One of the things that I think that most of us can agree on, is that children come with a whole lot of unpredictability! And as a former control freak, the plunge into motherhood not only came with the usual and expected highs and lows, but a complete change (like a total 180!) in how I manage my time and expectations on a day to day basis. I found that either my expectations of myself were too high, or the time management skills that I possessed were just plain poor. I simply couldn’t juggle all the things, so I had to figure out a way to make it all work. Especially at one of the most crucial and difficult times of the day; The Witching Hour.
It sounds like a scene from the “Blair Witch Project” (please don’t make me feel old by saying you’ve never seen it) and you’d be forgiven for thinking that. Many a witching hour have I spent crouched in the corner of a dark room, attempting to hide myself away from the terror, while extreme snot-faced crying into my phone, begging for my husband to get home NOW and save me, because I just can’t see how I will ever make it out alive. But, if the past few years of motherhood have taught me anything, it’s that the witching hour is one of the only parts of our daily routine that I can count on to be there exactly when I expect it to.
Even now, 6 years on from those very first newborn days, and the witching hour still makes regular guest appearances. The witching hour doesn’t leave… it just changes. It changes from tiny baby cries, and hours upon hours of settling, to toddler tantrums because we’re all tired and hungry, to school aged attitude and eye rolling. It’s that magical time of day where tired joins forces with hungry, and hangry makes its grand entrance. So, no matter which stage of parenting you’re in, there’s got to be a way to make it through without adding any extra grey hair, right?
Here’s my top tips. The few (might be no-brainer, but I’m a slow learner) things I’ve learned along the way;
1. Plan ahead
You know it’s coming, so plan for it. Plan a weekly menu so that you know what to take out of the freezer on any given morning, or what you’ll need to prepare ahead of time, or (god forbid) pick up from the supermarket. The last thing you’ll want to do in the throes of childish squeals and toddler tantrums is to have to rustle something up. Get yourself into the habit of planning meals ahead of time. I have a weekly meal planner on the wall of my pantry, and it’s a game changer.
2. Prepare ahead of time
Prep your meals ahead of time. Some people like to meal prep on weekends, I’m a natural procrastinator, so I compromised (with myself) and prep earlier in the day instead. Either way works, as long as it’s not left until the last minute. I use a quiet moment while the kids are all occupied, or the baby is napping to just get a little bit done for myself prior to the witching hour coming around. I either throw my dinner in the slow cooker or chop the salad or the veggies. It could be as simple as just making sure that you have all ingredients ready to go. If you’re like me and you have to multitask and referee wrestling matches while you’re in the kitchen, then you’ll be counting your lucky stars that you’ve already chopped and prepped. It’s just one less thing to do.
Having a routine helps. It helps everyone in the house! I don’t mean a time sensitive schedule, I mean a routine of tasks that happen every single day, in a particular order. This way you know what comes next, and the kids learn what comes next (and even the large man-child knows what comes next). Obviously in the early days this might seem like a useless point, but when the days of primary school come around, and suddenly you’ve got homework, home readers and last-minute projects to complete, the routine helps to keep everyone on track.
4. Factor in some entertainment
I’m going to say a dirty word here… but screen time can be a great little distraction. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to say screen time is a good thing, but just between you me and the remote control, it can be. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I can tell you that many a night, screen time is the difference between me getting dinner on the table, and packing an overnight bag and heading out the door. If you’re not into screen time, then have a goodie bag of games, books or toys that the kids love (and don’t have access to at other times of the day), and it might just help you get through the afternoon.
5. Have a back-up option
Like I said early, kids come with a whole lot of unpredictability. So even on those days when you’re as organised as you possibly can be, the kids can throw a huge curve ball your way, and all of it goes down the drain in the blink of an eye. On these days, have a back-up. A frozen stash of pre-cooked spaghetti sauce works wonders, but if all you can muster up the courage to cook is a packet of two-minute noodles then that’s ok too. Have a little contingency plan, something that you can fall back on when needed. It’s just that little peace of mind, something to ease the pressure on the rough days.
6. Go easy on yourself
When the witching hour hits, you’ve done your prep, you’re good to go, and somehow you STILL find yourself up the creek without a paddle, just take a breather. Some days it’s a win just to make it to the end with all of your hair still safely residing on your head. You don’t have to be superwoman, creating a 5 course, gourmet meal for the kidlets every night. Somethings it just doesn’t work. And if nothing else, the nights that you do resort to noodles or baked beans on toast, you will more than likely have the meal go down without complaint. Sometimes you’ve just got to pick your battles.
Ultimately, you can plan your life down to the nth degree, but kids definitely don’t always want to follow your plan. It really just comes down to making life a little easier on yourself. Forward planning, and a little bit of prep goes a hell of a long way when you’re in the depths of the afternoon, but on any given day, the tiny-human dictators can lure you into the fiery depths of witching hour hell before you can say ‘pass the wine’.