“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.
Natasha and Matty live in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston with their 6-year-old Hazy, their 3-year-old George and their dog Beatz. They are both old co-workers of mine from NYC, who moved back to Boston a few years after they got married.
“Matty and I are both from the Boston area, so we always talked about moving back ‘home’ to be near family when we had kids. As it turned out, I had a random interview at a Boston agency and moved for the job. It was mere coincidence that I found out I was pregnant with Hazel the night before I started.”
Natasha says the most unique thing about their evenings is that they both get home at 6pm and put the kids to bed at 7:30pm, so they have an hour and a half to cram in their entire family routine. They accomplish this with “an elaborate tag team routine.“
“It’s just jam-packed. Not sure how we maintain our sanity helping Hazy with homework, making dinner, doing baths, flossing (WTF?), brushing, and reading books in about an hour and 15 minutes.”
Unsurprisingly, Natasha uses the words “hectic, rushed and tiring” to describe their evenings.
She says, “I wish we could get home earlier, but it’s just not feasible” and adds that she’s worried her and her husband will “make families with two working parents look bad”.
Matty works closer to where they live so he does pick-up and drop-off, picking up George from daycare on his way home. He gets home a few minutes before Natasha.
The day of the shoot was one of the first days of school, so Natasha got an especially big greeting when she got home.
After she settles in, Natasha usually helps Hazy with her homework in the kitchen while Matty plays with George in the playroom.
Then Natasha quickly gets to work on preparing dinner…
…while Matty continues to play with the kids in the other room.
Natasha talked about how having a small window of family time affects their family.
“I feel like Matty and I would be a little more relaxed and patient if we didn’t have such a small window of time. I definitely say no to things I’d like to say yes to, like ‘Will you play with me?’ because there’s no way I have time to play trains and still cook dinner, do homework with Hazy, give a bath, etc. I hate hearing myself say, ‘I don’t have time’ out loud. I think Matty feels the same way, although he usually plays with the kids a little while I cook. In fairness though, I do enjoy cooking.”
She describes herself as a “foodie” and says making good food is important to her. She cooks a protein, a vegetable and a starch for every dinner. Although she’ll make whatever the kids want individually for breakfast, she makes one meal for dinner and they all eat the same thing.
Hazy helps set the table and then they all sit down together to eat.
“We always sit down for dinner together. That’s how I was raised, and to me it represents family time. Plus, it’s a chance to reinforce manners (please and thank you, waiting until everyone’s seated before eating, etc).”
Natasha and Matty ensure dinner is lively and interactive by pulling conversation starters on strips of paper from a big jar they keep in the middle of the table.
“I got the idea from another blog I read. We only do it very occasionally though, mostly because we forget. Hazy is the one who usually brings it up. My favorite question was, ‘What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you?’ because Hazy said George.”
When they were done eating, the kids cleared their plates and then Natasha and George played a game of chase around the kitchen.
Then they put on music and each “walked the runway.”
“We did a fashion show after back-to-school shopping this year so the kids could show Matty their new outfits. I laughed so hard at their runway walks that now they know it’s funny, so they do it when they’re feeling hammy.”
Natasha talked about the role of “silliness” in her and her husband’s parenting style.
“Humor has always been a big part of our relationship, and I think we share a similar philosophy that life and parenting should be fun. Matty is definitely the sillier one with the kids, but I get a little competitive and try to out-fun him from time to time. It appears the kids have inherited some good comedy genes.”
One of the photos shows Natasha checking her phone while Hazy looks like she is trying to get her attention. I asked Natasha if she was fielding work email.
“I got nervous when I saw this question until I saw the pics. I’m definitely a phone addict, but I try really hard to be off the phone during family time in the evening. We have a ‘no phones at the table’ rule that only very occasionally gets broken if one of us has a work crisis in progress. In this case, however, I was looking for “Party in the USA” on Spotify for the runway show.”
After they were done goofing off in the kitchen, it was time to head upstairs for a bath.
Both parents assisted with scrubbing and then let the kids play for a bit.
Matty dressed George in his pajamas and Natasha dressed Hazy.
“Changing into pajamas is usually whoever gets to which kid first and then we usually alternate who tucks whom in.”
Brushing and flossing is Natasha’s least favorite part of the evening.
“This is the portion of the night when no one is listening and both kids get a little loopy, so it feels like you’re telling them the same thing over and over again. Then there’s the fighting over who gets to open the flosser bag, who stands on the toilet, which cup is whose, etc. It’s one of the last things we do before bed, so since they know it’s the homestretch, they drag it out so much.”
Then they all jump into mom and dad’s bed for two books.
“Sometimes we all read together, and sometimes we do one book all together and then let Hazy stay up a little later to read to us. There are also a few books which they both love, and that goes great. Although to be totally honest, George gets pretty fidgety with long books, even ones he likes.”
This is Natasha’s favorite part of the night.
“There’s no better feeling than having all four of us reading in bed together.”
Once the books are finished, it’s time for bed.
Natasha and Matty alternate who tucks who in, but they always make sure they each give both kids a kiss good night. This task is not ignored even if one of them isn’t home.
“If either of us are working late or out, they know we’ll be coming in to kiss them good night while they’re sleeping.”
Hazy usually goes to sleep easily while George sings and talks to himself for at least an hour, which Natasha says is the main reason they can’t share a room.
I asked Natasha if they use their on/off duty pillows as intended.
“Those were a shower gift from our friend, Staci. We don’t really use them as intended, although I do occasionally try to give Matty a subliminal message by flipping his to “on duty” and mine to off after he’s been away for a few days.”
Once downstairs, Natasha realized she forgot to ask Hazy what pair of Toms she wanted from Zulily (they were on sale), so she decided to wake her to ask.
“Hazy is very particular about her fashion sense, and it was the last day of Zulilly’s sale. It was right after I put her to bed, so I figured I could get away with consulting her without it affecting her night’s sleep too much.”
With both kids tucked in, Mom and Dad headed downstairs for some more clean-up and a quick email check.
Then they joined each other on the couch for “Bachelor in Paradise”, which Nastasha says she forces Matty to watch with her.
“The only things we watch together are Ray Donovan, movies and sports. The Bachelor franchise is my guilty pleasure, and since it was 4 hours (!) a week of programming and so water cooler-y, I couldn’t exactly watch it after Matty went to bed. I twisted his arm to get him to watch it with me a few times, but then he secretly got into it. He’ll never admit it though.”
I asked Natasha what she thought of the photos.
“They put a big smile on my face! I was surprised that you don’t see the hectic nature of the evening. It looks more like a lot of fun. They made me feel like we’re doing something right.”
The photos also alleviated some of her fears about spending such compressed time with the kids.
“I was worried it would look like we don’t spend any quality time with our kids, and honestly, sometimes it feels that way mid-week. But I saw a lot of special time in those photos, between me and the kids, Matty and the kids, and all four of us together.”
She decided to change her three adjectives to “joyful, loving and busy” saying that “busy” is a “kinder, gentler hectic”.
I asked Natasha if there was anything else she would like to add about the experience.
“I’m so happy to see the photos reflect what a kickass dad Matty is. He is so super involved as a father and he always keeps it fun, and that’s so clear in these photos.”
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.