I have struggled for years with how to manage the arriving home from work process. It has always been hard, and even though my kids are now three, it’s not getting any easier. We’ve all heard about the witching hour, well it’s more like the witching hours in our house. From 5 to 8 pm my kids are pretty bad. They’re getting tired and hungry and are prone to melt downs. I’ve been at work all day and just want to kiss and cuddle on my kids when I get home and not be the enforcer. It’s such a bummer to come in and immediately haul kids away from the dinner table and banish little ones into time-outs.
I actually DO know they’re sweet precious kids because they’re cool on the weekends. We wake up and laugh and play and have fun, so I realize it is just the time. Unfortunately, we working moms (parents) get the short end of the stick because that’s the only time we see them during the week.
While managing the crazy two meltdown hours is certainly hard, one of the hardest things is the first five minutes upon arriving at the house. I’ve been trying out different techniques lately, and I don’t have it down yet, but here are a few tips working for me right now:
- Pee at work. I know this sounds ridiculous, but if I don’t pee before I leave work, then I have to go as soon as I get home (I have about a 35 minute commute). I’m always rushing out the door to hurry to the car at work, but if you spend the extra two minutes to run to the bathroom there it is so much easier for you and the kids and you can avoid an audience (until you finally DO go at home).
- Have your iPhone/Blackberry or any other work technology put away before walking in the door. There’s no bigger bummer to a little kid than you walking in and them being so excited to see you but you still being plugged in for work. If you have to take a call, then take it from the car in the street so they can’t see you in the driveway. If you have to return an email, do the same thing – respond before walking in while you’re in the street not the driveway. They missed you. Don’t touch work, unless there’s a major emergency, until they’re in bed.
- Have a chair/shelf/drawer by the back door (or wherever you enter the house). As soon as I walk in my kids are running for me, so my jacket/shoes/purse just get dropped on this chair at our back door and I can drop to my knees and give hugs and kisses unencumbered. I also take off particularly tantalizing jewelry in the car so it doesn’t get broken – I’ve been angry mom over broken necklaces before so I’m doing a little preventative medicine.
- Don’t make an elaborate dinner when you arrive home. I generally do one of three things. One, use my crock pot. That’s one or two nights a week. That not only covers the meal being done upon my arrival but also takes me to solution two. Two, leftovers. Casseroles and crock pot meals are perfect for this. Reheat and presto, dinner. Three, prebuy. There are a few good pre-done options at places like Costco. This week we had their turkey spinach lasagna for dinner. All I had to do was warm up some vegetables or put dressing on a salad (yes, my kids like lettuce, I’m so lucky). It’s easier if you have some uninterrupted time with them – say 20 minutes – before distractions hit, and dinner is the number one reason for my nearly immediate distraction from the kids.
This has not solved the meltdowns or time-outs or general witching hour issues, but it has made the first 15 minutes I get home happier for all involved. If you can help me figure out how to survive the following 2 hours, then I’ll buy you dinner 🙂
Our routine is a bit different. Most days, I get home before my husband and daughter. I used to pick her up every day because I couldn’t wait to see her. But, trying to get her home and dinner on the table wasn’t working. So, since my husband would pick her up literally 15 minutes later and it is less than a mile from his office (and about 10 miles out of my way), I finally started letting him pick her up-most days.
I get home and get dinner on the table for them when they walk in the door. Easy/quick meals as you mentioned. From dinner time on, our life is dictated by a routine led by a timer. I don’t even remember when we started it, but sometime in the past year, the meltdowns were getting out of hand. My independent tot wanted to call the shots and not listen to Mom and Dad when we tried to get her to the bath or book time, etc…So, we started setting a timer. I thought maybe if I wasn’t the one “telling” her it was time to do something, she would comply. Lo and behold, it worked. We set the timer and will ask, “Hadley, what happens when the timer goes off?” She will tell us (bath time, book time, school time, etc…). As soon as that timer goes off, she transitions to the next thing. I can’t believe how well it has worked. It even came in handy when she was being allergy tested and couldn’t wear her shirt-which caused the freak out of all freak outs. My husband, in all his genious, set the timer on his phone and told her we could put her shirt on when the timer went off. Poor thing stood there watching the numbers on the timer click past. She was still uncomfortable and upset, but much more composed.
Whatever it is, I hope you find something to make those hours more pleasant for everyone. I think a lot of it is just age. Then again, there are days I come home and want to have a meltdown too! : )
I love love love the timer idea – I’m absolutely using that!
Amy Hunt says
I loved this! And yeah, “surviving the following two hours” . . . I get you there! 🙂
Routine. Routine. Routine. This includes a family walk. We try to take one together after dinner and maybe play the ball in the yard for 15 minutes or so. Then we read together as a family once pjs are on. These days are fewer and fewer for us, but we’re trying our best to savor them.
I try to keep my phone off and don’t look at email until after the kid is in bed. Then, I try to only give myself until 8 p.m. at which point my groom and I watch some tv together. If we need to talk about something important, then we do it before 8 p.m. just after the kid is in bed. We also try to talk for 10 minutes or so while we’re finishing up prepping for dinner . . . after I’ve done the hello and hugs and all that with a rambunctious kid. Usually he’ll walk away for a few minutes and so we grab that time to connect, and we’ll usually be found hugging when the boy returns which is just nice for all of us of course. (again, with only one kid it’s a lot easier for me).
Amy – we really need to implement a walk! We do every once and a while but live on a busy street and it’s hard with them being so nutty. My hubby and I do kiss on each other but he doesn’t arrive home until after dinner many days…..
Elizabeth Marsh says
Love Love Love this advice! Very simple and easy to incorporate! I am a new mother and working mom to 4.5 month old GGG triplets and really enjoy reading your blog! Thank you!
Oh congratulations Elizebeth!!!! I’m so happy for you guys. I’d love to see a picture!
Thank you for this post – I love your tips! It feels great knowing that we’re not alone in this 🙂 My husband and I both work full time and we have a 2 1/2 year old son and we’re expecting our second child in July. The few hours between getting home from work and putting our son to bed can be so difficult! There are some days that I feel like all I do in those few hours that I see our son is get after him and constantly discipline and it makes me feel awful! We have used the timer to help with transitions and that does seem to help. We also use it in the morning to help our son know what’s coming next as we’re rushing through the morning trying to get out the door. I live for the weekends when we’re usually not quite so rushed and can enjoy some down time at home! Thanks again for the post – it is just so encouraging to know that we’re not the only ones who deal with this.
The timer is such a great idea that we just have to try – it’s nice to know we’re not alone!!!