When A Tradition You Love Just Doesn’t Work

posted by Andrea | 05/16/2017
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Growing up, my most favorite meal of the entire week was “Sunday Dinner”.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in my family, “Sunday Dinner” is a huge meal eaten around noon on Sunday afternoon — usually a roast, ham or steak, served with mashed potatoes and gravy, multiple varieties of vegetables, applesauce, rolls, a salad of some sort, and dessert.

My dad made Sunday Dinner every week in our family — and despite eating the same thing over and over and over again, week after week, I never ever stopped looking forward to walking in the door after church to those delicious smells.

In Kindergarten, I had to do an “about me” project, listing my favorite color, movie, book, food, etc. For the “favorite food” question, I simply put “Sunday Dinner” because I couldn’t pick just one of the foods.

And when I was in college, I came home pretty much every single Sunday — mainly so I could eat Sunday Dinner.

After Dave and I were married, I continued the tradition, making a large meal just for the 2 of us every Sunday afternoon. Sometimes we’d have one of our families over, sometimes we’d go to one of our parents’ homes, but we always had a version of Sunday Dinner each week.

When we started adding children to our family, I assumed Sunday Dinner would stay the same… until I realized how rushed and frazzled Sundays can be with a fussy infant who didn’t sleep well at night, refused to take a bottle, screamed until she hyperventilated in nursery, and insisted on sleeping in my arms or on my chest.

All of a sudden, it was altogether too much work to get a big meal in the oven Sunday morning while also trying to feed Nora, get everyone dressed, fed, and ready (we had our international students living with us at that time) and get out the door on time.

I began resorting to simple casseroles I could make the night before, or slow cooker recipes that cooked while we were at church.

And you know what… no one seemed to mind (not even Dave!)

.

Now, 5 years and a couple more children later, our “Sunday Dinner” looks absolutely NOTHING like they did for the first 26 years of my life. We usually just have sandwiches, salads, leftovers, etc. — basically what we’d eat for lunch any other day of the week.

Although Sunday Dinners were one of my most favorite traditions, I realized they just don’t work for me or my family at this point in my life — and I’m OK with that.

Yes, we still go to our parents’ houses every once in a great while for Sunday dinner, and we still enjoy having relatives over to our house for big meals around the holidays or other special occasions; but usually we just want to get home after church in the morning so we can eat a quick lunch, and get our kids down for naps.

I don’t want to wake up early to get food in the oven. I don’t want to make half the pots and pans in my kitchen dirty or spend all afternoon washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. I don’t want to have roast and mashed potato leftovers every single week.

I just don’t want all the hassle when everyone in my family is perfectly content to eat the same lunch foods on Sunday as they do for the rest of the week.

We do enjoy “Sunday Dinner” meals a couple times every month — on a weekday when I have much more time to prepare the food during the day. We all love the food, I love how my kitchen smells, Dave gladly washes the dishes once the kids are in bed, and I enjoy a much more relaxed Sunday afternoon.

There’s a good chance I will “resurrect” my Sunday Dinner tradition once my children are older and more self-sufficient, but for now, Sunday Dinner is no longer on Sundays — and as a result, my life is a whole lot simpler!

I know it can be difficult to stop a long-standing tradition (especially a tradition you really enjoy) but speaking from experience, there are SO many times when our lives end up becoming weighed down and stress-filled because we insist on doing something that no longer works for us… just because we’ve always done it that way.

It’s just not worth it!

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, weighed down, super stressed, or even just slightly annoyed by certain traditions or routines in your life, why don’t you just try taking a short break and seeing if it makes any difference at all.

Maybe you’ll realize your stress was caused by something different — in that case, go right back to your favorite tradition. However, you might realize that one simple change makes a HUGE difference in your daily and weekly life.

If that’s the case, let the tradition go for a bit… you can always pick it back up again later!

Have you ever dropped a tradition you love because it stopped working for you?

