Because M and I both work and have done so since the boys were born, we’ve had four and half years to endure many a “witching hour” as we transition at the end of the day from work and daycare to home. Work or no work, five or six o’clock seems to bring out the worst in many of us (or at least around here).
Everyone’s a little worn out and almost always hungry. We were “go go go” all day and the commute home provides the first moments of decompression, when we let out all the tension that seemed to build up during the day. Transitioning from work and school to an evening at home is almost always a challenging part of our day.
Our four years of practicing the transition have given us plenty of opportunity to develop and fine tune strategies to ease the pain of the infamous witching hour. While every family is different, discussions with friends suggest that some variation of certain “go-to” tricks seem to work for a lot of families.
As we’ve tried to take the tension of transition time, I thought I’d share a few helpful practices we’ve found. They haven’t solved all the problems, but I do think they’ve helped a little.
So what are these “big fancy” tricks you ask? Here goes:
Make Tomorrow’s To-Do List Today
Before leaving your desk, spend five to ten minutes compiling tomorrow’s to-do list or agenda. Writing down items that are top of mind at the end of the day seems to help make sure they aren’t forgotten by the next day.
At least for me, writing items down also helps me mentally let go of them so I can focus on and enjoy my family more later. Otherwise, my to-do list percolates in my mind all evening while I try not to forget what I need to finish or consider how I will address the items tomorrow.
Bring A Snack To School Pick Up
Grab a snack for yourself before leaving the office and bring a snack for the kids to eat on the way home from school or daycare. Everyone is hungry at the end of the day and a little snack to hold us over makes everyone happier.
We usually choose something that’s fun for the kids but not entirely unhealthy or overly filling (so as to ruin dinner). One of our boys’ favorites is Garden Lite muffins which include veggies as their first couple of ingredients. The muffins aren’t overly sweet nor are they too big, so the boys don’t get too full for dinner. Because I bring them for the boys to eat in the car, it’s also nice that they aren’t particularly crumbly muffins. They’re quite a bit cleaner than most muffins. If you have little ones with allergies or want to include them as a snack in their lunches, the Garden Lite muffins are also gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free.
If you haven’t tried them, Garden Lite is currently offering a coupon to try them out. Be sure to check it. My boys opted for the 4 packs of Chocolate and Banana Chocolate Chip flavors last time we were at Giant, but they have other flavors, like Blueberry Oat and Carrot Berry as well.
Let the kids play independently for 10 – 15 minutes upon arriving at home if they are old enough to do this. If TV is allowed in your house, maybe the children get 15 minutes of screen time while you change clothes and get situated for the evening.
Our little ones are too young to be entirely left alone for that long. But M and I often take turns having 10-15 minutes to ourselves. As they’ve gotten a bit older, we can let them be and check on them every couple minutes while settling into the evening.
Have a Dinner Plan
If we don’t know what we’re having for dinner before we leave in the morning, it’s almost guaranteed meal time won’t go well. While it’s always best to plan all your meals ahead on the weekend (a long-shot goal we attain on occasion but not with regularity), try to at least compile a dinner idea before leaving for the day.
My favorite option, when we do actually get around to planning meals on the weekends, are fajitas. I cut up chicken and veggies, toss it in the freezer on Sunday, and pull it out in the morning the day we are going to eat it. Leftovers prepared on Sunday and eaten during the week work too. But I love that the fajitas make for a really easy meal that tastes more fresh than warmed up meals prepped in advance.
Let the Children Play Near The Kitchen (While Starting Dinner Prep)
Whether the little ones have a few toys stashed near the kitchen or the older kids do their homework in the area, consider keeping them close to the kitchen upon first arriving home. I let the boys play with blocks and Legos or draw and color while I prepare dinner. Having them close by allows me to keep one eye on the food and one eye on the boys.
I know there are many different ideas that work for different families. What works for you? I’d love to hear any other ideas. More options to make life feel a little more relaxed are always welcome.
Also, if you haven’t tried Garden Lites muffins, they’re definitely worth a shot so don’t forget about the coupon. The boys have no idea they’re made with veggies (which says something). Even knowing the ingredients, I agree they taste great and “hide” the veggies well.
I found my Garden Lites muffins in the frozen food section at Giant in their natural foods section. Let me know what you think if you try them.