6 Ways To Manage The End Of Day Crazy

One of the hardest parts about back to school season is managing the end of day crazy -- in particular, that window of time at the end of the day when you’re transitioning from work to home mode, the kids are decompressing from the day, thoughts about evening activities (homework, lunch making, etc.) loom, and EVERYONE IS HUNGRY. It’s kind of the worst, quite frankly, and Jon and I have talked a lot about how we wish we had another set of hands during that time frame.

And having an extra set of hands actually is in the realm of possibility, depending on your home and family circumstances. Inspired by a collaboration with Cultural Care Au Pair (see below for a registration waiver code!), today I’m sharing my top ways to manage the end of day crazy.

1. Give your kids responsibility

Seriously, one of the best things you can do as a parent is give your kids responsibility and -- specifically as it relates to after school -- put them in charge of their stuff. Start with the basics (e.g., putting away shoes, backpacks, etc.) and build up to other things (e.g., getting their own snack, initiating homework). (Definitely check out these podcast episodes on how to get kids to do chores and how to handle homework if you need help in these domains!)

2. Develop a routine

Related to #1, kids function best and thrive on routine so develop a routine and keep reinforcing it. It may take a while, which is totally normal, but just keep at it! So, for example, once my kids land at home, I have them empty their lunchboxes, put school papers that require attention in a designated area, and put away their shoes, coats, and bags. Then they move on to snack, a little downtime, and get homework out of the way before dinnertime.

3. Create transition time for yourself

One of my biggest challenges in working out of a home office is that I don’t have the decompression time that’s inherent in commuting. I recommend building in transition time, even if it’s as simple as 10 minutes with a meditation or yoga app.

4. Keep meals simple

Save your more involved cooking adventures for the weekend! During the weekdays, keep food simple. Breakfast for dinner is totally acceptable! Sometimes I’ll just root through the fridge and toss lots of bits and pieces on a big snack platter (and say, "YAY! SNACKS FOR DINNER!"). Strangely, tossing odds and ends on a pretty platter makes odds and ends feel fancy! Added bonus: plan on meals your kids can help prepare...its life skills training, help, plus together time all in one!

5. Do a daily decompression debrief

One of my favorite, simple ways to build a little decompression time into the day while also encouraging communication is to play high/low -- we go around the table and everyone shares one great and one not so great thing from the day. It’s a predictable little element that helps our family share and relax and decompress together.

6. Get help

Having an extra set of hands to help manage the end of day window is huge. Here are some thoughts from Cultural Care Au Pair families:

  • Erin -- a mom of 3 from Cape Cod -- on her au pair Jessica from Brazil: “Having Jessica keep the kids on task and moving towards getting it all done after school into the dinner hour is vital, so I can end my day at work successfully and take the time to get dinner ready for everyone. I love that I can cook almost every night of the week for my family. Having an au pair doesn’t just help you while you are working, they can help you finish all the responsibilities of the day so you can enjoy family time at the end of the day.”
  • Andrea -- a mom of 2 from Durham, NH -- on her au pair Jessica from Mexico: “Jessica has seamlessly managed to embody our family’s values yet also introduce our children to her culture, language, and another perspective. In the evening she makes dinner for the kids so that by the time I’m finished with work, we can just spend time together and I’m not rushing around to pick them up from daycare/babysitter’s house or worry about dinner. We work as a team during the evening hours to prepare dinner, do bathtime, and tidy up. It takes a village and having an au pair really helps bring that little village right into your home!”
  • Amy -- a mom of twins from Denver, CO -- on her au pair Linnea from Sweden: “Oftentimes families think they might not need an au pair once the kids are in school, but I find the help between 3pm-7pm is critical! Linnea can take the girls to karate, feels comfortable communicating directly with other moms re: playdates, and can jump right in with homework help. By the time I get home from work the girls have usually eaten dinner and completed homework.This allows my husband and I to use the very small window of time before bedtime talking, reading, and enjoying each other’s company.”
  • Jenn -- a mom of 4 from Doylestown, PA -- on her au pair Veronica from Columbia: “Juggling 4 children, the needs of 2 working parents, a grandmother, and an au pair means a lot going on in a small amount of time! Our au pair is responsible for after school routines (e.g., homework) through dinner time. Since our au pair handles this part of the day, we can make dinner and be able to spend quality time together until bedtime! She also makes sure they are organized for the next day which makes the following morning that much smoother.”

Hop over to the Cultural Care Au Pair website to learn more about whether an au pair would be a good solution for your family. And here’s something awesome – use the code “PCRegWaiver” to waive the $75 registration fee for new families!

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Cultural Care Au Pair. All thoughts on navigating end of day crazy (with the exception of parent quotes) are my own!

About Cultural Care Au Pair

Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare in the United States. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, Cultural Care Au Pair recently celebrated 25 years of bringing families and au pairs together. A U.S. Department of State designated program, Cultural Care has an extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide and local childcare consultants supporting au pairs and host families across the U.S. For more information, visit www.culturalcare.com/bostonmamas.