Last year during the holidays, I started the most brilliant tradition with my family (in my opinion, at least). We went out to dinner for Thanksgiving, and it was truly amazing. Not only did I skip the holiday food shopping, prep, and clean-up I hate, but we enjoyed a totally distraction-free family meal away from the kids' toys and TV. We are 100 percent going out to dinner again this Thanksgiving, and after our awesome experience, I can't recommend restaurant dining instead of hosting to any busy parent enough.
The idea to make a reservation rather than cook a turkey dinner started brewing when I was complaining to my husband about how much food we end up throwing out at Thanksgiving each year. My four kiddos are very picky about what they'll eat. I'll inevitably end up fixing a ton of sides like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and yams, but only my husband indulges. And I'm a vegetarian, so the turkey is more or less just for him, as well. The kids will pick on a few bites, but most of it goes to waste (even after multiple creative leftover recipe attempts). I feel guilty about all the wasted food, annoyed about blowing the money, and also resentful that I spent so much time — time I really don't have as a mom of four — making dishes for my family that not everyone appreciates or enjoys.
Another thing that has frustrated me on Thanksgivings past? It never fails that after I've spent days sourcing recipes, gathering ingredients, and making the food, my family will sit down to dinner for about five minutes tops. Then it's "I'm full" and the kids run off to play. "Call us when it's time for pie!"
I can't tell you how much more enjoyable it was to dine out last year. My stress about the meal melted away as soon as I called and reserved a table at one of our favorite restaurants. In the days leading up to the holiday, in school pickup lines, and at playdates, my mom friends chattered about recipes and annoying relatives while I just looked on. On Thanksgiving morning, I relaxed rather than baked, and I couldn't care less about where the good silverware was.
We piled in the car and arrived to a beautifully decorated dining room and a perfectly-set table that I had nothing to do with arranging. The menu offered choices other than turkey, so everyone actually ate. And since the children were essentially trapped at the restaurant, our family time lasted longer than 10 minutes.
All in all, our Thanksgiving out was a success, and we already have a reservation for this year's dinner. And to all my fellow parents who stress for days prepping for the holiday, I hope this inspires you to break tradition and start a new one. I guarantee you won't regret it.