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34 comments

  1. Auber

    05/27/2017

    Growing up, Mom always did a big Christmas dinner and my grandparents would spend the day with us. Even after we were all grown and married with families, Mom continued the tradition, and whoever could make it that year was present. After she passed away, as Christmas approached my now-grown kids said they didn’t want the traditional dinner like they had at Grandma’s because it just wouldn’t be the same. That’s how our Christmas kabob tradition began. I cut up and marinate the steak and chicken the day before, and then my kids and I clean and cut up the veggies on Christmas day. We make our own kabobs and my husband grills, whatever the weather (we have a covered area in case of rain/snow. We have rice and kabobs. . . a delicious meal, and clean up is easy. Later we have dessert, sometimes homemade, sometimes store-bought. Makes for a stress-free day for all!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like a fun new tradition to start with your own family!

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  2. Jenny

    05/19/2017

    I read a great book- “Coop” by Michael Perry about growing up in the country in Wisconsin, and he mentioned that his large family had a tradition of Sunday night popcorn and apples and maybe “government cheese”. Everyone knew and liked it. His Mom had sort of a night off. Really a good writer and I recommend his books!
    When I was a kid in Iowa, Sunday night meant popcorn and milkshakes while watching The Wonderful World of Disney! To us kids, it was s treat, and to Mom, it meant a (partial) break from cooking 3 meals a day. She did not like to cook and it showed. Yeah, we did have the big Sunday dinners oftentimes. And some Sundays, Mom had a meltdown, which I didn’t understand at the time. Kids seem to like simple traditions, not complicated efforts with stressed parents. Maybe when the kids are older, you’ll do it once a month or something. Then it might be fun. Or maybe not. It sounds like you are very good at figuring out what works and why and how, and what options there might be.

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  3. Sherry

    05/18/2017

    I’m a day behind commenting on this post…but I just wanted to add that we reached a point in our family life where we brought “Sunday Dinner” BACK and I couldn’t be happier about it! Many times it is the only day of the week where I have time to even cook a meal much less have everyone in our house (8 of us) sit down together and ENJOY the meal and family time without having to watch the clock for the next event. It is not uncommon for our time around the table to last over an hour! Like you, when I had several young ones needing naps and on different feeding schedules, Sunday dinner was not happening and we often had great family dinners during the week. But, once we reached the point where evening activities and meetings became very prevalent, bringing Sunday dinner back was a joy 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I can definitely see resurrecting the Sunday Dinner again once the kids are older. I loved the tradition so much growing up, it would be fun to bring it back to our family again — just not when we have SO many other things going on already 🙂

    Glad you are enjoying your lovely Sunday Dinners once again!

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  4. Jodi

    05/17/2017

    I live in New England and we always had Sunday dinner growing up. My grandparents lived in the house next to us and we were always together. I loved it!! After I got married and had children, I didn’t carry on the tradition. My son played hockey from the time he was 5 (he’s in college now) and there was either a practice or game (home or away) on Sunday. I do miss the tradition. One tradition I would like to toss is big holiday meals. I host all holidays because I have the largest house, and there are two people, spouse of sibling and their son, that totally don’t appreciate it and all the work that goes into it. They are rude and make it very stressful for me. I would really like everyone to stay home for Holiday dinners but I do it all for my Mom. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

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  5. Linda

    05/17/2017

    I’m with you! Just want something simply don’t want to have to work!

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  6. Bonnie'sMama

    05/17/2017

    I was born in the South as a Mennonite, and Mennonites tend to be goooood cooks. Going to another’s family’s house for Sunday lunch as a small child . . . ah, those are good memories! To this day, homemade strawberry jam brings back those memories–jam on homemade dinner rolls, creamed peas, Southern tea with lemon and way too much sugar, salad from the garden, peanut butter pie.

    I would love to be that kind of cook but in ten years of marriage haven’t learned to quite pull that off. I would love to be the lady who sets a beautiful table with candles and flowers and lovely dishes and matching napkins, then fills people up with good meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all those other lovely foods. I’m going to challenge myself to figure out a good system for making that happen.

    Sometimes it actually works better for me to do spontaneous Sunday lunches, when we invite someone after church then fly home and see what we can scrounge from the fridge. It’s always lots of fun, even if the meals are a little mismatched.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh homemade jam on rolls — that’s a favorite at our house too! You might be surprised how easy homemade jam really is — you should give it a try sometime. Here’s my simple recipe. http://andreadekker.com/berry-jams-berry-delicious/

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  7. Janine

    05/17/2017

    Love this! I did the same thing when my kids were little–gave up the Sunday dinner tradition–actually at the request of my husband but I sure didn’t argue. Coming home from church and then waiting about an hour and a half to eat was not fun with hungry little ones, a hungry husband, and a stressed me. My growing up Sunday dinners were like yours, but I don’t know how my mom did it.

