For most of my 20s, I lived in London and Brighton. At the age of 30, I moved back to Lancashire so I could be nearer to my family.
Although we’re all busy and working, we do make the effort to get together regularly for family dinners. But I’ve got a confession to make – most of our family dinners happen either at my parents’ house, or at my brother’s house, with his family. Because I am not a natural born hostess.
When I first moved back up North, I worried that I couldn’t cook as well as my Mum.
My table was never laid as nicely as my sister-in-law does it, with her beautiful matching crockery and wine glasses. I love my sis-in-law dearly (not least because she always serves two desserts) but her hosting skills are so good she puts me to shame.
So most of our family dinners happened elsewhere.
Here’s what I’ve learned though, a decade on:
When your family comes to your house, they don’t mind that they’ll need to pitch in cooking food. My sister-in-law carves the roast, my brother pours the drinks. Nobody judges that the bread is a bit burned, and none of the glasses match.
Family understands that I’m a single Mum and there’s no way I can get the house tidy, clear away the laundry, get washed and dressed, AND be the hostess with the mostess.
What matters is that we’re a family, and we’re lucky to be able to spend time together, sharing a meal.
I think part of my worry over the years came from measuring myself against popular culture. When you see family meals on TV, they don’t look like my family.
Happy family meals on TV are big families, a table groaning with dishes, sparkling glasses and candles. There aren’t too many happy single parent families in popular culture, are there?
McCain recently commissioned some research showing that half of us don’t think that popular culture reflects the reality of modern families. A quarter of us say this makes them think other families are happier than theirs, while 19% say it makes them feel bad about themselves and their family.
Smaller families and single parents aren’t often featured in popular culture, and certainly not in ways that are positive. Media believes that families like ours should be troubled, or mired in conflict, or struggling with poverty. It’s depressing, isn’t it?
McCain’s latest TV ad is all about celebrating different sorts of families, and it’s a treat to see (might have made me well up, just a bit). I’m also looking forward to seeing the results of a new partnership between McCain and the National Portrait Gallery, which will see a photographer capturing images of ‘real’ families across the country, culminating in a pop-up display at the Gallery in September.
Last weekend, my parents came for lunch and while we might not be the “ideal” family you see on TV, it’s no less special. Flea and I have been away for a month in the US, and it was so nice to catch up with my parents.
They have updates on all the family news, and Mum and I chatted about books we’ve read over the summer. Flea is full of excitement about our forthcoming trip to Florida with her grandparents, and we shared tales of our adventures in California and Hawaii – including swimming with sharks!
Check out a video of our Sunday family dinner below, along with my three top tips for not panicking when hosting family for lunch. And do check out the #WeAreFamily hashtag on Twitter to find out more about McCain’s campaign.
This post contains paid promotion for McCain. All opinions are my own