How to be Fun in the Evenings
I'm a morning person. As a kid I would wake up so early there were only colored bars on my grandparents' TV, and I'd wait for Gilligan's Island reruns to come on at 5 or 5:30. While it's great to have a start on the day, pacing myself to be fun or even just pleasant with all the people in my life can be a challenge. And I know many moms have the same challenge, because they ask "Is there anything I can do to be less tired in the evenings?" Several aspects to consider are pacing, mental refreshment, and supplements.
Can you be less tired in the evenings? Well, yes. If you have babies and toddlers, you can wait til they stop nursing and start sleeping through the night. I hear that by the time the youngest is 7, you just don't feel tired the same way. Clearly this is how people survive past 45.
You could nurse your baby less. By my calculations, I need another hour of sleep out of every 24 because my babies nurse heavily. (I'd be very interested to hear if other moms have done the math.) But I like nursing them, they are healthy, and I get a long time without a period, which are all good things in my case, so I accept the need for more sleep and work around it by taking naps when I can. Many nights I fall asleep nursing the baby at 8:30 and catch up with my husband over coffee in the morning.
Or you could pace yourself. Are you laughing or crying after reading that? Kudos for you if you still can laugh about the marathon that is parenting and life. But really, examine your commitments. Is there any way to do less? We can be so zealous and idealistic that we burden ourselves (stylish clean home! interesting meals! more activities!) , or we get into habits that distract us but don't improve our lives, like Facebook and procrastibaking.
Pacing ourselves means setting all sorts of boundaries against the creeping, endless obligations and habits that come up and that we make for ourselves. Starting with a realistic sense of what MUST be accomplished in the day, like eating, sleeping, showering, home maintenance, and REST, how much time do you really have left? And what would you like to do in that time? What will leave you with something to share at the end of the day?
If I go all-out, all day, I may want to curl into a ball by 6 or 7. And in that case, I tell the kids I need to lay down, and to get themselves something to eat and play quietly. After an hour I get up and pick up the pieces of the day and chat with my husband if he's home.
Most days I pace myself better and I can be human til 9. If I nap or spend an hour horizontally at some point in the day, I can be human til 10 or 11.
Of course, many commitments are out of our hands. Kids need to see the doctor, grandparents are coming to visit. Maybe mom has to work outside the home and everything has to be maintained in half the time. This means compromise, or better systems, or both.
Compromise might mean putting a movie on every afternoon for the kids, or accepting a lower standard of homemaking, or buying easy or pre-made food. It might mean letting go of activities or reading the kids fewer stories. Better systems might mean having kids help more, simplifying meal times and planning, batching laundry, or having a family cleaning day every week.
Just having better systems won't guarantee I can be fun all day. Humans need mental refreshment and interest, through community, anticipation and variety. My mom, knowing that I can push myself and edge toward burnout, encourages me to do "something fun" for myself every day. If I do the fun thing in the afternoon, I feel much more fun for the evening. The bar is fortunately pretty low - It could be taking a bath, reading, organizing something that's been bugging me, or just telling the kids I'd like some quiet time while I'm outside cleaning the car. A bigger one would be meeting a friend for coffee, or getting a long walk by myself. Listening to an interesting podcast or watching something silly is also a blessing for my perspective. Anticipating something fun is also fun, even anticipating a break in the day, whether during the kids quiet time or activities, or the movie they "earned".
Sometimes I set the timer for cleaning in 15-minute intervals a la FlyLady, and once I've done a few rounds I sit down to have a glass of water or cup of tea, and maybe a piece of fruit or chocolate. Calling friends and family, or writing a letter, is another way for me to recharge and feel connected with the wider world. If I'm out taking kids to activities, I enjoy shopping with just the toddler and try to make it special for both of us. Sometimes I take her to a park or the library so she can play with the toys and I can read or catch up on paperwork. These lulls can be very helpful for looking over the calendar so less falls through the cracks, and I remember to do the not-urgent-but-important.
Beyond pacing and recharging, a variety of supplements can be useful for better energy throughout the day, though none is a substitute for sleep and mental refreshment.
Any good Multivitamin - which you should be taking anyway if you're nursing, because nursing takes more nutrients than pregnancy. And really, it fills in the gaps for most of us who don't sit down to three awesome meals every day.
Note whether your multivitamin is higher in Calcium or in Iron - most tend to favor one over the other, and you should supplement whatever it doesn't have. Taking multivitamins in the afternoon or at night, or just B vitamins, can provide a lift in energy for finishing the day. Some people find this too stimulating to take with dinner, so you may find that 2 or 3 pm is your sweet spot.
Dessicated Liver Capsules contain iron, some B vitamins, and other nutrients like choline, and these make my energy levels more consistent than a multivitamin alone. I often take them mid-day or early afternoon, and it amazes me how I can just keep going throughout the afternoon and evening. If you like actual liver or pate once or twice a week, those would also get the job done.
CoQ10 or Ubiquinol is best known for heart health, and it improves cellular function throughout the body. When I've taken it in the evenings, it postponed fatigue for a couple of hours. There was no "lift" in alertness as with caffeine, I just didn't feel tired, which was good enough. No effect on falling asleep - if anything, I fell asleep faster than usual a couple of hours later.
Brain formulas like MRM's "Kids Attention" can be helpful for energy indirectly, by improving your wattage throughout the day for better decision-making and planning, and reducing the mental fatigue of life.