships that each family faces, there is the drop in home cooked meals, recreation time, and less time to make it to the gym.
The Johnson family was like many families. Mrs. Johnson was a stay home mom and Mr. Johnson worked hard in the oil fields of Taft. Up until the layoffs started occurring, the Johnsons participated in many recreational activities with their 4 kids, and regularly visited the local gym. When I asked the family what they felt like they have moved away from the most, they replied “The thing we loved doing the most that we moved away from was eating meals together at home.” With the layoffs, Mrs. Johnson was forced to find a job because Mr. Johnson was working job that ended up with a big pay cut. This limited their time throughout the day to sit down and enjoy the meals as a family. Mrs. Johnson admitted that after a long day of work, they found it hard to get the motivation to do anything other than rest and watch TV. “It’s like we became so lazy,” said one of their children. “Even though we just didn’t have the time. I really felt bad for my parents because they were trying to keep everything the same but me and my brothers knew it couldn’t be like that.”
The Johnsons talked about how they knew that there were a thousand things that could go wrong and that it is easier to just go to work, come home, rest and not worry about the things they use to do. When I interviewed them though, I got the vibe that that wasn’t going to work for them. Coming from a religious family who was very close to each other, I could relate to the Johnsons urgency to get back to cooking meals and continuing their exercise regimens as usual.
The Johnsons held a family meeting and decided that they were going to work together to make their situation work for them. Throughout the next couple of months, they found ways to incorporate home cooked meals into their busy weeks. They got the kids involved by putting them in charge of finding recipes for meals they all would like. Mr. Johnson mentioned, “The first thing we needed to do was start at the table. I wanted to get my family involved in each other’s lives and active with each other. I knew we needed this first.” Once they got into their groove, there was instant change in the spirits of each family member. They started going back outside for walks together, and then dedicating weekends for time to be involved in the gym or outside playing for a few hours.
I asked Mr. Johnson if he had any advice for families who used to be close but found themselves drifting apart due to unforeseen circumstances, and how they too can incorporate healthy living within their family units.
Mr. Johnson’s Advice:
- Keep it simple
- Make meals ahead of time
- Keep everyone involved
- Set a routine (make a time for everyone to be together for at least a meal or two to start off)
- Designate tasks
- Team up with other families
- Let the kids help cook and shop