How To Survive The Witching Hour

Do you know that hour or two after dinner but before bedtime? Is it just me or is it the longest period of the day? I know I am not alone when I say that my kids lose their minds and all good behaviour goes out the window. Even as babies, my children had a chunk of time where they whined and cried for no good reason.

As newborns, many babies experience the “witching hour,” which is defined as a period of several hours before bed where your baby is usually the fussiest of the day. They want to be held, they cry for no reason, and nothing can appease them. The witching hour begins very young- usually within the first two or three weeks of life and will carry on for a few months. Many experts say that they usually grow out of it by 4 months, but I disagree. My kids are still experiencing it now.

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The kids are needy, whiney, and hungry, begging me to play with them just when I need to get the most done. I try to make dinner, but I have one pleading with me to pick her up, while the other one sneaks cookies and then is suddenly not hungry for dinner. Many days, I had one kid on my hip, while the other one hangs on my leg as I attempt to make something nutritious to eat, trying not to settle for a box of macaroni and cheese because it’s easier. It is exhausting.

But I get it. It’s a hard time of day for everyone. For most of us, we’re coming home from work and shifting gears into parenting, with no break in sight. Your kids are shifting from school activities to maybe additional childcare, and then finally home with their parents. They have maintained their good behaviour all day long (for the most part) and they are finally reunited with the people they love the most and who they are most comfortable with.

Then slowly the bad behaviour slips in; the hitting and whining, the arguing between siblings; the begging and pleading for someone to play with. You stop and start dinner a dozen times because you can’t manage to hold both kids while stirring a pot of spaghetti. You give them attention and you burn the chicken. Is there any way to win this battle?

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I have been prone to getting extreme anxiety just before I exchange the work hat for the mom hat. The half an hour before leaving work, I start thinking about how I am going to entertain the kids so I can get those dishes done and dinner on the table.

For a while, I tried to provide little activities they could do, but they never paid attention long enough for me to get much done. They want me to participate in their activities, and it’s hard to say no. The Mom Guilt comes in full force, you know they just want your attention because they missed you all day. But you also know that dinner needs to be made and you need to have forks to eat with.

I am not a parenting expert by any means but I have had my fair share of experience dealing with the witching hour. My husband works odd hours, sometimes doesn't come home until after dinner or bedtime. I have sent many text messages begging him to come home ASAP because I was losing my mind.

So what do you do to avoid the troubling witching hour? Depending on the age of the kids, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for handling the witching hour while maintaining some resemblance of sanity. If you’re breastfeeding a newborn, offer the breast as much as you can. You won’t get much else done, but you’ll at least calm them down enough so that perhaps you can put them done or wear them while you get one or two tasks done. Babywearing was a lifesaver for me, especially with more than one child. You can still manage some playtime with your older kid while the baby is sleeping on your chest.

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Sometimes it helps if you give yourself a little self-care when you know you are going to be the solo parent during the witching hour. If you can, take a few minutes for yourself before diving in. Take a breath and try to relax, listen to a quick meditation and change into comfortable clothes if you are coming home from work. A few moments to yourself can leave you refreshed and better apt to handle the chaos that the witching hour can bring.

With older toddlers and children, have them help you with dinner. I find if I include them in what I am trying to get done and make it fun for them, they stayed focused. Also a good tip is to make a big deal out of them being your assistant chef, it will give you a sense of joy seeing how proud they are when dinner is made and everyone is loving it.

If you come home and immediately jump into home mode by cleaning, prepping, making dinner, doing dishes, etc, consider taking 20 minutes to put the phone away and give them your undivided attention. I’ve come to notice that if I give my children my undivided attention even for 15 minutes, they are more understanding when I say I have to go make dinner. Sometimes on the good days, they will actually continue to play nicely together so that I can do what I need to get done.

And sometimes you just need to stop worrying and have a good old fashioned dance party. Put on some good music, dance with your children then easily move into making dinner (while still dancing of course!). No one can resist a good dance party at my house. Even if I am multitasking, seeing the kids show me their silly dances as I chop up vegetables to hide in my kid's food is the best. And it’s a win-win. Dancing is a great stress relief for all. Sometimes seeing those smiles and hearing the laughter reminds you of what is really important. Hint: It’s not getting dinner on the table.

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