One aspect of our daily routine can be quite difficult on occasion: the witching hour. This term is more commonly used to refer to the time of day when small babies cry inconsolably for no apparent reason, but it seems an apt description for the problem I am trying to explain.
Luckily (well, you know), I didn’t become a single mum until my daughter was 15 months old. This meant that she was just starting to walk, could occupy herself for (very) brief bits of time and was sufficiently robust yet small enough to be carried around on my hip with just one arm. This allowed me to do pretty much everything one-handed at times when she simply would not be put down without screaming the place down and absolutely had to be physically attached to me: cooking – easy; pushing her pushchair with her on my hip while carrying a bag of shopping – tiring but fine thanks to the one-handled design of the Loola Up; washing up – a challenge but ok; vacuuming – would be fine were it not for the frightening noise; going to the toilet in the middle of the night while cuddling a non-sleeping, clingy, confused baby – not great but totally doable. Thanks to her size which seemed to match the length of my arms and torso perfectly, as well as her enjoyment at observing my activities at adult-level, the transition from a two-adult to a one-adult household was slightly easier than it otherwise might have been.
But now she is two years old and a whole lot more heavy. And sometimes we get to dinner-cooking time and she’s tired, and nothing is right, and she wants cuddles, and I’m tired too.
I’ve tried putting her in her Patapum carrier on my back, and unless she’s really upset she loves it most of the time. But it takes me about 10 minutes to put it on properly, so I usually think ‘let’s just get on with the cooking, we could have been almost done by now’. So this is too much faff for an everyday solution. I had hoped that giving her a play kitchen for her birthday would entice her to occupy herself with that while I got on with things in my kitchen, but no luck.
One change I have implemented is to dedicate about one afternoon per month to batch cooking when my daughter sees her dad. This means I have a freezer full of food that I only need to throw in the oven or into a saucepan, like a home-made ready meal. A real stress-saving solution, and if you batch-cook enough different meals, it won’t even get repetitive until the second week.
But I’m still looking for ways of cooking with a tired toddler which lets me get on with it and shows her that I am doing something that is just part of our evening while reassuring her that I am not far away and she can occupy herself with something interesting. Is this just something I will have to learn to live with or am I simply not encouraging her to be independent?