Improving My Miserable Afternoons

Improving My Miserable Afternoons

I’ve mentioned many times that my afternoons are often quite miserable. After all those hours inside, I start feeling the walls of my house are closing in on me, like Luke Skywalker in that trash compactor. And dealing with the kids’ bickering and whining on top of chasing after my adorable/non-stop toddler who has somehow gotten his hands again on scissors/a permanent black marker/a wine glass–it’s just, well, miserable.

And at the same time I am aware of an important Rabbi Nivin concept called “paradising” which tells us that we are not allowed to grin-and-bear miserable situations. We have to actually brainstorm and think of ways to improve them. To turn our misery into paradise (or at least not quite so miserable). I did that last year with my once miserable mornings– and it worked (the secret, I started doing EVERYTHING the night before, from making the lunches to dressing my little kids for the next day before they go to bed– please DO NOT tell my dear MIL:)).

So the other night, at the Kotel, I was brainstorming about paradising my miserable afternoons. Here’s a few thoughts I had on the topic. I’m posting them here in case my ideas might help you, and also with the hope that maybe you can add some ideas to help me out:)

1. Every day, after I pick up 2-year-old Yonatan at 1:30 and 4-year-old Yaakov at 2 PM, I take them straight to the playground. There I enjoy myself sitting in the fresh air and talking with other mothers and also reading (which is my personal equivalent of eating chocolate). So that means we only get home around 3 PM to start my miserable afternoon.

2. When we get home around 3, I always have a few things to organize–like heating up soup for the big kids’ return from school at 4 or moving laundry from the washer to the dryer. And then at 3:30, I lie down for half an hour on the sofa, which I enjoy greatly because I am always wiped out by that point. So that means my miserable afternoon ACTUALLY starts at 4 PM.

3. So, in reality, my miserable afternoon only lasts between 4 and 7, at which point Yonatan goes to sleep, and my other kids are being put to bed by someone else. Just 3 hours, that’s manageable.

4. A way to whittle down those three hours to 2 hours and 45 minutes of misery? I can take a 15 minute break at one point, drinking chicco and reading a book (i.e. chocolate) at the kitchen table.

5. And another way to whittle those 2 hours and 45 minutes down to 2 hours and 35 minutes? When my older daughter comes home, I can go on a walk for 10 minutes to get some air and talk with Hashem–and praise Him, thank Him, and ask for His help getting through my miserable afternoon.

6. Another idea to uplift the remaining miserable 2 hours and 35 minutes? I can take “finger photos,” which means that when my kids do something cute or imaginative or funny, I tap my thumb with my index and middle finger. That’s how I take a “finger photo”– reminding myself that this is a wonderful mothering moment I would like to capture and remember.

So those are my ideas to upgrade miserable afternoons…And I would love to hear what’s worked for you too:)


  1. Been there…done that!
    Firstly, I would gently suggest switching the word miserable to maybe challenging or adventurous…lest it become a self fulfilling prophecy.
    When my children were that age I had a container of crafts and activities that I saved especially for the late afternoon…They were happy and occupied and so was I!!

    • gentle suggestion accepted:) great idea to have special activities for late afternoon…thank you!

  2. Who is going to clean the crafts? NOT I!

  3. But yes, I have paper, crayons and markers in plastic drawers by our table. Kids enjoy them, but they BETTER clean up, or no crafts Next time.

  4. I put some good music that I enjoy and let them dance and go crazy; sometimes i put also classical music and we imagine characters, stories and quiet dances on it!

  5. And i thank god for my luck to be wuth my kids so many hours while so many parents come late home and dont see much of their kids afternoons

  6. Two things that help us in the afternoon:

    We go to the library every week (Thursdays), and take out 15 books each time. So, some of the afternoon is spent reading.

    We have a subscription to Arutz Meir of Machon Meir (subscription is cheap and SO worth it), and each day one child gets to pick out 2 short shows (~20 minutes each), which everyone sits down to watch on the computer. (There is as set day of the week per child, which rotates every month.) This is a relaxing way for them start their afternoon when they get home from school/gan, and I can use the time to do some dinner prep work, or to drink a coffee.

