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I Ate Dinner With No Screens For A Week, And Here's What Happened
Dinnertime in my house typically looks something like this: Our 2-year-old son eats his own meal, which I've usually prepared, tossing some of it on the floor, after which he's taken up to bed. Meanwhile, either my husband or I—whoever isn't on bath/pajamas/book duty—is downstairs getting our romantic dinner spread ready. And by "spread," I mean pasta, a frozen supermarket dinner or, more rarely, leftovers from our toddler's healthier meal.
Next comes the actual consumption part, wherein we take our seats at the table and dig in to, well, our apps. Farfalle with a side of Facebook. Instant rice with an Instagram garnish. If we're not on social media, one of us is texting and the other is responding to work emails. The TV is, obviously, on in the background. Rather than talking to each other, we're glued to our screens, mindlessly moving fork to mouth and asking an occasional question of the other.
It's not that we don't enjoy each other's company. In fact, we love our date nights out and when we're home, we look forward to the silence that permeates the house after our little one has drifted off to sleep. But after that initial moment of bliss, I guess all we really want to do is escape into monotonous scrolling, see what we missed in the last few hours, and take some time to ourselves while we shovel in the carbs and unwind.
But last week my phone died mid-meal. When I put down my fork and started frantically searching for our shared tablet, it hit me: this madness has to stop. So when my editor challenged me to endure a week of dinner sans screens, I heartily accepted. Here's what happened; no judgment, please, on #3. (Lose up to 15 pounds in just 30 days with this revolutionary superfood plan from the publisher ofPrevention!)
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My husband and I dated each other again.
This one may be obvious; when you shelf your smartphones and turn off the TV, of course you're going to rely on conversation to fill in the void. But what I didn't expect was that we actually had quite a bit to fill each other in on. I remembered a laundry list of house projects I wanted to run by him. Great news that my husband received at work two weeks ago had finally surfaced. That funny thing that happened on my way to the supermarket the other day? We shared a laugh over it. As tempting as it was to peek at our texts, we were able to hold off most nights (most nights) and actually enjoy the real live 3D person in front of us. No rushing, no scrolling.
What also changed was the quality of our food. On the third night I found myself caring more about we put on our plates; with this challenge being a "thing" to live up to, I figured I may as well break out the pots and pans and even the good dishes. Why not act like every night was a date night, right? On day 6, I even attempted homemade sushi. It wasn't picture-perfect, but it was humdrum-be-gone, and that's all that mattered.
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I stressed less.
Not until night 4 of screen-free noshing did I realize that what I thought was a relaxing routine was actually stressing me out. Without the opportunity to check email, I noticed I felt a bit lighter in the evenings. And because I wasn't flicking through Instagram photos of my friends at the beach, posing with Pinot at various vineyards across the country, or adding filters to their already gorgeous boat rides, there was no opportunity to feel the dreaded comparison-itis, which really weighs me down. Eating dinner indoors, then sitting out on the front porch with a good book (OK, or Netflixing in bed), was good enough for me. Chilling out felt good.
I learned that it's all about balance.
On night 7, the forces were against us. In addition to waiting to hear from an on-call doc with a quick question I had about acid reflux (the joys of pregnancy!), my husband had a few work emails—and some baseball news—to attend to. When the first phone buzzed, we were back to Day 0, essentially ignoring each other, rushing through bite after bite in electronic trances. But you know what? That's OK. Not every night is going to be perfect. You can't always hang on every single word your significant other says, or clink champagne glasses on a Thursday night. Sometimes unplugging is easy. Sometimes it's not.
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