I recently read an article on the best way to spend your evening. It went something along the lines of; clearing your relaxing space at 7:30pm; turning off your devices at 8:00pm; and relaxing with your family at 8:30pm. Perhaps this was written by someone without children, with a self-cleaning house and no work deadlines. I don’t know about you, but here is the reality of an evening in my house with a seventeen-month-old:
4:30: Return from wherever we've been for the day, start dinner, and give in and let the toddler watch half-an-hour of TV so I don’t have to repeatedly remove her from the kitchen because the oven is hot.
5:15: Dish up, help toddler tidy all the toys and household items she's pulled out from every cupboard. Correction, I tidy up while she continues to pull things out of all the drawers.
5:20: Wash toddler's hands and sit her up for dinner. Try to start clearing the mess in the kitchen while I grab mouthfuls of my meal.
5:40: Husband returns. Attempt to tell each other about our respective days while reminding toddler we scoop with our fork, not our fingers, and our feet go down, not on the table.
5:45: Clean toddler's hands and face and get her down from the table. Start the mammoth task of cleaning the kitchen for the fifth time of the day (three meals and two snacks): Clear the table, wipe table and highchair and discover more food is on the highchair and floor than in the toddler's tummy. Sweep under the table. Continually return the toddler to the living room and remind husband to play with/distract toddler and leave work at the door until she's gone to bed. Suggest husband play a quiet game or read a book rather than playing chase.
Empty dishwasher and draining board of clean dishes, reload dishwasher, spray and wipe draining board and sink. Wash up what can’t go in the dishwasher. Portion up leftovers for fridge/freezer. Spray down the worktops, empty bin, recycling box and food bin. Sweep floor while toddler insists on using her own broom and dustpan and brush to help sweep. (Sometimes we swap and I play with toddler while hub cleans kitchen this is usually his precious short time with her.)
6:15: Take toddler up for bath. (Generally, husband is in charge of bath-time so I can continue to clean the bombsite, but occasionally we swap jobs.) Here is a rundown of toddler's bath-time:
Help toddler walk upstairs. Toddler gets distracted by seeing herself in over-mantle mirror or spotting toys that haven’t yet been tidied. Make a game of bouncing toddler up the stairs to speed up the process. Promptly close the stair-gate behind us.
Run the bath, close all upstairs curtains and doors while repeatedly removing toddler - who is calling, "meme, meme," (cream) - from our bedroom. Retrieve my face-cream, eye-cream and lip-balm from her hands.
Check the bath and it’s too hot. Add more cold water. Get the change mat, pyjamas, nappy, wipes and cream ready on her bedroom floor.
Check the bath. It's too cold. Add more hot water. Undress the toddler. Check the bath while the toddler runs around the hall naked with the "meme", calling, "wee-wee."
The bath temperature is finally ok. Add a splash of cold water so the tap's not too hot. Prise the "meme" out of the toddler's hands and dip her toes into the bath. Realise I've forgotten the towel/flannel/milk so call to husband to bring up one or all of them. Drop bath toys into the bath to distract toddler so I can brush her teeth. Remind toddler to say "ah". Remind toddler to sit down. Wash toddler's body with flannel. Toddler takes flannel and wants to do it herself. Toddler becomes repeatedly distracted by her reflection in the taps but will not let go of the flannel so I can finish the job properly. End up using my sponge to wash her body but make a mental note (again) to bring two flannels in future.
Remind toddler to tip her head back for hair-wash time. Toddler goes ridged when I try to help her lean back. Give up and pour a jug of water over her head. She stands up and tries to climb out of the bath. Use the towel to pat her eyes. Squirt a quick dollop of shampoo while she lifts a leg out of the bath. Massage in shampoo while she still has one leg out of the bath, then lift her on to my lap on the towel as the only way to lie her down and rinse off the shampoo. Get soaked despite the towel. Tell her we're all done and wrap her in the towel and receive the cosiest hug. Breathe her in.
6:35: Wedge toddler's bedroom door shut with my foot while she tries to escape and I try to dry her. Listen to endless demands of "meme" while I wriggle her into her nappy. Give in and let her hold the "meme" so I can put on her pyjama top. Listen to endless demands of "anona, anona" (another.) Give in and let her hold "anona" tube of "meme" so she has one in each hand. This placates her so I can put on her pyjama trousers. Realise she is sucking the teething gel and there is a hole in the tube. Remind her we're not eating or it will be gone. Realise she is sucking the yellow nappy cream and there is a hole in the tube. Both tubes of "meme" are quickly put back into the cupboard and the socks are finally on. Place a book on her chair for her to look at while I zip her into her sleeping bag.
6:45: Dim the light and sit her on my lap with a book and some milk. Breathe. At last, some quiet time.
7:00: Say goodnight to the books and to the moon and the stars and give her the blanket I've been keeping down my top. Enjoy a few seconds of bliss while she cuddles sleepily into my chest as I turn off the light and hum, "Hush Little Baby." Drink her in. Lie her down with a kiss and watch her surrender into her blankets. Tell her Mummy loves her and Mummy will see her soon. Close the door behind me.
7:05: Back downstairs with the monitor. Pick up any stray toys. Check the washing: Fold dry washing, hang up wet washing from the machine and put on another load. Leave dry washing basket by the stairs to go up. Run out to the car to bring in the bags. Restock change-bag. Check what we're doing tomorrow and prepare lunches and bags. Try to reply to any messages I've missed today. Vacuum up dog-hairs. Check if husband has fed and walked dogs and picked up dog poo from the garden. Take up clean washing and put away.
Three nights a week, we'll be done by around 8:30, and then it's into my pyjamas, brush teeth and cleanse face, throw my feet up on husband's lap on the sofa in front of the TV with my laptop and get on with some writing work until it's time to do a final dog-check and tidy up before we collapse up to bed at around 10:30.
Of course, many of us parents have to work nights - when our spouses can be at home with the babes. Four nights of the week, I'm a sleep-in support worker. On those nights, it continues like this:
8:10: Grab my work bag and kiss hub goodbye. Listen to Classic FM on my drive to work (I know) in a vain attempt to block my mind from running through all the things I've got to do when I get to work and all the things I need to do tomorrow.
8:50: Arrive at work, greet all and take handover. Of course, I can't give details for confidentiality reasons but suffice to say, I help people with anything they need support with during the evening. I sometimes clean a kitchen (for the sixth time of the day). Between tasks, take time for fond chats and shared jokes for those who want company.
10:30: Lock up. Start the paperwork.
11:00: Reply to hub's goodnight text from an hour earlier. Try to read for ten minutes before finally falling to sleep.
It's a good job I love my life.
What about your evening routine?