“Wednesday Evenings” aims to show there is beauty in every family’s evening, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a continued partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Langworthy across the US to document the nighttime routines of 12 families in four different cities.
Our first Wednesday Evening begins at 5:30pm in Glen Park, San Francisco (“a small neighborhood nestled between the much more fashionable Noe Valley and much more hip Bernal Heights”) when Marcy gets home from her job on the Global Public Policy Team at Facebook. Her husband Dave, like most people from San Francisco, works in the tech industry as well.
Marcy and Dave have two girls, Lila (almost 5) and Ivy (age 2.5). They use a nanny during the school year but for the summer, Marcy’s mom, Susan has moved in to take care of the girls when they are not in camp.
“The transition has been relatively easy, although yesterday, Lila burst into tears and said, ‘I miss Gladys! She took such good care of us!’ But they love their grandma so I feel like it’s easier than it would have been with a new nanny.”
I asked Marcy what their plans would be in the fall.
“Unfortunately, we’ll need to find a new nanny. We just don’t need as many hours anymore and Gladys really wants a full-time job.”
Marcy described their typical evenings as “chaotic, noisy and mommy-focused”, stressing how much more the bathing and bedtime routine falls on her shoulders than her husband.
“My husband really works to be a somewhat equal partner in the evenings but ends up being all mommy all the time. I usually bathe them solo (no small feat, as you can see from their hair!) while Dave ‘gets their rooms ready’. Basically, this means he pulls the shades down.”
Marcy talked about how their evenings have changed since Marcy’s mom started living with them.
“My mom told me to take advantage while she’s here. But I also don’t want her to feel like she’s working all the time. She’s going through a pretty hard time right now personally, so I want to make sure being with us is good for her soul and she doesn’t feel drained by it all! I want us to be helping her as much as she’s helping us.”
I asked Marcy how her parenting style meshes with her mother’s.
“My mom loves to say, ‘When you were a kid, parent wasn’t a verb.’ She’d probably say I coddle my girls and let them get away with more than she would.”
Marcy makes dinner for Lila and Ivy and sits with them while they eat, but the grown-ups wait to eat their own dinner until after the kids go to bed.
Bedtime for the girls is 7:45pm which means, as two working parents, Marcy and Dave “try to cram a whole lot of family time into a couple of hours”.
Marcy says her favorite part of the evening is after the girls have finished eating, which is typically when Dave gets home from work, when they all have time to hang out together as a family.
“We’ll go for a walk if the weather is nice and we can cajole them outside, or we hang around the house and they re-enact their favorite scenes from Annie or Peter Pan. It really is the most fun part of the day… and they tend to be at their best during this time.”
Marcy’s least favorite part of the evening is when playtime is over and she has to herd everyone upstairs to start the bedtime routine, including her husband.
“I go from being fun mommy to fun police. It feels like it’s all on me to keep things moving toward bedtime and then everyone gets cranky with me” making selecting pajamas, washing their hair, brushing their teeth, etc. “a real challenge.”
I asked Marcy why she thinks Dave doesn’t do as much heavy lifting and she said he tries but the girls are resistant and don’t cooperate unless she gets involved. She also wishes Dave wouldn’t fold so easy when the kids ask for mom.
After bath time and hair washing is over, the routine doesn’t get any easier.
“Ivy ran around like a lunatic with a diaper on her head for like ten minutes while I was trying to get Lila dressed for bed.”
The girls brush their teeth with the help of Mom, Dad and a musical playing on the iPad.
“Getting them both to stand still while brushing their teeth is a NIGHTMARE, so we let them watch a video clip from a musical while they do it. We don’t allow much screen time, so these tooth brushing videos are a real treat!”
Then Marcy and Dave divide and conquer getting the girls to bed in their respective rooms.
“There’s always big drama about who is putting them each to bed… usually they both want me, which is hard. We spend a lot of time trying to convince one of the girls to let Dave do it. Often times, it’s Dave reading to one of them while I do the bedtime thing with the other and then I come back to do the final bedtime thing after he’s finished reading. I’m tired just writing it down.”
Marcy says Ivy always cries when she leaves the room which is “only a few minutes but brutal to hear.”
During bedtime routine, Susan cooks Marcy and Dave dinner so it’s ready when they come back downstairs.
This is way different than their previous routine which consisted mainly of ordering out and eating really late or fending for themselves with a bowl of cereal. Marcy says she wasn’t sure how a grown man living with his mother-in-law was going to play out, but they both love it.
“We are both so tired when we get home, neither of us wants to cook anything. Having my mom cook is AMAZING. We aren’t eating as late and we actually sit down and have an adult conversation.”
After dinner, Marcy and Dave sit on the couch with their laptops and have what they call the “third shift” which is getting work done they weren’t able to finish at the office because they left to be home with their kids.
“It’s the only way to make it work. Otherwise, we’d both have to stay at work pretty late and we’d have even less time with the girls. The third shift allows us to have these few hours in the evening to really be together as a family without distraction. I’m pretty clear about getting home, putting down the phone and being with the girls. There’s so little time with them during the week, we try to make the most of it.”
Marcy also stresses that she enjoys this time and wouldn’t want a job that ends at 5pm.
“I love that I’m engaged in my work and that it’s challenging. I’m willing to put in the extra hours to be part of this amazing company that is doing amazing things in the world!”
Marcy said that in the days leading up to the photo shoot, “I was really paying close attention to our evening routine, wondering how it would look on film. So in some ways, just the idea of the shoot made me tune into our evenings a little differently and helped me appreciate the time we have together.”
After looking through the photos, Marcy was surprised for a few reasons— good and bad.
“First of all, I thought our house looked… not that messy. That was something I was stressed about so I was pleasantly surprised. My kids, on the other hand, looked so raggedy! I had to laugh. Just so you know, it was ‘crazy hair day’ at Lila’s camp, thus the one braid and one pigtail!”
Marcy also said the photos helped her see how present she is for the girls when she is with them, making that time “playful and energetic” even though it seems so short.
But she also wondered why the pictures didn’t reflect how much more “the brunt of bedtime” falls on her than her husband.
I told Marcy that it’s hard to reflect length of time in a photo and obviously, Dave could have been more present than on a typical night. I looked back through the photos and really couldn’t find many where Dave wasn’t pictured. Even during the bath when Marcy was washing their hair, Dave was still hanging out by the sink.
I emailed Marcy a few more photos and she admitted, “They actually have me appreciating Dave a bit more… maybe I don’t give him enough credit??? I love that he is in most of the pictures.”
This post is part of the “Wednesday Evenings” series sponsored by Allstate. From bath time to bed time, every family has a special evening routine. This series aims to show the beauty in the day winding down. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.