Sometimes you know something isn’t working very well, but being in the situation means you can’t easily see the solution.
We’ve known for a long time that our evenings after S got home from work weren’t satisfying either of us: I was tired and ready for some quiet and he had been sitting in the office all day and wanted to romp with the children. Since his getting home from work isn’t always consistent we also had the problem of the children being hungry and crabby if he was later than usual.
His brother came to visit about a month ago and had a suggestion: why not feed the children around 5 pm, have them do their evening jobs and then when S got home they would be fed and ready to spend time with him. He could take them to the playground or park, I could have a little time to unwind my brain. When they came back they could go to bed and we could have supper and talk.
We’ve been trying it (not every night as the last two weeks have involved some travel and other busyness) and so far it seems to be working out well.
The children enjoy their “papa-time” (they usually go to the park across the street and ride bikes) and I have about 40 minutes to finish a few things, feed the baby and give him some focused attention and so on.
That last little bit of expending energy seems to help the children fall asleep quickly and if they are quick to change their clothes for pajamas when they return from the park they still get their “story” before bed so they’re not going to bed completely jazzed up.
I’m still trying to figure out what the order of dinner, jobs, baths etc. should be. Since some of the children have trouble with transitions moving from free-play straight to jobs doesn’t work very well (particularly when I’m trying to cook dinner) so I’ve been having them come in and do their “sitting still practice”, memory work etc. while I finish making dinner, then excusing them from the table as they finish eating to do their evening jobs. This order of things seems to work well provided I bring them in at 5pm and not at 5:15pm. That little bit of time makes a big difference!
I’m also finding that the evening runs more smoothly when I’ve chosen what’s for dinner ahead of time and even done some of the cooking as soon as the children have gone out to play after naps. Baby J is usually still sleeping at that point so if I do all of my slicing and chopping ahead of time I don’t have to try to do that while holding him. I do have a hands-free carrier that I really like but it’s hard to see past him to the cutting board!
I’ve always been a spontaneous rather than a planned out cook but I’m finding at this point in our lives I’m much more creative for some planning!
Next week will be the first week since the suggestion was made that we will have a “regular” week with no travel. I am starting to go to a mother’s book group on Tuesday nights but that’s after supper, while the children and S are romping so the only difference should be that he puts them to bed solo.
I think we’ll like this new routine even more when we’re doing it regularly, it smooths out several rough spots. Thanks, U!