A hectic evening schedule gives us about two hours from coming home to bedtime. Here’s how we cram dinner, downtime, and other things into a short block of time.
Our weekday schedule for 2015 gives my daughter and me about two hours to cram in all of our evening activities. Our schedule used to be a little looser, but due to my husband’s work schedule, I have to get her from school almost every night, which puts me at home by 5:30 PM (and sometimes later). This isn’t as late as it could be, but with a 7:30 PM bedtime, it’s late enough.
I am mostly flying solo until after she and I have dinner, and then my husband comes home and can step in. How do we make it work? Because we are amazing superparents who keep an organized schedule:
5:30 to 5:35 PM: Come home. Take out the dog, set up my daughter with a TV show to watch while I make dinner (unless TV rights have been revoked, which has been a thing).
5:35 to 5:50 PM: Secretly eat a dinner’s worth of snacks while my daughter is in the other room. Quickly hide snacks if she comes in. Also, get so wrapped up in eating snacks that I forget to start dinner.
5:50 to 6:00 PM: Make dinner, which lately has been something quick like leftovers, frozen pizza, beans and tortillas, eggs, peanut butter toast, and/or cereal.
6:00 PM: Feed the dog to give myself a few minutes when she is not trying or succeeding to eat everything that I have out on the counter, and then plate and serve dinner.
6:05 to 6:15 PM: I eat dinner, while my daughter eats fruit and protein on her plate.
6:15 to 6:40 PM: Wait while my daughter eats 1/4 of a carrot while she simultaneously asks for a treat if she ever finishes her carrots. Meanwhile, I clean up dinner, fuss about how it could possibly take a person that long to eat that small amount of carrots, and then remind my daughter that desserts aren’t an everyday treat. I also review any homework assignments (of which she has one a month, but I often forget about–January has an assignment of writing down something kind she did every day). If I earlier told my child she could do something like paint when we got home, this is when she remembers, so I compromise it into a quick drawing session with crayons.
6:45 PM: Give my daughter a dessert anyway when carrots are done because although I threaten that a small piece of chocolate or candy is a sometimes treat, I consistently threaten this and then consistently let her have a small piece of candy. Consistency is so important for parents.
6:50 PM: Get bath ready, but also get distracted with things like letting her watch movie clips from Gremlins because earlier in the day she was making noises that reminded me of Gizmo, and although I explained to her that Gremlins is a movie that gave me nightmares as a kid and she can’t watch it, I find clips of Gizmo singing for her to watch instead. Or I wait for her to take a carrot’s amount of time to eat three Skittles. Things like that.
6:50 to 7:00 PM: Quick bath! Set the timer for 10 minutes.
7:00 to 7:05 PM: Give in to fussing over wanting more bath playtime and add another few minutes. Again, consistently giving in is very important, especially if you sound exhausted when you do it.
7:05 to 7:20 PM: Daughter gets in pjs, brushes/flosses,1 hems over picking out books despite a million requests to do so.
7:30 PM: Bedtime. Her bedtime routine itself has varying level of complications and involves lots of parent-sung folk or Carpenters’ songs, but the goal is that she is asleep by 8:00 (or we’re at least out of her room), which is typically met during the week.
Other things I do to get a jump on the evening
- Start laundry/clean up as I run around the house while she finishes up dinner or while it’s cooking (if I’m cooking anything).
- Pick easy meals to eat for the weekdays and try to prep for those on Sunday. I’m mostly over the idea that we all need to eat the same thing, especially since the three of us often aren’t eating dinner together anyway. But the quick meals are usually similar meals, and nothing she likes to eat takes more than ten minutes to put together.
- Don’t freak out. As long as she eats dinner and then goes to bed, that’s enough.
If we need to cut time, then dinner is usually late, she watches an 11-minute Adventure Time instead of her usual 22-minute show, there is no bath, the number of books is cut, or she goes to bed holding a piece of peanut butter toast. We make it work, and I don’t feel rushed. I personally have at least two more hours to do things after she goes to bed, and that helps.
I can’t imagine what evenings will look like when she’s older and there are things like extracurricular activities, real homework to consider, or network TV shows that come on between 8:00 and 9:00 PM that we all want to watch,2 but we adapt well to changes.
Our evening routines often have to change, and not only for inconvenient reasons. She used to be in bed by 6:30. Sometimes I didn’t leave work until 6:00 and worked farther away. I used to spend a significant amount of time in the evening with breast pump parts. The round trip to get her from her babysitter took 20 minutes longer than it does to get her from school these days.
I know that in a few year’s time I’ll look back on our two-hour evenings, when she’s older and goes to bed later and can do more things without my help, and wonder how we managed to cram so much into so little time. Maybe the secret is that two hours is actually a lot of time. She has an hour to get ready in the morning, and most of that is spent with one of us repeatedly telling her to hurry up or saying “You’re not ready yet?” I have no tips on how to successfully get your morning routine in shape, other than to do as much as you can the night before. And don’t keep hitting snooze (I know this but am currently not practicing it).
If you’re like me, and that busy evening is your only significant weekday time with your child, be sure to balance getting things done with doing something fun like watching clips of Gizmo together. He’s so cute.
Photo by: Chris Preen