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  8. Amie

    05/17/2017

    In our home we always have a big Sunday breakfast and dinner. I plan my Sunday breakfasts and all other dinners months in advance on a calendar so it takes the guesswork out of it. Sometimes it’s something grilled and other times it’s something cooked in the crockpot. Whatever it is, we eat off of dishes my husband and I purchased when we were first married. Even if breakfast is cinnamon rolls, it has created a “new” tradition. On Christmas Eve we order take out, drive to look atheist as lights, and pick up the takeout order on our way home. Christmas Day is either leftovers or usually pizza for dinner. I know it’s unconventional but we have taken more simple ideas and made them OUR families new tradition. We even have Saturday night “kids night” dinners which we used to call carpet picnics when our daughter was younger. We would put out a large blanket on the living room floor, watch a kids movie, and eat “kid” food (pizza, chicken nuggets, etc). Our daughter, now a teenager, loves these special traditions and looks forward to each and every one!

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  9. PW

    05/16/2017

    I grew up when mom’s didn’t work so those after church dinners and big Holiday feasts were expected, thought I don’t know how they managed. I guess years of practice because I don’t remember my mom struggling, just always up early to get turkey on or food in the oven so cooked when we came back from church. I do remember she used a pressure cooker a lot.

    Then got married moved from Ohio to IL and made constant trips back for family, often leaving after work on Fri. and driving back Sun. dead tired. When my dad died my mom came here, and she would then fly to see my other sister. Come back to me and I would drive her home.

    Got remarried and I became the cook as by then our mom’s were too old for the task. 30 people oh my-I worked long hrs so it was very difficult to get to the stores, long lines, then cook and stay up late but my mom was here and loved helping. At one point my mom could not travel and my husband’s mom had passed away so his family wanted traditional holiday here and my mom and family in Ohio.

    The weekend b4 I cooked a whole turkey in the crock pot or oven, made mashed taters, dressing, cut everything in half, froze it, so my husband’s family had to just heat in their oven their food, and I drove my frozen portions in the trunk of my car to Ohio, and we added bagged salads and frozen broccoli to heat up and desserts from a bakery. It about killed me but when we sat down to eat in Ohio our entire family was together and when my husband’s family sat down to eat it was marvelous. Finally they all passed away and now my husband and myself (no kids) are always invited out but we prefer to stay in, I now make steak and taters and veggie and salad, easy breezy and we enjoy the day together, go out walking, go to a movie, or get to read or spend time together. I don’t miss the tradition but when we did it all those years it kept the family together.

    It took me a while to not feel weepy with the loss of tradition and even family members but I so enjoy the different pace..I now call my sisters and we hang out on the phone and my husband calls his brother, and now I hate to travel on holidays after doing it all those years. When we travel to see our families it is not on a holiday, and not in the dead of winter. When my husband ‘s father passed away a few years ago it took us 6 months to realize that every Sat. at 5 we did not have to be at his place with a cooked dinner in tow, my husband and I sat in the house on Sat. nights for months wondering — well what should we do now? Then we realized we didn’t have to do anything, we could stay home, turn on TV which is rarely on, go to a movie, go out to eat,But change takes time!! I notice the younger generation makes reservations instead of dinner or pick up fully cooked meals to heat up at home. Yeah for them. Most restaurants were not open on the holidays where and when I grew up.

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  10. Christy

    05/16/2017

    I gave up the same thing. I loved those meals and I have wonderful memories of them at my house, but I have never been able handle the stress of it for my family. I have older children now and we still don’t do a big meal. We attend a later service and often walk in the door around noon famished. Waiting for me to finish up the big meal left everyone in a rotten mood…including me because I worked so hard to do a nice meal and no one appreciated it. Everyone is on their own for sunday lunch. Sunday dinner is often pizza or something easy as well. Our big meal comes during the week when I have a little more time and everyone is happier.

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    Andrea Reply:

    we usually do something simple like Pizza on Sunday nights and we almost always have cinnamon rolls in the morning (Dave takes care of both) so I almost get the day off on Sunday! It’s fabulous!

