I've come to terms with the fact that life with kids is a series of evolving routines. From the very beginning days with a baby, the evening timeframe can be a challenge, and it doesn't really get easier as they get older (at least it hasn't for me!). My little one is only a year and a half, so I know I have many more challenges ahead of me.
Here are some of the things I do to survive.
1. Leave work early. I'm thankful that I have the flexibility to do this. I am able to pick up my son from day care and get home early enough to allow for some play-time before dinner. Which leads to #2.
2. Ease into it. I can't come home and jump straight into the work of making dinner and completing my other nightly chores. Having some time to get into some play-clothes and play with the boy for a bit helps complete my transition out of work and into home.
3. Focus. I am getting better at not multi-tasking, at least in some cases. I know that quality-time with the boy is way more important than getting my chores done, so I make sure to focus on one thing at a time and not try to do everything at once. In particular, I must have play-time with the boy and plenty of time where I am completely focused on him.
4. Plan ahead. I've posted about this several times now. I write out my weekly menu over the weekend, so during the week, I don't have to think about what I'm making for dinner that night. That takes out so much of the stress for me.
5. Be consistent. We've always been pretty consistent with the boy's nighttime routine, so he doesn't put up any fuss with bathtime or bedtime. (He's only 18 months old, so I know this can change at any moment.) This is not only less stressful for him, but for me too! Knowing my evening routine helps me manage my time. And since the little boy goes to bed so easily, the rest of my evening is low-stress as well. I have plenty of quiet time at the end of the day.
Here's what my current evening routine looks like (all of the times are "ish"):
5-5:15PM: Get home with the boy. Play! Outside if it's nice.
5:45PM: Prepare and serve dinner for the boy.
6:15PM: More play-time. Try to do more low-key things like puzzles and books, but sometimes the boy just has to dance.
6:45PM: Bathtime, Pajama-time, Storytime.
7:15PM: The Boy's bedtime.
7:45PM: K and I eat dinner.
8:30PM: Clean the kitchen, prepare lunches, check email, other various chores.
9:00PM: Eat ice cream and watch a little TV. Head to bed to read. (Ratio of TV to reading often depends on whether or not there's anything on TV I want to watch - I've been reading a lot lately.)
10:00-10:30PM: Lights out.
*Here is the post on Real Simple that inspired the format of this post.