Wash, rinse, repeat – the truth about afternoons

As anyone who works mornings and looks after kids in the afternoon knows, it’s a day of two distinct halves. The morning is busy-busy, trying to cram in every last drop before the imaginary school-run klaxon sounds, and tools must be downed. Like the no-nonsense bell in a TV game show, ignoring the unsent email, the uneaten lunch, and the unpressed coffee capsule waiting patiently in the machine. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

The afternoon is busy in a different way – snacks, homework, lunch boxes, dinner, and the random weather-driven/ school-driven/ mood-driven unpredictably that makes routine a challenge.

And we all know that one – whether you work full-time and have an occasional day at home, or part-time, or you’re not working outside the home – we all know the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of mid-week afternoons.

And I feel extremely fortunate that I can collect my kids from school and that I can be their sounding board when they’re decompressing at home. I’m lucky that my job allows me to do it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Even if you offered me free childcare. (Okay, well just three days a week then, if you’re offering free childcare.)

So this is not a moan – I don’t resent it in any way, ever. But every afternoon when I ask them what they want to eat, and they say “What is there?” as though there’ll be something different today, and I clean the lunch boxes and wonder if everyone really, really needs dinner again – I sigh a little inside. And I grit my teeth and brace myself for the groundhog day ahead. And I feel bad that I can’t enjoy the work of dishwasher-emptying and sandwich-making, and I wish I could find it therapeutic the way some people do ironing and others do cooking, but I can’t. They are the afternoon chores that must be done to keep the house ticking over, and no matter how I dress it up, they’re no more special than that.

This time next week, I’m three years freelancing, so that’s three years worth of dishwasher-and-sandwich afternoons, and I still haven’t found a better approach. It’s endurance rather than enjoyment, and maybe it’s time to accept that that’s all it will ever be. To accept that for the privilege of spending afternoons with my kids, this is the tiny tradeoff, and I may never get it just right.

Today as I drove home from school, listening to chatter in the back, I was thinking about the work I didn’t finish, and the inevitable afternoon chores ahead. But for the first time in a long time, the sun was out and the sky was blue, and it was warm enough to be out without a jacket. And suddenly everything was lifted – I thought about the kids rushing through homework to play outside, about throwing washing on the line instead of on radiators, and I thought about the unpressed coffee capsule waiting for me, and how good that coffee might taste in the garden. And for all the grey-dishwasher-afternoons, there will always be the drop-everything sunshine ones. Days like this.

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Author: Andrea Mara | Office Mum

Blogger, freelance writer, author, mother - muddling through and constantly looking for balance.

9 thoughts on “Wash, rinse, repeat – the truth about afternoons”

  1. Isn’t it great in Ireland when a sunny afternoon comes we appreciate it so much. I know how you feel, I decided to postpone homework and make the most of the weather in case it disappears just as quickly as it arrived!

  2. My kids are going to start school in September. In Poland they start school at 6 or 7 y.o. Wondering if it would be the right time to introduce a new chore – help with lunch boxes? What is your experience Moms?

    1. Hi Joanna, sorry for taking so long to see this – by the way, 6 or 7 sounds a great age to start school, much more sensible than here! I think now is good to introduce little chores – any little bit helps even to get them used to the idea that we all pitch in. I think they can rinse and put dishes in the dishwasher, empty lunch boxes, wipe down tables, make beds etc from a young age. Good luck with starting school!
      Andrea Mara | Office Mum recently posted…Wash, rinse, repeat – the truth about afternoonsMy Profile

  3. The feeding, Andrea, is so trying, “endurance” is so appropriate. I can’t help you with dinners, I just hate cooking, but I have learned to cook small amounts and that has helped. This comment is so long so apologies because it might not help you at all. But know I feel your pain . My two are “sick of” anything they’ve had once in the past two weeks! I have some tricks for avoiding sandwich ennui, none of which will replace making a proper effort, but some days it’s just not in me! 1. Let them help themselves to certain designated food areas: In our kitchen that’s the a.fruit and veg. (I would still peel and chop carrots for them, or put slices of cucumber in a bowl, or wash berries/grapes, but I don’t mind that if they’ll just bloody eat it), b. yoghurts and cheese in the fridge (I have to constantly vary the yoghurt and often don’t buy any for a while), c. cereals, and d. the plastic boxes I put on the counter (sometimes there’s only one). 2.So get plastic boxes (like A4-page size, roughly 10cm deep, as in they’ll fit in a cupboard or on the countertop. Use these to store open packs of raisins, seeds, nuts, pappadums, different types of crackers, cereal bars/flapjacks, breadsticks, mini wraps. So when something is opened it won’t go off and be thrown out five minutes before a child wants some more of it. 3. Store cereals in those plastic dispenser containers and vary them regularly. 4. My children seem to be less interested in eating something if there’s a lot of it, so go mini: Buy small wraps, small part-baked baguettes, mini peppers, small jars of olives, small tins of sweetcorn, mini cheeses, little packs of sugarsnap peas. Also, I have often been saved by Caitríona Redmond at Wholesome Ireland’s recipes like her very basic, but delicious, banana pancakes. I swear, once my children are adults they’ll have to feed themselves, I’m going to Subway every day for my dinner.

    1. Joanna, I’m only seeing this comment now but I want to print it out and put it on my fridge. I love the idea of the plastic containers for bread sticks, crackers etc and an area they can access. We have stuff in different spots all over the kitchen and often I don’t want to open one thing while something else is open, but that’s a perfect idea. I will see you in Subway!
      Andrea Mara | Office Mum recently posted…Wash, rinse, repeat – the truth about afternoonsMy Profile

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