4pm Dinner

I'm always on the lookout for ideas to make the domestic management side of my job easier. After my third baby was born, I packed up the ironing board and iron for good. I asked my very amazing husband to iron his own uniforms to which he graciously agreed. After baby number four and almost losing my life floating in a sea of washing, I did a search on 'Large Family Laundry Systems' and modified the process in which we kept our clothes clean, dry and wearable!

Things have been coasting along OK in terms of domestic systems here.

We have a family dirty clothes basket, into which all our dirty washing goes. I then hang it on the line, usually with help from my youngest daughters and sometimes my eldest daughter. It's meant to my eldests' job in the morning before school, but it's simply too cold for her during winter to be out there, pegging away! Our washing is hung in sections: boys, girls, mum & dads and linen. That way, when it's taken off the line (usually with the 'help' of some little people), it goes inside and can be easily sorted. Occasionally I put the washing straight into their own wire drawer that I have set up under the bench in our laundry.

The latest challenge has been dinner time. We're finding that once we get home from school, the slide into what's affectionately known as 'rush hour' in our home disappears and we've been struggling to get the children to bed at a reasonable hour. This, of course, leads to delightful consequences such as a cup of water being thrown over a recalcitrant child who refuses to get out of bed, groans and moans from under the covers most mornings and in general, a pretty yucko atmosphere as we prepare for the day.

I'd heard whispers previously of families who fed their children as soon as they got home from school, but I'd sort of relegated them to 'freaky' in my mind. After too many mornings struggling to get my poor, tired brood moving and too many rushed bed times, I decided to give a 4-4:30pm dinner a go.

We told the children that once they'd finished dinner, they could play until 6pm. At 6pm, it'd be dessert time, then shower/homework/chores time for the older ones, while it would be story/prayers/bed for the younger ones. I was concerned that the later dessert would be a pain, but it was fine. We would bath the younger children before 6pm and have fun, knowing that we had at least an hour to get them clean and dressed. The older children were happy knowing how much time they had until dessert time.

I had to change my pattern at home during the day to make sure that I had dinner and dessert organised before I left for school pick-ups. It was hard to do some days, especially when I was tired just before lunch and hanging out for my beloved nap time!

I have never had anything work so well so soon in our family. Ever.

Once the dinner is out of the way, the rushing simply stopped.

We don't do it every night because we have dance and drum lessons two nights a week. However, the times we do manage to have dinner ready for when the children arrive home, it's great. It's worth the effort during the day to get dinner organised beforehand. My mum never had leftovers and cooked fresh every night, so my experience with preparing dinners ahead of time is pretty limited!

I can't recommend it highly enough. It meant for us less stress and more enjoyment of 'rush hour'. We weren't giving our children biscuits or muffins for afternoon tea straight after school - instead they were eating dinner when they got home from school, so it's healthier for them too.

What's worked for your family that has been an amazing and sudden benefit? I'm curious. Is it just me with my 4pm dinners?

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