How to Reclaim Your Weeknights
Home: Austin, Texas.
Family: Married, to husband Patrick, with two sons―Adam, 5, and Joe, 3½.
Job: Part-time newspaper editor.
My husband and I both realized early on that getting the kids to bed at a set hour was a priority so he and I could spend time together. Since I work four nights a week, our evenings are precious, even if we just crash on the couch and watch a DVD. Usually we alternate putting the kids to bed and making dinner. If it's my turn to put them to bed, Pat will call out, "Are we shooting for 8:20 or 8:30?" so he doesn't grill the salmon into oblivion. If I've tucked the boys in, I'm then greeted with cold Chardonnay or a nice Merlot. After the kids are asleep, we can finally have uninterrupted adult conversation. We've been so consistent about bedtime that our kids almost always sleep like little logs, which means we can have couples over for a quiet dinner and save money on babysitting.
How I Switch Gears
Having a wineglass in my hand in the evening helps. It's nice to be drinking out of a grown-up glass after being surrounded by sippy cups.
Streamlining No. 1
You have to look for economies of scale―like when Joe was old enough, I started throwing him in the bathtub at the same time as Adam. Our routine involves a strict policy: only one book at bedtime. That helps us to avoid getting sucked into "Oh, just one more story!"
Streamlining Secret No. 2
You have to be a team when it comes to children's bedtimes. It won't work if one parent is firm and the other is a pushover. We've been rigid about the routine since they were infants. Still, we're always fine-tuning; it's a work in progress.
Streamlining Secret No. 3
Evenings are obviously less stressful if the day has gone well. We bought extra car seats so that we have two in Patrick's truck and two in my minivan, which gives us flexibility in case one of us can't get away from work to pick the kids up.
My Perfect Night
I would love to always have the time to take an early-evening get-away-from-it-all run in my hilly neighborhood. Then I'd take a long, relaxing shower before playing with the kids.
6:15 P.M.: Feed the kids at the kitchen table.
6:30 P.M.: Pat and I play with the boys, do puzzles, read, dance.
7:40 P.M.: Round up the kids for bed.
8 P.M.: I bathe the boys and oversee the bedtime ritual while Patrick mans the grill.
8:20 P.M.: Have a glass of wine.
8:30 P.M.: Dinner.
9 P.M.: We gab on the couch or patio. Sometimes we watch a DVD.
10:30 P.M.: Patrick goes to bed. I read on the couch, then go on to bed at about 11.