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  11. Jennifer

    05/16/2017

    We live far from family and we are about to move even further away. Our families put a lot of pressure on us to attend traditional events, but we are starting to say no more frequently. The long drives are stressful and we like having freedom to choose what we want to do. We stay in contact with our families and try our to be kind with our declines, but some people have a real hard time with letting go of traditions. Families grow and change.p people have a real hard time with letting go of traditions. Families grow and change.

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  12. Kim

    05/16/2017

    I guess we are just weirdos, but in the 40 years we have been married, we have never enjoyed going out to eat, having people over or going over to other people’s house for Sunday lunch after church. For whatever reason, I am hungrier by lunch time on Sunday than any other day of the week. Delaying eating does not sound fun to me. Furthermore, I want a NAP on Sunday afternoon. Isn’t that day supposed to be one for resting?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Not weird at all (at least in my book!) However, I know a huge number of people who would think we’re both weird!

    I completely understand the enjoyment of getting together with family… but Sunday afternoons just seems like a crapy time for me. Stop by any weeknight and I’ll feed you and entertain you… just don’t make me do Sundays!

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  13. Pascale

    05/16/2017

    For the first twelve years of my life, I didn’t live in a tradition home like you did. I moved a lot and went to 7 different schools in different provinces in one year. Altogether, I went to approx 15 different elementary schools in both French and English.

    However, when I was taken away from my mom, I went to live with my aunt and uncle and they had Sunday Dinner so I had it every Sunday for the 7 years that I lived with them until I moved out to live on my own. However, I guess that traditions never stuck with me because I was never emotionally tied to them.

    Having said that, I can imagine what it feels like to enjoy the comfort and stability that it brings. It must be hard to part with tradition, but I totally agree with you, Andrea, that sometimes the hassle and the time that it would take to keep that going is simply not worth it.

    It saddens me to see so many exhausted women and overburdened women who feel as though they have to cook Thanksgiving Dinner and they have to clean the house and make it look perfect before family and friends show up.

    I once heard a story about a man cooking Thanksgiving Dinner because his wife was ill and he simply ordered pizza and had paper plates and everyone was happy. He didn’t clean the house or fuss about all the details we care about, but he wasn’t exhausted either.

    It always stuck with me and your post is a good reminder not to let traditions ruin our health and our family time together. It’s hard to enjoy your time with your family if you’re just too tired and would really much rather take a nap.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for this comment Pascale — and I loved the story about the husband ordering pizza on Thanksgiving. So true, no one even cared and think how much time and effort was saved!

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  14. Jenny

    05/16/2017

    I’ve dropped the big Christmas dinner. After living alone and not being able to travel back home it became too much work. I now check Chinese take out (normally I’ll order several lunch specials the day before since my favorite restaurant isn’t open on Christmas.) Mom moved to be by me and we decided to keep the tradition. Instead of a big meal to cook and clean up we had an early breakfast, then went to the movies and came back home to eat Chinese. It was lovely and pretty low stress.

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    Andrea Reply:

    This is awesome — I’m getting tired of big Christmas shindigs too. Just let me stay home with my family and do something simple.

    We’re slowing convincing our various family members that it is often more enjoyable and less stressful to celebrate Christmas on a different day, and then enjoy the less-stressful holiday at home. Slowly 🙂

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  15. Sandy

    05/16/2017

    I grew up, like you, in a very traditional CRC home with church on both ends of the day with a big meal at noon….often shared with grandparents and like you, I enjoyed it immensely! When my husband and I were first married, I tried to carry on the tradition but felt my Sunday was becoming less and less a day of ‘rest’ and more and more a day of work, by the time I added in choir practice, taught church school, etc. I don’t remember when or how the change was made but at some point my husband made it known that he was totally fine not having a big meal every Sunday and our dinner time became ‘whatever’. As our kids got older they all started fending for them themselves which made it even better! I only felt bad about our new family tradition one time, when a man from our church was shocked to discover I didn’t prepare a big Sunday dinner each week, making me feel like I was breaking some cardinal rule and that I was somehow ‘less than’ as a wife/mother. I got over it quickly though and to be honest, I think my kids really preferred the more relaxed afternoon as well as the more relaxed ME as a result. Of course I DO occasionally go through the fuss of a big dinner on special occasions and during the holidays, but typically Sunday is my day ‘off’ in the kitchen and I LOVE it!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I know a lot of people who have given up the big meal at noon on Sunday — I loved it, but it’s just too much work right now. I have no problem making a big meal in the evening, I just hate doing it for lunch (especially on Sunday when we’re gone all morning!)

