Weeknights can be very stressful and all too often we find ourselves in a familiar routine. As work day expires with everything half-finished, you jet off to pick up the kids to start your evening ritual. When you get home you stare desperately at the fridge praying something will jump out at you for dinner. You settle for mac and cheese and try to ignore all those judgemental thoughts from your mother running through your head. The rest of the evening is spent juggling kids, exchanging sighs, attempting to get 5 minutes to yourself by hiding in the bathroom with your iPhone (yet somehow they always find you), and hoping your kids will fall asleep early so you can finish what you left at work. Instead of stressing through the evening, try these quick tips to help you reclaim your weeknights, get the most out of the few precious hours you have with your family, and even leave a little time for yourself.
Before you leave the house in the morning, devise a plan for dinner.
Although mornings can be chaotic, having dinner decided early can make all the difference. Even if your plan involves ordering pizza or making mac and cheese, at least you can enjoy the indulgence with your family instead of stressing about being a failure. If you are fortunate enough to have time to cook, then you can hit the ground running when you walk through the door. Get the kids involved in dinner by having them cook, set the table, and clean up. This helps teach them a respect and appreciation for the work you put into family meals and also serves as a built-in activity and opportunity to talk about their day.
Create a routine with your family for the first 30 minutes when you walk through the door.
For us, this generally involves the kids changing out of uniforms and heading outside to play or watching TV (I know, I know, I said watch TV). Give yourself enough time to get dinner going and get the house settled by directing the little ones off into something they can do alone. Nothing is more stressful than having everyone needing you or tugging at your leg, while you are trying to set up your pre-planned culinary masterpiece. And if you resort to TV (which will happen I promise) relieve your guilt by inviting the kids in when you are ready to have them help cook or set the table. Establishing a routine will help reclaim your weeknights and set your kids’ expectations that they will get the attention they need but not right when you walk through the door.
Make time to have a quick chat with your partner without the kids.
My husband and I try to have a quick chat while the kids are entertaining themselves so we can catch up and get on the same page. If we cannot find time in the first 30 minutes of getting home, we excuse the children from the table and take an extra 15 minutes to chat alone. This allows us to talk about our day and ask for help with whatever we need to get through the evening or the week. Once we have caught up we can proceed with the rest of the evening’s activities as a strong team.
Have a routine you can fall into to finish the night.
Having an established routine with your kids that you can quickly move into will help finish the night on a peaceful note. It can be as simple as a bath, books, and lights out (and then water, milk, hugs, more hugs), and with a dash of consistency the kids will know what to expect and it will be (somewhat) smoother.
The last 30 minutes of your night is just as important as the first 30. Reclaim your weeknights by giving yourself some time to finish up the work you left at 5 o’clock, catching up on Facebook, or applying your night cream. Taking time to relax and finish off the day will allow you to reset for the next. Weeknights will never go as planned (as I write this I have no idea what I’m making for dinner), but taking a few small moments throughout the evening will result in less stress and more enjoyable evenings.