Before becoming a mother, 5pm was the time of day to look forward to. It marked the end of work. It was the time for unwinding, taking a stroll with the puppies, enjoying a meal, relaxing with my favourite television show and catching up with the hubby.
Enter motherhood... 5pm is now my most stressful time of day. It is my 'rush hour' when the baby is grumpy, hungry and tired; the dogs hassle me for food and attention; my hubby comes home from work and is ready for a chat; and dinner needs to be prepared.
It seems I'm not alone. Apparently this situation is so common it has its own nickname - 'Arsenic hour'. "So called because poison control centres have identified it as the time when most parents apparently abandon their normal standards of supervision and allow children to chug detergent like cordial", says Carrie Cox in her Practical Parenting Magazine article on the topic.
So what can we do to ease the pressure come 5pm? Carrie recommends organising your day in reverse. "Run the bath/dinner/homework gauntlet first thing in the morning when you're fresh and it's too early to contemplate heavy drinking. Sure, the kids will be dirty, hungry and confused come normal knock-off time, but at least their mummy won't be pacing the kitchen and speaking in tongues again." she says.
This advice has really helped me better handle the evenings. I bath my son in the morning so after dinner he can be put straight in his pj's and off to bed for the night. I have invested in a slow cooker so at least once a week dinner is prepared and the kitchen is cleaned up earlier in the day. I also cook certain meals in larger batches when I can, freezing leftovers to reheat on nights I need the helping hand.
I would be interested to hear from other parents out there - do you have a tip for managing Arsenic hour?