I don’t know how you working mommas handle this: the homecoming. Every day, it starts out as such a delight. I’ve missed my kids all day at work, and I rush home to see them run pell-mell into my arms. Hugs and kisses and dancing all around. It’s a regular jubilee. Every single day this occurs when I get home. What could possibly be the problem?
Well, here’s the problem. Usually, I get home right around the time my nanny leaves. This is not something I can change because she gets off at 5:30 and it’s all I can do to hit the road just before 5 from my office to make it home in time. Sometimes, it’s just not possible, and Bray takes hand off duty. Shortly thereafter, say right around 6, the kids eat dinner. I’m in work clothes and have to change. So I spend a couple minutes doing kissing and hugging and another minute checking in with our nanny to see if anything unusual happened that day. Then I really do need to change. The kids insist that they follow me into the bedroom, which is fine (I’ve lost my once firm sense of modesty), but they shred everything in the bedroom. They find my earrings, contacts, remote, flashlight, you name it, and it gets lost or broken. Then I get frustrated and they melt down.
Fifteen minutes to get from absolute bliss to a dramatic unraveling. Of course, you still have to manage to get dinner cooked and kids eating mere minutes later. So you have three two-year olds melting down near a hot stove or oven (or sadly, sometimes just exposed to microwave radiation). Everything is rushed. They go into eating dinner having just been upset – I’m betting that doesn’t help digestion. Post dinner is manageable again because we get to play, outside if the weather is nice, and read and take baths and tell stories. But that first transition hour is brutal.
I would love to make it easier. So I’m collecting tips – for working moms with multiple kids everywhere. Assume that my arrival time and the nanny’s departure time is relatively inflexible. What can be done to make this time a more peaceful and happy time for kids and parents? I’ll update the post with the great ideas I receive and hopefully we can all make dinner time less of a pressure cooker.
UPDATE 5-14: I got so many fabulous ideas from moms groups and comments and Facebook, when I copied them all into a Word doc, they took FOUR pages, so I’ve summarized the highlights in categories. This is what I’ve tried: I will have clothes to change into in the laundry room so I don’t have to change in my bedroom, I will pull together a crockpot meal on Sundays (it’s a start) and have my nanny turn it on Mondays, and I will take a deep breath and be happy I have 3 two year olds that can run and give me hugs (oh, and I’m buying an Ottoman for the end of our bed!):
1. Regarding changing clothes:
• Can you get your clothes to change into and bring them into a more kid-friendly zone? We usually leave our bedroom off limits for the kids and the cat, since it’s not safe for little people.
• Change clothes right before you leave from work.
• This might sound nutty but is there any way you can have the clothes you’re changing into right off the kitchen, so that you don’t have to change in the bedroom?
• I have this issue in reverse in the morning. I am not completely dressed and ready by the time the boys need to get up, so I make them breakfast, get them up and strap them into their booster chairs, and then go back and finish getting ready (with frequent check-ins). We have progressed to the point that they can eat unsupervised for short intervals.
2. Regarding dinner:
• I am in the exact situation except I have 20 months old twins. I am the queen of the crockpot and I sometimes make tomorrow’s dinner the night before and reheat it. Sometimes when I get home, I take about 10 minutes to spend with my twins and it helps appease them so I can then change and get dinner on the table. If I’m just reheating dinner, I’ll put them in their chairs and give them something light to snack on like a cracker or fruit while I fix their plates. I’ve also found that music calms them down. I’ve noticed if I put on a children’s CD, they’ll start dancing and it buys me just enough time to get dinner on the table.
• Dinners are hard for me. If I do manage to cook something I think is healthy, we’re in a constant fight about keep away from the stove, don’t play with the trash can, stop running in the house, etc. I try to do as much microwaving (steamed vegetables) and simplicity (Greek yogurt and berries, cheese and tomatoes, pasta and tomato sauce, scrambled eggs) as possible. • Have the nanny prepare a simple appetizer for the children that they can eat while you are fixing dinner. Plan out simple meals or let the kids eat when you get home and you eat when they go to bed.
• I usually let my twins play games on my iPhone and iPad while I am changing clothes and starting dinner. Also, if you are not against a little t.v. in the evening, this could buy you a little time. I don’t let mine kids watch t.v. any other time of the day so, they are glued to it while I fix dinner.
• My husband usually fixes dinners for them the same way others have suggested–he reheats leftovers or does something quick like frozen foods or makes a quesadilla. Yes, I don’t feel good about the quality of food that we are feeding them, but I’ve had to accept this for now. Then my husband and I eat by ourselves after the boys go to bed.
• What about cooking several dinners during the weekend and freezing them …so before you come home your nanny can put a dinner in the oven to heat up, then all that would be left is just a salad or vegetables to complete your meal?
• What about changing their meals around so they eat a big lunch with the nanny, and then sandwiches or something similar at dinner. I rarely cook their dinners from scratch on the day. I have lots of items frozen in small portions just enough for them so everything gets cooked in the microwave, and I do veggies fresh. If the worst comes to it, then they eat their dinner in separate bits while the next bit is cooking and cooling. Also if you eat and cook yours separately, then make enough for them and they can have it the next day.
• When my kids were young, I’d prepare the next night’s meal after they went to bed. That way, walking in the door at least I had a head start on the feeding situation.
3. Regarding our bedroom chaos:
• When my son was two, we had a Thomas lego set that we kept in our bedroom that he was only allowed to play with in our room. We had a tradition of going up to my room whenever I got home from work so I could change. It cut down greatly on him getting into other things, and we would always tell him when he was done to clean it up so he could play with it next time. Now we actually have an ottoman at the end of our bed that opens up, and he has a bunch of toys inside. He calls it his treasure chest and makes a big deal out of opening it.
• As for the mayhem, it happens with my husband every day! I hope this isn’t too blunt, but they are just being toddlers messing in your room, so I think you need to find a way to either distract them or keep all the things you don’t want them touching out of their way. And be firm with them, they are mommy’s special things, please don’t touch. We’ve been doing this with ours for a while. Also my husband gets them to help him get changed, fetch the hanger, put his socks in the clothes basket, etc.
• I have given my two and a half yr old daughter a little jewelry box of her own with a couple of my old costume jewels in it. She also puts her “jewelry” on when I do and I put all my other things on a high shelf for now.