    • thanks for the ideas, too bad we don’t have a neighborhood library, it’s very teensy and there are thousands of kids in the neighborhood, b”H, so they don’t accept new members ๐Ÿ™

      but arutz meir is AMAZING! that’s actually what happens at 7 PM most nights, any kid who is all ready for bed and has cleaned up gets to watch arutz meir, and they watch until bedtime. It basically does bedtime for me.

      • Chana Jenny,

        Your children are welcome to come over any afternoon to borrow or swap books with my kids. We have kids’ books in Hebrew and English.

        PLUS we have a membership card (so easy for just about anyone to get) to the local Mamad library.

        I also get fun puzzle books at the checkout counter at Big Deal for just a few shekels.

        THANK YOU for another honest report from Planet Motherhood!
        XO XO XO

        • thanks ayala, that is such a kind offer! I think the bus ride over to har nof would be too tough with my crowd. Though puzzle books from big deal sounds like a good idea!

  7. What’s arutz meir?

  8. Play dates!

  9. Ear plugs! I know it sounds terrible, but it really only dulls the pitch of the noise. You still hear them. For me, it’s a lifesaver when everyone gets whiny and they start bickering or crying. You can get transparent silicone ones so its less obvious.

    • Earplugs. I love it. That would definitely take the edge off the 4-7 frenzy.

      Putting it on my shopping list ๐Ÿ™‚

    • OMG, you made me laugh!! but maybe a good idea:)

    • I thought I was the only one who wears earplugs around the kids sometimes (when they’re all kvetching and I’m getting too overwhelmed!)

    • I would be interested in hearing why no one sends to tsaharon…?

    • Omg that is an amazing idea! Thank you!

  10. And Chana Jenny, thanks for being so real and continuing to work on being a happier mom. Your growth process is a model I strive to follow. Hashem should bless us all with success!

  11. When my kids were that age I used to take them for long walks and look at Nature. Trees, flowers, birds and even gazelles (we live in Maale Adummim)… They all remember this fondly

  12. When I get tense or it’s getting to wild, I like to put some of my younger kids together into the bathtub with some toys. This gives me some time to stretch out next to the bathroom unto a yoga-mat or have a phone conversation with a friend while watching the kids playing in the water. I also like to use Dr. Miriam Adahan’s victory/sanity cards. Or I pamper myself with some lovely scented natural cremes for face, hands etc. and use aromatherapy (spray, oils) and massaging my kids which relaxes myself in return. Love yourself, love your kids : )

  13. So great ideas!! My afternoon รกre also very challenging! In Venezuela We have to pick up Kids atenciรณn schooll and bed time is later….. So tireying!!
    I may suggest you can exchange with neighbors some Books you May want with some yours they might like.
    I also have a toy closet and each Day or every two days i get out a different kind of toy so they wont get bored so easily
    And in “fire case” you can get a glass of water and while you recite the shehakol bracha you can think ื”ื›ืœ ื›ืžื• ื” ืจื•ืฆื”!ืด all is what Hashem wants and i accept it,….drinking it slowly!! Until you calm down

  14. Planning afternoon activities:
    This obviously depends on the age of the child. For the two year old – pinterest has alot of toddler play activities. Maybe also google it. The 4 year old – age appropriate crafts – use items that dont cause too much damage like crayons not markers. Maybe the 4 year old can be ina different room to the two year old so he doesnt grab the scizzors etc, so getting cheap things like colouring books or even printing off things to colour, or more planned crafts if you have the energy to do it with him.
    Also do you have a variety of games the kids can play together? Puzzles, dollhouse etc?
    Are there any mothers groups for 2-4pm in the area where kids can play/sing etc together?
    Maybe they can skype a relative once in a while or weekly? Writing stories on the computer for older kids?
    Even with a million ideas, its going to be hard and tiring…
    But its great that you are planning ahead. It gives you sense of control, hope, and maybe even excitement (for the parts you like).

  15. How on EARTH do you manage to take a 1/2 hour nap with a toddler and a 4 year old at home?!? If I tried that they’d be climbing all over me and/or asking for something within a minute flat.

    I came up with the idea for a weekly home-chug schedule for my kids. They know that Sunday is gymboree day (at the matnas actually, not at home), Monday is arts & crafts day… Thursday is shabbos prep day ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Yes, I let my kids help me cook – it’s messy but they have a great time and I get a head start on shabbos cooking!)

