From "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Caroline Manzo stops by with an excerpt from her book "Let Me Tell You Something: Life as a Real Housewife, Tough-Love Mother, and Street-Smart Businesswoman."
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner:
pick one meal a day to have with your family.
It's so important to have a meal with your family every day. That's the time you reconnect. Put your BlackBerry down, put your iPad down, and give your family your undivided attention.
I know we're all busy these days, so I'm not talking about a formal sit-down dinner at the table. You can eat around the kitchen island, you can stand or you can sit, you can even go to McDonald's. The main thing is that at least one meal a day isn't rushed, or eaten on the go. You take the time out of your day and you connect with whoever is around. It's about a shared experience that's fun and pleasurable for everyone.
Al worked so much that he was never home for dinner with us. There was a time when for a few months he would try to make it home early, but it just made his day crazier. So the solution was for me to take the kids down to The Brownstone and we'd eat dinner at his desk. A couple times, we had Easter Sunday dinner with the kids at his desk.
It doesn't matter where you eat, as long as you're together.
It also doesn't matter what you eat. You can serve a peanut butter sandwich and still have a great conversation. The best meal that I made for the kids was also the simplest: star soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Star Soup is so easy—it's chicken broth with pastina in it. Salt, pepper, cheese. You serve it with grilled cheese on toast or on English muffins. The whole meal for the three kids probably cost under seven dollars and takes five minutes to make. And it's still one of their favorite dishes. Whenever Christopher comes over, one of the first things he'll say will be "Mom, Star Soup?" Even if it's one in the morning, he'll ask and I'll make it. It's a great-stick-to-your-ribs meal, and kids love it.
Our family always prioritized these family dinners. Even with the challenges of Al's demanding job. But now, after thirty years of marriage, I can tell you that these meals became the glue that held us together and kept us connected.
If your husband is a workaholic who's never home, or if you're the one with the crazy schedule, you're going to find the family meal difficult at first. Be prepared to eat whenever you can—if it's breakfast at 5:00 am or dinner at 3:00 am, it can be done. Being tired all day is a small price to pay for showing someone you love them, and getting to hear about what's going on in their life.
I know that life is speeding up for all of us. We're bombarded from the minute we wake up—from our families, our friends, the TV, and all the social media we didn't even dream of ten years ago. That's why it's more necessary than ever to drop out of that madness completely, just for a half hour, once a day. You'll learn more important stuff in that half hour with your kid or husband than if you spent the whole day on Facebook.