Monday, September 15, 2014

Surviving the Witching Hour

I love my kids.  I really do.  My favorite times with them are when we engage one on one.  Just me and ONE of them.  My least favorite time of motherhood - the witching hour.  When all five of us are tired, hungry, and cranky.  We all have a different agenda and everyone seems to need mama's help.

Before we had kids, my husband and I would cook together after work.  We would chat and catch up.  He was a great sous chef and the process of cooking was so much fun.  When I had Anthony, we switched things up.   I would wait for him to get home and entertain the baby so that I could cook, or if timing didn't work out I would cook with Anthony either strapped to my back or in a little seat on the counter (yes, ON the counter, don't call CPS, he is just fine).   As the number of children increased, I became aware that I really wasn't going to be able to carry them all, no matter how cool the sling, while I cooked.  They also really couldn't wait until 7:00 or 7:30 to eat on a nightly basis (which is what it would be if I waited to start cooking until husband came home), so I needed to figure out how to get dinner on the table with all of them around.

The first obvious answer is to get the kids to pitch in and help.

That is a great solution coming from someone with no kids or with only one child.

It is really hard to supervise a 6 year old cracking eggs while the 2 year old is moving the stools to come 'help' too, the 8 year old still needs help with his homework and the 11 year old is asking for assistance with his piano piece.   I want them pretty much out of the kitchen while I whirl around and make dinner.  Our kids pitch in and help in the LAST stages of dinner.  They clear the table, set the table, get drinks and napkins. Then after dinner they clear, load, and wipe everything up.

So how do you actually survive the witching hour?

My strategy is to eliminate the source of many of the problems.  Here are our problems:

The kids are hungry.  Give them food.  Healthy stuff.  I have actually told my kids "no you can't have a banana, your pizza is almost done!" What?  What was I thinking?  So I give them healthy food before they even ask.  Don't ASK them "do you want some carrots and celery?".  Just put it in a bowl on the table.  Slice some apples and pears and put those out.
Along the same lines, once I have called the kids, they have set the table, and there plates are ready, they do NOT have to wait for everyone to sit.  They can eat their vegetables.  Only their veggies.  Veggies taste so much better when they are hot.  It also gets them in the habit of eating their veggies first.  Once everyone is seated then we pray and begin dinner officially.

They are tired.  It is tough being a kid.  They are tired and bored but don't want to do their work.  We try to get all the homework done as soon as they get home from school.  I am "on" then. I  don't have to be in the kitchen yet.  They can snack and study and I am there to help.  Usually they are done with their homework by the time I need to start dinner.  That is when I let them relax & just play.  Monday - Friday they have a no TV rule, but they can play in their rooms or with their siblings once their school work is done.  When the weather is nice they all go outside.

Mama is uptight or stressed. Find your stressors and de-stressors.  My stressors are usually the clock, the concern about bedtimes and having dinner ready quickly, and my own issue of wanting portray the image that I 'have it all together' when my husband comes home. So my solutions, yours may be different depending on your source of stress and how you de-stress.

  • A little grown up time.  I love watching the news while I cook, but if the kids are inside it doesn't work. I get even more uptight because I am trying to listen to the news, cook and parent. I only turn on the news when the kids are occupied.  
  • A little Happy hour. I also pour myself a drink in a pretty glass.  There is a reason why it is called 'happy hour'.  It makes me a little happier.  If I know we are both staying home all night then I pour the hubs one too.  Often I don't even get to drink it until we sit down for dinner because, lets be honest, I am actually BUSY getting dinner made.  But it is nice to know it is there. 
  • A little trick.  When I am stressed because dinner is a little behind, I make sure to get onions or something else good smelling in the skillet.  It tells me (and the kids and husband) that dinner is eventually on its way, even when I have no clue where to start with the evening meal. 
  • I keep it simple.  If your kids love raw veggies, don't take the time or make the mess of cooking them every night.  Every meal doesn't have to gourmet.  Utilize your left overs and get creative.  If you only have enough left overs for some of you then make them into smaller servings and put them out as an appetizer.  Or give them to the kids and make a simple, healthy dinner for you and your spouse.  We love eating a simple salad on nights like that.  The kids can have the left over stroganoff or stir fry.  
Remember your calling.  Your calling is to be a mother, to love, to serve.  It is hard.  But doing your job SIMPLY with love is more important that doing something GRAND with resentment.

So to summarize this post, I suppose my solution is to give them a bag of carrots, kick them outside, pour yourself (and your husband) a glass of wine, turn on the evening news and sauté some onions.  Take a deep breath.  Sound about right?  What did I miss? Share your survival tip for the rest of us!

Thanks for stopping by!

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