    Also something I picked up from somewhere along the way: think to yourself that from 4-7 is 100% kid time. Don’t even attempt to do anything but be present with your kids for those few hours. And you can look forward to 7 PM when kid time ends and adult time begins – for housework, self-care, etc.

    • thanks emuna…that is amazing that you have a home-chug schedule! I don’t actually fall asleep between 330 and 4, but I’ve been taking a half an hour rest in the afternoon for at least 15 years now. I guess my kids just now that’s what eema does, and they pretty much leave me alone.

  16. Listening to CD’s (and/or old tapes) with stories and songs that uplift the whole atmosphere with wonderful messages works great. The soundtrack also helps to reveal the many mitzvah opportunities available, adding great warmth and meaning to cold afternoons.

    • that’s a good idea. I used to get tapes for my kids (that shows you how long it’s been), but forgot about them. Maybe I will try again

  17. It’s interesting cuz I have an entire different perspective. I have no afternoons and wish I had more time. I wish we had time to go to the park (let alone good weather). When people ask for playdates I always feel that there’s no time in there. By the time the kid comes over, I need them to go home cuz we’re dealing with dinner, baths and bedtimes.
    I’m home all day with the baby and 2 year old. That part passes by so fast with nothing getting done except taking care of them. By 2:45 we get ready to pick up the next kid, and we’re home by 3:30. I try to focus on him for the next half hour (not always successful). Before I know it the rest are home and it’s a crazy mix of getting ready for dinner, baths and eating together. After dinner, we put the younger ones to bed and do homework and showers with the older ones and I can finally breathe sometime after 8. But there’s absolutely no time to sit and try to figure out what to do when they come home, it’s all already laid out by the regular schedule.

  18. Sara, you and I have the same schedule!

  19. Why do we feel miserable all those afternoons,day after day after? Isnit because we would like to be somewhere else,to see the world instead of being cooped up in a living room with ever hungry kids? I found that i am very frustrated and thatd why those afternoons are depressing but when i focus on now and i think i am in the right place thats what god waห†nts from me it helps a lot! It doesnt only depends on the activities sometimes i only sit down on the carpet with them, it depends on me wanting to be here and now. When i think of other people who seem to have more libert and less kids and a great career etc…i suffer terribly.please yetser hara go away…have you got tricks against this frustration??

    • Ann, your suffering hits home because I can really relate. It doesn’t seem you are enjoying your kids ๐Ÿ™ I wasn’t enjoying my kids so much, and I worked with a mentor as well as a life coach and we figured out some things. I started being more spontaneous, less organized, and more fun and (I am home with 3 kids 5 and under) most days I am happier. I usually don’t have a schedule, we go on bus adventures sometimes, playdates sometimes, and sometimes just go to the park. If dinner ends up being oatmeal bc I am wiped out but happy, then everyone is happy. If you are miserable most of the time that’s not good and it doesn’t have to be that way! You can try, try, and try more to figure out how to make it better- so your life is a pleasure to live. It’s absolutely possible, with Hashem’s help!! Each person has different personalities and figuring it out is really a personal thing.

      • Ann, your suffering hits home because I can really relate. It doesn’t seem you are enjoying your kids ๐Ÿ™ I wasn’t enjoying my kids so much, and I worked with a mentor as well as a life coach and we figured out some things.
        Each person has different personalities and figuring it out is really a personal thing. What helped me was that I started being more spontaneous, less organized, and more fun and (I am home with 3 kids 5 and under) most days I am happier. I usually don’t have a schedule, we go on bus adventures sometimes, playdates sometimes, and sometimes just stay home and hang out. If dinner ends up being oatmeal bc I am wiped out but happy, then everyone is happy. If you are miserable most of the time that’s not good and it doesn’t have to be that way! You can try, try, and try more to figure out how to make it better- so your life is a pleasure to live. It’s absolutely possible, with Hashem’s help!!

  20. I thought I was the only one who got my kids dressed the night before๐Ÿ˜Š

  21. Just enjoying the comments and interaction on this post…. I have nothing to add! Big laugh for the earplugs: actually I am slightly hearing impaired and have seen it as a huge advantage in childrearing!

