Farmers don't go away. They can't. If they did, the crops would die.
Fishermen don't stay at home. If they did, they wouldn't catch any fish.
So coming from a background where I learned to take for granted that all the people would be more or less attached to the home, it still seems very strange to me that my own little family doesn't look like that.
The real benefit in family dinners, no matter which members are present or absent, is in just seeing each other's faces and feeling that sense of tribe, knowing that these are our people and we're walking through this world together.
Even if he volunteered to stay home with the kids for every single weekend until our youngest child left for college so that I could go off to meditate in the woods, or get a massage in Sedona, or brush up on my blackjack game in Vegas, or just hide in a neutral colored, minimalist room, with nary a PowerPuff Girl in sight, he would never be able to log enough days at home to make up for all of the days he'd missed for deployments and other absences.
Yes, you can still plan and host a birthday party for your kid as a solo parent. No, you won't lose your mind in the process. (Probably.)