We talk a lot about the morning routine in this parenting game. This is probably because mornings are ridiculously frantic for any family trying to get out the door. The evening routine barely gets a look in – indeed, is it even a thing in many homes?
The thing is, the attention you pay to your evening routine can make a massive difference to your mornings. In fact, a good evening routine can help smooth family life in so many ways:
• Transition us from the busyness of the day to a quieter wind-down at night
• Help keep general life on track.
• Get us off to a good start for the next day.
Look, in an ideal world, I’d never have a single routine in my life. I kinda fundamentally hate routine. However, over many years of parenting I’ve learned that a solid evening routine makes everything easier. Life with kids is pretty much the same thing most days, so you may as well have a reliable routine to take the pressure off daily thinking.
Here are some things we do every night that make a big difference to life. You can pick and choose from these, add your own or decide to do something completely different. Whatever you decide, just get some kind of evening routine happening. You won’t regret it.
The smart evening routine
1. The daily check-in
A daily check-in is so important, but something that’s often overlooked in the rush of daily living. Often we won’t get home until late in the evening, dinner needs to be on the table, homework needs doing. I found that I was so frantic trying to do all the ‘right things’ for my family, that I wasn’t connecting with them the way we all needed. It’s habit now to either have a family conversation dinner, or ask my kids about their ‘best of, worst of, things you’re looking forward to’ each day. We also spend time together after dinner and before bed, talking, playing a game, reading or, randomly, doing something like yoga.
2. Tidy away today
Before they head to bed, the kids are meant to do a quick whip-around to gather all the junk they have left all over the house and put it away. This happens sometimes, but not often – my quest for tidy kids appears to be a lifelong one. Instead, I end up gathering all of their stuff and putting it in the Sunday Box before giving the house a quick tidy. I like to finish the day with everything in order, ready for a fresh start tomorrow.
3. Plan tomorrow
Nothing elaborate, just a quick once-over of what’s on my to-do list, so I’m not surprised by anything in the morning. Like the fact that it’s a mufti day for the kids, or I’ve got a work project due, you know, the kinds of things that have a habit of sneaking up on us when we’re not paying attention.
4. Prepare ahead
We are a ‘make the lunches, lay out the clothes’ kind of family. It wasn’t always this way, but I’ve learned that it’s really the only way. The kids also need to pack their school bags and get their socks and shoes ready to go as well. I can put my feet up at night knowing that I’ve got a headstart on the next day. In the morning, all we really need to do is roll out of bed and get dressed, eat something and head out the door.
5. Breakfast planning
So, yep, I meal plan, so I always know what’s for breakfast well in advance. My kids are total faffers in the mornings, so this is completely necessary. I quite like things like bircher muesli that you make the night before, ready to go. Another favourite is to make sandwiches (tomato, cheese and mushroom is fairly standard around here), and put it them into the fridge. In the morning the kids grab a sandwich and put it into the sandwich press for a quick and easy toastie.
If I’m making the toasted sambos the night before, it goes without saying that all school permission slips, homework notes, etc have been signed and put into bags the night before too. My habit is to sign them the minute I get home from work and get the kids to put them straight into their school bag, ready to go. I flat out refuse to sign notes in the mornings.
7. Nothing time
One of the most important aspects of my evening routine is the permission I give myself to do nothing much at all. I work hard all day being productive so it’s nice to be unproductive and rather useless for a while. Sometimes I only get an hour, often more, but it’s necessary time to reward myself for my daily conscientiousness and set myself up to do it all again tomorrow. Never feel guilty for letting yourself just be for a while.
Some good tips here: How to find more time for yourself
8. Nightly gratitude
It’s been my habit for many, many years to write down something I’m grateful for each night before I go to bed. I am up to number 2,867 in my sixth “grateful notebook”. Just a simple notebook and each night I add something that I’ve been thankful for that day. I’m a natural worrier and this helps settle me before bed. It’s a nice way to close the day and adds something special to my evening routine.
What’s your evening routine and does it help your mornings?
Image by Annie Spratt