  22. Hi everyone. I really am quite amazed at a lot of these comments. What I keep thinking of is the one column you had on your blog entitled, “mourning for the children I will never have”… or something like that. It was by a single woman who was not married and was reaching the age of not being able to have childre.
    All I can say, is RELISH THE CHAOS YOU HAVE. I know so many women who were unable to have children, and
    others who never married. I really dont mean to preach, but really , close your eyes and imagine where you would be if you had not had the blessings of marrying and having many children. So many women never had that blessing and would exchange places with you in blink of an eye.
    I remember reading an article years ago, about a mother who was talking about doing and folding laundry. Instead of complaining, she said she looked at is a true privilege and mitzva to be able to nurture, take care of, and do laundry for the children she was blessed with……..

    • Esther, just curious. Where are you holding in the kid parsha?

      • If you are asking about me personally, yes I am married and have 2 kids close in age, who are teens now. I was older when I got married, as well as having a number of miscarriages before and after my children. Why does that matter?Is what I wrote only valid if I have children?
        Count your blessings.

  23. My kids used to like taking turns choosing and cooking our dinners. This was when I was a single mom of 5 ages 12-5. Keeping toddlers busy and out of everyone else’s projects and homework is challenging. If there is a table where everyone else is working they might like having paper and pencils to do ‘homework’ since they are really too small to color. Four year old boys usually like cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Moving the chairs into lines for passengers and using a paper or plastic plate for steering wheel can help them play train, plane, bus, or boat. Since they went overseas they can re-enact this trip… Story tapes, books, and puzzles can keep the more sedate kids busy. Active ones like music, dancing, instruments and a homemade band. The earplugs will be handy! lol Kids also like to perform for each other.

  24. I just wanted to give a different perspective for everyone… I am NOT a pro at being a mommy but I have 5 children under 10 and I home school 4 of them and the 5th is 3 months. I work part time 3 to 5 days a week. Some days I do not know what to do but it works out and the next day you are as happy as if you were a mother of 2, 1 or maybe no children. The hardest part is keeping up with the house work. 2 of the children are in the same grade and they keeping up with the regular school year. The other two are also keeping up and may go into the next grade before this school year is done.
    I also have a sister in law that has twins last year and is way out in the country and home schools her 4 of 6 children too about the same age as mine. I have a sister who has 5 also that home schools 4 of her 5 too. Its very challenging but as Esther says in the above comments it is the attitude. I am very thankful for my children as they give me a good reason to live in this awfully selfish and cruel world.

  25. I absolutely love all the suggestions from all the such nicely experienced mommy and i am so glad Chana Jenny posted this so everyone could have there imput to give us new ideas to make our days somewhat easier.
    Like Chana Jenny i try to get a nap in so I can function better for the kiddos and hubby’s sake!
    I like the art idea. There’s actually something called velour art that you trace a real photo on to the velour paper and the color with oil pastel crayons. We did that for art class. It was so fun.
    I also have a lot of childrens books that i bought very cheap from book sales and keep them for the the children to read over and over. I am attracted to nature, animals, famous people, and stories that teach good lessons and cookbooks. ๐Ÿ˜€
    The last thing i liked from the above comments were the good music setting the environment. Cheer everyone up!
    The earplugs are hysterical!๐Ÿ˜‚
    Thank you so much everyone!

  26. I love the idea of pretending to travel across the world to another country and i like to do virtual field trips with children to zoos or national parks.

  27. My toddler And I leave at three fifteen to collect the big kids from school and get home at quarter to five. Can anyone help me with ideas (that are free) for entertaining ourselves in the car for all that time? Then we have two hours to do chazara, chol homework, dinner, baths, stories, clear up, one on one time, times four, cutting toenails and all the their things kids need. There is no problem with filling that time!

  28. You can google car trip ideas for kids, also pinterest has many ideas.
    Here are some: make things out of pipe cleaners-give them ideas like glasses to promt them
    Story/music cds
    Count the red/yellow/grey cars
    If they are a bit older:
    Activities like ‘find the word’, mazes etc

  29. I love the earplugs idea! Totally get my kids dressed the night before. (They get so excited on shabbat to get into pjs). Another afternoon idea: utilize the abundance of neighbor/gan friends. I used to be embarrassed to call up a mom and ask if my kid could go to their house to play, but after my Israeli friend assured me that that’s how it works here I’ve been getting better at it. And even while friends are playing by us it’s usually calmer with less sibling bickering. You could even have a regular schedule switching off with another neighbor.

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