Picture this: It’s Wednesday evening. After making your way through traffic and into your neighborhood, you drive down your street and pull into the driveway. Home sweet home. You have survived another day at the office. But there are a few more roadblocks between you and your house. The entrance is strewn with a few basketballs, a bicycle, a tricycle, a hula hoop, a cozy coupe and a pile of sidewalk chalk. But after exiting your vehicle and doing some quick “dad clean up,” you are home.
As you walk in the door, you are greeted to peace and quiet and maybe some classical music playing. Wrong. You are actually welcomed by one kid yelling, one kid looking guilty in the corner, and one kid running over to hug you. You notice there are some rogue crayon marks on the walls, your wife looks at you wondering why you were late, all while a pot of water boils over on the stove. As the father of young kids, we call that time between 5:00-6:00 PM, Power Hour.
It’s the time when everyone is worn out from the busyness of the day, yet we are funneling into dinner time. As a father, you have a real opportunity here to do what a man can do. Time to clock in for second shift. It’s time to be Uncommen and set down that briefcase and roll up your sleeves. Turn off your phone and get to work.
First things first. Give that wife of yours a big hug and a squeeze and tell her you love her. Make sure your kids see it no matter how good or how bad your day was. Kissing is proven to regular your heart rate and also lowers the blood pressure. Most importantly, it reminds your wife you are here to make things easier for her.
Help out with getting food on the table. Some men naturally gravitate towards food prep while others don’t. But you’re Uncommen so you’ll help set the table. Teach your kids to set the table together. Be the extra set of hands your wife didn’t have before you got home. Sometimes it might even be giving your wife 15-20 minutes to collect herself by taking the kids outside to help things move along more smoothly inside. We call this the “change of power” in our house. And it allows our kids to collect themselves too. The point is to get off your duff and be useful.
Lead in prayer at dinner time. There is something substantial about a father taking the lead in prayer to bring order to a home. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it every time. Ask for your kids or wife to pray as well.
Put down the phone. We are all guilty of this one sometimes and think we are missing out on evening emails or phone calls. It can wait. Focus on your family and ask everyone how their day was. What was something new that happened? Did they want to share any stories or highlights from the day?
Clean up. Divide and Conquer. Ask your wife if she would like to take the kids, or if she would want to clean up. We have found it functionally makes the most sense to divide and conquer here. What we have discovered DOES NOT work is when we don’t ask each other what the other person wants. Communication is key. We often alternate between who does bath-time and then who does story time. Some nights my wife has more energy than I do. And other nights she needs to have some space and vice versa. The point is that we communicate those things to each other. It also helps the kids understand who is in charge and what is happening next.
Bedtime Stories & Prayer. And down the home stretch they come, that last half hour of bath time, house cleanup, toothbrush time, and getting on pajamas. We split according to who feels like doing what. But it turns out that there’s one duty the husband should more often take on, according to science, no less: the bedtime story. Kids who are read to by Dad, according to a study by Harvard University, tend to have better-developed language skills than kids who were read to by only mom. Pray with your kids at bedtime again. Get them in the habit of connecting with God as the last thing they do before falling asleep.
Remember that for most of us, this is the primary time we will be able to connect with our kids during the weekdays. Is it tiring? Sure. Can it be rewarding? Absolutely.
Uncommen Challenge: Sit down with your wife and talk about how you can both handle second shift better and with more purpose. When both partners are tired, it’s easy to let this time of day turn into chaos and resentment if not handled well. Make adjustments as needed and know its never going to go entirely as planned.
Bible Reference: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)
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