Good Mothering and the Provision of Family Meals: Public Health Discourse Vs Contemporary Realities

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Jo LINDSAY, Monash University, Australia
JaneMaree MAHER, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia
Claire TANNER, Centre for Stem Cell Systems, The University of Melbourne, Australia
Deana LEAHY, Education, Monash University, Australia
Jan WRIGHT, School of Education, University of Wollongong, Australia
Sian SUPSKI, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia
The family has long been recognised as a crucial site for public intervention particularly with child obesity. This paper analyses the promotion of family meals as a panacea for obesity and emotional dysfunction. We argue that this public health discourse has emotional and nostalgic power but cannot easily be put into practice under the structural conditions shaping contemporary family life. Family diversity, changed gender roles, changed employment patterns and increasing commute times mean that frequent family mealtimes are not possible to enact for many families. We draw on qualitative research with 50 families with at least one child under 12 from Victoria Australia to illustrate the diversity and challenges of everyday meal provision. We argue the disconnect between the public health message promoted and the reality where it cannot be put into practice is likely to cause more harm, in the form of maternal guilt, than good outcomes as intended.