Older children arrive home from after school activities, hungry and bursting to tell the news of the day (all at once). Toddlers and babies are grizzly and scream if removed from the haven of mum’s arms and dad walks in from work, expecting harmony, a good meal and control of the television. Chances are, if mum has been to work, or had a disrupted day at home, the washing will need bringing in, dinner is only half prepared and her nerves are stretched to breaking point.
Whilst this scenario may sound sadly familiar, it does not need to be accepted as an inevitable part of family life. Some simple pre-emptive measures can help you conquer the witching hour for good.
Free mum’s schedule
Leave the time between school pick-up and serving dinner to focus on the kids and their needs. Avoid attempting housework and don’t even consider taking time out to relax (unless you are relaxing with your offspring, in a way that makes them happy).
Make meals ahead of time. This could be done earlier in the day, if you are able, or have a weekly cooking session and store ready to heat meals in the freezer. Have after school snacks and clothes on hand as soon as the kids arrive home, to minimize displays of impatience.
Give clear expectations
Make sure the kids know what is expected of them in the afternoons. Have a regular routine of homework, chores and play. Be consistent. Delegate tasks so that the evening runs smoothly.
Have realistic expectations
When kids and adults return home at the end of the day, they are usually worn out. Allow sufficient “down time” for energy replenishment. Tailor dinner menus to suit your availability. There is a great deal to be said for one-pot dishes that can be tossed in the oven and forgotten until serving time. Make use of purchased sauces and recipe bases to simplify meal preparation. Save time-consuming, complex concoctions for days when you can give them your full attention.
Make involvement fun
Enlist the help of the kids in preparing for the meal. Find tasks they enjoy rather than forcing them to do dreaded jobs...this only adds to the frustration of everyone. Older children may prefer amusing little ones to assisting with chores, which could actually be more useful.
It’s Wiggle time
A bright bouncy children’s DVD (who can go past “The Wiggles”?) can distract a miserable toddler and provide precious peace for the rest of the family. A second television is an asset. With news and current affairs in one room and dancing dinosaurs in the other, everyone is happy.
Be strong and of good courage
Having done everything in your power to make an evening run smoothly, things can still go belly-up! Try to retain your inner calm and resist the urge to contribute to escalating tensions. Remind yourself that, in a short while the kids will be in bed and you can put your feet up and relax. That is, after you have cleared the mess and prepared for the early morning onslaught.
Do you agree "witching hour" is the hardest part of the day?