5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Evening

5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Evening

Making time for yourself.  It's a lovely thought, right?  On this site, we've established that it's healthy and needed in any mom's life.  We've even thrown out some ideas on how to carve out an inexpensive hour for yourself while the kids are entertained.  Now, it's time to reclaim some at-home, after-the-sun-goes-down, adult-only time (for yourself or even to share with that special someone).  If bedtime at your house seems to go on for hours leaving you exhausted and falling into your own bed, it's time to make friends with the bedtime routine.

I should set the record straight and let you know that I'm not the Supernanny or even a really seasoned, veteran mom with five kids and twenty years of parenting under my belt.  I'm just an ordinary mom trying to pass on some ideas that have worked for me and actually get me a nice solid chunk of evening time that I can use as I see fit.  So if you'd like to reclaim your lost evenings, here's how to go about getting your darlings into a routine.

1.  Figure out what you're going to do.  That's pretty vague, right?  More specifically, take a few minutes to sit and maybe even jot down a rough outline of how you'd like your typical evening at home to go.  In reality, it might be a hectic grab-n-go dinner at 5, activities until 7, kids bouncing off the wall til 9 and a struggle to have it quiet by 10.  Maybe, in your dream world, it's dinner at 6, homework done by 7, and lights out around 8.  It doesn't matter how hokey or unreal this sounds; what matters is that you've just created a goal and something solid you can work toward. 

2.  Enlist help. If you have a spouse or partner at home, make sure you two are on the same page.  This is a biggy, because you know that if you start being firm about an earlier bedtime or some such change, any kiddo over the age of 5 will run screaming/whining/sobbing to Dad.  If Dad's not in on it, he might thwart your best efforts by giving in to the kids' demands. 

3.  Give a pep talk.  I admit, this will work best if your children are out of the infant and toddler stage.  There is something to be said, however, about explaining and prepping kids of all ages for upcoming changes.  Giving your kids a heads' up that things are going to be changing might just help you avoid a total-shock meltdown.  Remember to be positive; you really are doing this as much for their own good as your own. 

4.  Git-r-done.  Once you've decided on what routine if feasible for your house, and you've informed all parties involved, it's time to put it into practice.  Everything has to start somewhere, so take that first step and give your new routine a try.

5.  Consistency, consistency, consistency. If there is one sure way to doom your plan for evening freedom, it is to be inconsistent.  Sticking firm to the routine for one night then going totally lax the next will probably result in confused kids and even less time for you.  Though they may not seem like it and certainly would never admit it, kids crave consistency.  Deep-down, they like the idea of knowing where their day is going and really want you to help them get there. 

A few more thoughts:  please don't confuse the consistency part with being totally rigid and unbending.  Your new routine that has your toddler in bed by 7:30 will not be compromised if your kiddo gets to bed at 7:33.  What you are aiming for are steps that lead to bed and slumber happening around the same time everyday.  Hang in there, Mom, and you'll have some hard-earned and satisfying time to yourself before calling it a night.

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Lindy Mint's picture

Lindy Mint wrote:

Fri, 01/28/2011 - 19:56 Comment #: 1

I am one who bends, and bends too much. The nights when I can stick to the planned schedule are the ones when I feel best though. I think it's just a matter of tweaking the schedule until you find one that is manageable for everyone in the family.

Recently I discovered that the "bedtime routine" takes about 30 minutes every night. So I'm trying to be more diligent about starting early, so bedtime doesn't drag on.

MoneyCone's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Sun, 01/30/2011 - 17:06 Comment #: 2

If I don't mentally prepare for what I'm going to do, I end up doing nothing! Good tips Melinda!