Yikes, it's that time of the day again -- after the kids get home from school through just after bedtime. At a women's conference I once attended, I heard a speaker refer to that period as the mother's "swing shift." I thought, she's right; many places of employment have a swing shift -- grocery stores, gas stations, gold mines, and yes, my current place of employment, a house full of kids. It's that most stressful time of day which, according to that speaker, is also the most important part of the day. Why? Well, there's a lot that has to be done in the time between "trying to decide what to cook for dinner" and "kids finally in bed asleep, and now I can rest."
The swing shift can be a double-edged sword. Things are winding down, and the family is finally all together after a long and busy day, but suddenly there is so little time to do so much, and everybody wants something! I find myself scrambling to finish up homework with the kids only to realize that dinner should have been started an hour earlier. I barely have time to put out a plate of chicken nuggets and raw carrots before I whisk them off to bed. Is that any way to manage my children's nutrition schedule? No way!
One solution that has helped me to proactively plan nutrition and get the most out of the family's evening hours together is a two-week meal plan. To start, we plan all of the meals in advance. Then, we do one big shopping trip and purchase everything we need for the entire two weeks all at once. (We even bought an extra freezer, so we could store all the meats, breads, and cheeses we need.) We still have to occasionally run to the store for some fresh produce or milk, but we have seen tremendous benefits from planning out our meals this way. Not only are we saving a lot of time and money, but dinner tends to be ready on schedule. And we're eating really healthy as well. Fast food doesn't sound so good when we've got a delicious meal planned and ready to go.
Kaitlyn and the other kids get excited about the plan as well. They know that Tuesday is taco night, Wednesday is soup night, etc., and they really look forward to it! They also get to help plan some of their favorite meals ahead of time, so when the day comes for me to make their special dinner, I actually have all the ingredients!
Eating healthy is so important for all of us, especially Kaitlyn, and I love feeling like I am actively engaged in planning and preparing healthy meals, rather than just eating whatever happens to be in the fridge. By being proactive about meal planning, it's less of a chore. We have more quality time as a family—around the dinner table and for the rest of the evening. With a little effort, the "swing shift" can be the best time of the day!
About the author: My name is Kim. My daughter Kaitlyn (the third of our five children) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a few years after my nephew James was diagnosed with the same disease. I'm excited to pair up with my sister-in-law, Jen, to share our story with you!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.