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  16. Rachael

    05/16/2017

    This is a great tip and can be used for pretty much anything…if it’s not working, stop doing it. I have been stressing for months trying to get the kids out to different activities in the morning. Lately I’ve stopped doing this and everyone is SO much less stressed. A walk to the park is just as fun and WAY less stressful!

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    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! if it’s not working, stop doing it (or at least find a better/different way to do it!)

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  17. Rhonda

    05/16/2017

    Ha, growing up in northwest WI we always had a Sunday dinner too (dinner to us always meant the midday meal, and supper was the late day meal – probably more of a farming tradition). We don’t live near our families and it’s also not really practical for me to do a Sunday dinner with two small kids (plus, we no longer attend church, so our Sundays aren’t structured around that activity).

    A couple years ago we stopped a long standing tradition of getting together with extended family in Ohio at Thanksgiving, because 1) the group was becoming too large, thus making outtings not fun (try going to the Cincinnati Zoo with 30 people ranging in age from 2 to 76!), and 2) we have jobs in healthcare and can’t often get Thanksgiving AND Black Friday off to travel. Unfortunately this has meant that we never see this family anymore, so we really need to find a new tradition or time of year to visit that works for everyone.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dinner = biggest meal. Supper = night time meal 🙂
    And yes, we’ve stopped seeing our extended families as much as well. It’s too many people, too much hassle, and we often don’t even enjoy it anymore. Time for new traditions!

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  18. Heidi

    05/16/2017

    Sundays are SO hard with little ones! Church, naptime, and a big meal was always the perfect storm for a total meltdown for all of us! An early service and a small meal (or eating out at our favorite Mexican place) has been our saving grace.

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  19. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    05/16/2017

    Really great tip! It’s so much more enjoyable to do what works for you instead of what you feel like you’re “supposed” to do.

    We’ve been doing holidays a lot different for the last few years. We usually get together with my husband’s family for holidays (mine live far away), and since we all work hard, no one wants to cook a big meal. For Easter, we met at their cabin on a river and grilled brats instead of having a big traditional meal. We usually keep it SUPER simple. We always have a great time together and no one has the stress of cooking and cleaning up a huge meal for everyone.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds wonderful. Everyone was shocked that we just stayed home for Mother’s Day and didn’t do anything with family — I thought to myself, I’m the mom and I want to have a relaxing afternoon while my kids nap… heck yes I’m just staying home!

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  20. Stel

    05/16/2017

    AB-SO-LU-TE-LY
    No Sunday lunch.
    Ditto Christmas (summer Christmas in South Africa!) – we much rather have a bbq with steak or fish, salads etc – it can be as festive, but much less work.

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  21. Anonymous

    05/16/2017

    Great post! I love your flexibility! I would probably think I should keep this up, so my children can have this wonderful tradition. But so true, you can pick it back up later…or not!

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  22. Eileen

    05/16/2017

    What a great post.

    I struggled for a long time with Thanksgiving. We live in a city with no family and my current (last 10 years) job requires me to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving (which also means we can’t travel). So having a “full” Thanksgiving dinner requires me/us to make all of it.

    I’ve played around with taking the Wednesday off before in order to help prepare. A few years we’ve gone out to a place for Thanksgiving — which was good, but expensive and still felt a little unlike Thanksgiving.

    Last year I found another great local restaurant to try, but they were booked for reservations. However, they provide full (hot) turkey and sides to go. I jumped on it and it was FANTASTIC. It was delicious and fresh and I could get ALL the sides w/o making them. It was also about half than we’d have to pay to dine in a restaurant. I only made my own stuffing (in addition to theirs that was a little different) and dessert.

    It is my new “tradition”. I finally found something that makes sense and doesn’t make me feel guilty or exhausted.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh, sounds wonderful! Glad you finally found a tradition that works for you (at least for now!) You can always tweak things again when necessary!

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