Witching Hour Survival Strategies


4:30 PM.

The kids are home from school and/or up from their naps. Dinner isn’t quite on the table. The husband isn’t quite home. The house is a disaster. You’re pretty much spent.

And everyone will simultaneously commence meltdown in 5… 4… 3… 2…


It’s the witching hour. 

Unless you have magical unicorn children or Mary Poppins superpowers, you’re well-acquainted with the above scenario. The crying. The bouncing off the furniture. The whining. The clinging. The counting-down-the-minutes until bedtime. The witching hour can be enough to send even the most patient of parents into an emotional tizzy.

A few months ago, I broke down. I laid in the middle of the living room with my kids and just cried with them. I hope they’re not too emotionally scarred from the experience, but at that moment, I decided that I needed a new game plan. I could keep letting this time of day take me down, or I could walk into it ready to thrive.

And thus, I created a list of “Witching Hour Survival Strategies”:

1. Plan Ahead. Part of the problem with the 4:30-7:30 time of day is there is way too much going on. Dinner needs to be made. The kids are hungry or need help with homework. You want to pick up the house so it’s presentable when your significant other comes home. You’re tired.

Knowing that this time of day demands so much attention, I’ve decided to try and knock out a few of these things before 4:30 pm. I do any dinner prep that can be done ahead of time earlier in the day, or even the day before (chopping meat and veggies, measuring dry ingredients, fixing a salad, etc). I try to have my son do his “homework” (if that’s what they can call it in 4k) as soon as he gets home from school. I tidy up the living room while the kids are napping. The fewer tornadoes we have spinning at 5 pm, the less likely a disaster of catastrophic proportions.

2. Babywear. Okay, I admit. I bought my first Ergo because it seemed like a fun idea for going on family walks or hiking. Plus, babywearing was totally on-trend for us crunchy-mommy wannabes. Let me tell you, though…since I had children 3 & 4, babywearing has become a method of survival. My one-year-old twins are pretty independent, but from 5-7 pm, they just want to be held and snuggled. They want to be up in the action and/or safe from the antics of their older siblings. Babywearing takes care of ALL of these things.

Unsure how where to start with babywearing or what carrier might work for you? Consider finding a babywearing group in your area! Here in the Milwaukee area, we have several babywearing group options, including Milwaukee Babywearers on Facebook. The women in these groups are SO helpful, will show you all the tricks of the trade without making you feel silly, and often have lending libraries where you can take a carrier home and try it for a few days before committing to a purchase. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner!

3. Turn on Some Music & Dance. Maybe it’s just my family, but there’s very little that blasting some fun tunes can’t cure. Music just changes the entire atmosphere. Science agrees. There are endless studies that have proven the power of music to reduce stress and increase productivity. Beyond that, my kids love to dance and sing, and when the music is playing, inevitably my two-year-old will ask me to dance along. That’s a request I NEVER say “no” to. I know it’s good for all of us!

4. Get the Kids Involved. Regardless of how much you plan, things need to be done during these tricky hours of the day. Although it seems counter-productive, I find my ability to conquer tasks most successful if I get my kids involved. My four year old loves to help me cook. For Christmas, he received this set of kid-safe knives, and if there is some fruit or vegetable he can wash and chop while I’m assembling the rest of dinner, he knows that’s his job.

Some days, I just hand him an apple or banana and he works at that as a snack for his sisters while I’m cooking, but the point is it gets him involved, keeps him occupied, and gives him a sense of ownership over the meal. (I also find he’s far more likely to eat a meal he’s helped prepare. That’s a HUGE bonus for a picky preschooler)!

My two year old loves to help “wash” dishes. What this means is I fill up the sink with water and bubbles and give her some measuring cups to play in the suds. It can make a bit of a watery mess, but it keeps her content and makes her feel like a valuable part of the dinner-fixing crowd as well. Having the kids close and keeping them busy seems to (mostly) stave off any pre-meal meltdowns, and we have fun in the process!

5. A Change in Scenery. On days where we’ve been stuck in the house all day, a change of scenery can mean everything. Sometimes you just have to blow off some funk. In the winter, this can mean just hanging out in a room where we usually don’t. We’ve had special storytimes in mommy and daddy’s bed. We recently finished our basement, and I find myself saving that space for the hours I need a change of scenery most.

During the summer or on more temperate Wisconsin days, this means going for a walk around the block, heading to the park, or hanging out in the front yard instead of the back. When I find myself overwhelmed and exhausted to the point of just wanting to melt into the living room floor, using my last ounce of motivation to GET OUT can make all the difference.

While these strategies are great, I will confess there are still days where I lock myself in the bathroom and track my husband’s whereabouts on his commute home via iOS messenger. But I’m not going down without a fight.

What about you? Do you have any additional witching hour survival tips you can share with me?

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A Milwaukee native, Heather married her best friend 10 years ago, and has lived something of a nomadic lifestyle ever since. Schooling, family, disaster relief work, and a sense of adventure have moved them fourteen times (via 5 states) in 10 years. Regardless of her immediate location, Heather has continually heard Milwaukee calling her "home". Now raising a six year old, four year old, and two year old twins, and a newborn, she and her husband finally decided to plant roots, and are thrilled to be calling the Milwaukee area their (maybe) forever home. When she's not chasing around her growing brood or sweeping up cheerios, Heather can be found experimenting with recipes, failing at the Pinterest life, or finding new outlets for her singing and theatrical passions. Heather is currently working on her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and has a special interest in community development and adolescent issues.


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