Which is better?
When I was little Papa worked all the time and we hardly ever saw him. When we did see him he was tired and stressed and we were cranky and ready for bed. I feel like I didn’t really get to know him until I grew up.
When I was little sometimes Papa would work late. I remember waiting for him after supper and thinking about what I would tell him about what we did that day or my schoolwork. Mom used to read to us or sing and play the recorder. Sometimes we did a project or played quietly. When Papa came in we would run to bring our books and snuggle with him while he read to us or gave us rides…
The difference is those two memories is primarily in the hands of the mother in the home.
One of the things I’ve thinking about the last couple of weeks is how to work with these new longer evening before S gets home from work. With his new work schedule we usually don’t see him before about 7:30 which means that he only has about 1/2 an hour before the first bedtime hits.? I’ve been feeding the children dinner and having them ready for bed by the time he gets home, but the waiting time between when dinner is over and his arrival is a little tricky to fill.
For one thing they miss their Papa. We have explained why the schedule has changed and they do understand some (last night F’s question was “Who made the rule that Papa has to take this call in the evening?”) but S going back to work has been an adjustment from the beginning, particularly for W who was born while S was laid off and was used to having Papa around most of the time.
I tend to hear a lot of variations on the theme of “Where’s Papa? When is Papa coming home?” which left unchecked tends to make them grumpy.
So how do I help them to have a good evening and be in a good frame of mind when Papa does get home?
- We’ve been eating supper earlier. When we eat as a family we eat around 6:30 but now I’ve been trying to feed them about 5:30. That seems to work better in terms of blood sugar for one thing and gives us some time for cleaning up the kitchen afterward.
- Change for bed, brush teeth and so on right after supper. They can bring their blankies down and a stuffed animal or two and start getting into sleep mode.
- We’ve been reading and singing quite a bit in the evening. They usually want S to read to them too, so I try to do more singing than reading (I also often read to them before naps). This has been good especially for W who hasn’t gotten as much practice with the “baby” songs as the others.
- We try to stagger the bedtimes a bit so that they each get some Mama or Papa time without the others. Sometimes this is successful and sometimes not.
I’ve also thought of doing the following:
- Put out their school or coloring papers for S to look at in the evening.
- Call Papa at about 4 pm when I know he’s going to be later than usual (although that’s often not predictable) He is very good about calling if he thinks he’s going to be late and I need to make a practice of letting them talk to him then.
- Encouraging them to remember things to tell him when he gets home.
Most importantly I want to communicate to them by my attitude and actions that while we would prefer Papa to be home with us, we can still have a good evening together and that we can accept this schedule as being in God’s hands and know that when it is time for it to change again it will.In the meantime we can do things that will create a peaceful home atmosphere when S does get home and good memories for all of us when the children are grown.
There are some benefits too: I get to eat supper and talk to S every evening without trying to supervise the children’s meal, table manners and etc. at the same time. Almost like a little date!