Five Cures for the Five O’Clock Frenzy

I don’t know about you, but when 4 p.m. rolls around, I am tired. Being a stay-at-home mom with a couple freelance gigs on the side, trying to keep my house running, and having a baby who still doesn’t sleep makes me ragged. By 4 o’clock I am ready to put my feet up and call it a day.

And yet that seems to be the time the kids really rev up for some "fun." Or as I like to call it, torture of their mother.

In our house, we call 4 p.m. "The Time When Mommy Turns the TV on and Begs Libbie to Watch It So She Can Make Dinner While the Baby Screams."

We eat dinner early, so our frenzy time usually falls from 4 to 5. For most people I think it’s more like 5 to 6. It’s that time when you’re trying to deal with kids, make dinner, go through the mail, talk on the phone to your mother, online bank, and be on Facebook all at the same time. — Jessie


Here are some tips from Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner to help you through this painful hour:

  1. Have a Plan. You have to have your menu planned for the week so you’re not schlepping through the grocery store at 5:45 with hungry, miserable kids hoping to score a rotisserie chicken. If you have your meals planned for the week, you’ll be more than a little ahead of the game — 75% of Americans don’t know what’s for dinner at 4:30 PM each day. If you have your plan, you’ll have thawed chicken and some veggies stashed in the freezer; no last minute runs to the grocery store.
  2. Appetizers Anyone? Having a quick appetizer for the kids will soothe their tired little selves. Have this stuff ready to go in little plastic containers — any little veggies you can think of that you can plop on a plate easily and serve with some (dreaded) Ranch dressing. Kids will eat anything with Ranch dressing!
  3. Play with Your Food. You’ll double your chances of getting your kids to eat their vegetables if you give them some toothpicks to stab the veggies with. Kids love all manner of violent behavior; just make sure Junior doesn’t put the baby’s eye out and no Norman Bates imitations!
  4. Hire Help. Don’t you wish? For most, that ain’t happening. In light of getting a chef and butler, train your little padawan learners. Give them duties in the kitchen and teach them what to do (as age appropriate). True, it might take longer initially, but there will come a point where your 12-year-old can suddenly make dinner by himself. That’s because you had him at your elbow since he was little. Don’t miss this golden opportunity.
  5. Make a Busy Box. Have a plastic tub with special stuff that the kids can only play with when Mom is making dinner. Put some books in there, special games, puzzles, and some pretend cookware! While you’re busy making the salad, ask little Suzie to make her pretend salad and talk her through it as you do your own. Kids like being involved even when it’s just pretend!

How do you deal with those pre-dinner hours?