According to certain experts in academia, I have put my kids’ entire emotional and educational futures at risk because I haven’t made the family dinner an immutable, Norman Rockwell-esque fixture in our lives. It did not suffice for me to swap my corporate credit card for a Costco card and a minivan when I began my long tenure as a stay-at-home mom. I’ve since logged more hours in the orthodontist’s waiting room and carpool lines than President Obama has logged on Air Force One.

I love the idea of a family dinner. I simply wasn’t able to pull it offAnd yet, without the stability and routine of the family dinner, some eggheads have opined, my kids may be doomed to lives of academic failure, cigarette and drug addiction, eating disorders, and in extreme cases, careers as trial lawyers.

These “experts” are smugly secure in their pronouncements because they dangle the letters “Ph.D.” after their names. I’m going to take a wild guess that these were not letters they earned while playing with Sesame Street’s Alphabet Elmo bus on the floor with toddlers, Ernie happily shouting out when it was time for Mom to toss the tassel on her Color-Me-A-Ph.D. mortarboard.

Don’t misunderstand: I love the idea of a nurturing, nourishing family dinner, night after night. I simply wasn’t skilled enough to pull it off more often than our Friday night and Saturday afternoon Shabbat meals. I discovered that in the real world, a 3-year-old needs to eat dinner at 5 p.m. This might be the perfect time for grandparents to pick him up and catch the early-bird special, but it’s a less-than-ideal time for a young mom who would prefer to have dinner with her husband, if she is old-fashioned enough to have one of those.

Besides, I was too busy cutting up cucumbers into eyes and dotting raisins for eyebrows (to make eating vegetables fun and exciting, you see) to have the time to sit down and dine with the tots. Despite this negligence, none of my kids flunked out of school, took up drugs, developed eating disorders or became trial lawyers. Maybe this was because I worked double and triple shifts in the kitchen, hanging around to talk—or more importantly, listen to—whoever was eating at the time.

The real saving grace has been our Shabbat mealsBut the real saving grace, literally, has been our Shabbat meals. These special meals, which I spend a good part of Fridays preparing, are often shared with guests and are part of the sacred spaces in our lives. We even dress up for them. On Friday night and Saturday, no one is running off to work, to a game or to the store. This is not only because I make a chicken soup for the soul that I’m confident would make my late Nana proud. While only twice-weekly, I am certain that our Sabbath meals more than compensate for our helter-skelter, hurry-up-and-pass-the-rice-I’m in-a-hurry weekday dinners because this ritual was invented by the Greatest Expert of All!