It seems that the increase in moms staying at home is contributing to a decline in the restaurant business, according to yesterday's article in Advertising Age.
Here's how the article starts:
For the first time since June Cleaver donned pearls and aprons in the 1950s, the percentage of women choosing to work outside the home has been flat to down for several years running. Not coincidentally, the number of meals purchased at restaurants per person has stopped growing too, for the longest sustained stretch in the 23 years NPD Group has tracked the number...First of all, let's pause and "digest" that number (har-har). Restaurant meals are DOWN to TWO HUNDRED SEVEN per person per year? That's almost a meal out PER PERSON every other day!
Women's participation rate in the paid U.S. labor force topped out at just above 60% in 1999 and again in 2001 but has fallen since then, according to the Labor Department. Restaurant meals, fueled for decades by the migration of moms to the work force, also topped out at 211 per person per year in 2001 according to NPD and likewise have been bouncing lower since, hitting 207 this year.
I just want to know: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? And how can they afford this?
Our family eats out two or three times per MONTH ("NO! You can't have that burger, honey. It's not on the dollar menu!"), with a takeout pizza thrown in there every now and then (I hesitate to call the aforementioned establishments "restaurants," but whatever.). Even if we went out twice a week, that would only be 104 times per year, which sounds astonishing when you add it all up. But 207?
Besides the cost, all I can think of is those poor kids, eating chicken nuggets and french fries (again). Washing it all down (as Ruthie-3 would say) with a "sugar drink." Then begging for the ice cream ("Because that other little boy got one, Mommy!"). And we wonder why childhood obesity is a problem?
I suppose if all these meals were eaten with all members of the family present, I could imagine some redeeming value. Some of our best times as a family have been when Dad comes home and says, "Mom is NOT cooking tonight! We're going out!" You can hear the cheering for miles. We all get our food and talk and
Sadly, my hunch is that most of these meals are on the run, Mom shuttling one kid to soccer, another to ballet, another to baseball. There they sit under the glare of the fluorescent lights. No need to talk, because there's a game on the big-screen TV. Either that, or everyone's in the car (not that I've never done that...), facing forward (or worse, watching a movie), shoveling it in. Dad's running late, so he'll just pick up something and eat it at the office.
Sigh. It's yet another symptom of the insane pace of life that is so easy to get caught up in.
Yes, I'm glad the trend to eat out seems to be reversing, although I'm not sure going from 211 to 207 is what I'd call significant. And the article suggests that the decline in restaurant dollars is being shifted to "complete meals" being offered at grocery stores. Oh well, I still don't want to belittle any small gains on the home front.
Mostly, hearing statistics like that makes me strengthen my resolve to face that slab of meat in the morning and dream up something edible to make out of it by supper time. To make the kids put out the mismatched placemats and plastic cups, and to overlook that spill and the deafening crescendo to which the conversation inevitably rises. Not to mention the conflicts that tend to come out when we are all in one place, all facing each other, all at the same time.
Messy as it is, inconvenient as it is, noisy as it is, I need to keep reminding myself that eating at home is healthy - for our bodies, for our pocketbooks, and for our families.
Here's another post on the family dinner at our house
And an article about more moms staying home
And the 2005 NY Times article that made everyone so mad