“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.
Kirsten and her husband Alan live in the suburbs of Massachusetts with two cats and three kids—Isabel (7), Charlotte (4) and Mason (5 months). They are high school sweethearts and have been married since 2006.
Alan works full-time as a foreman for an elevator/fabrication company while Kirsten works part-time as a practice coordinator for a local physical therapy company. She spends every day at home with the kids (squeezing in work during naps and wherever else she can) and then also works at her office a few nights a week.
Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out a succinct way to explain Kirsten’s work schedule, but I think that’s indicative of many modern working parents who have created a flexible work-life routine that works for them, even though it may sound confusing to someone else.
Kirsten describes her family as “average” and their evenings as “cooperative, busy and silly.” Prior to the shoot, Kirsten expressed some worry that her evenings might not stack up to the others in the series.
“Some of the other families have houses that look very nice and it’s intimidating. We don’t do any special rituals like the other families. It made me think about starting some, but it’s just not us.””
When Raquel arrived at 5pm on a rainy day, she found Kirsten playing inside with the girls while Mason napped.
This year, Kirsten has taken on the added responsibility of being PTO president at their elementary school, so she went into the other room periodically to check her email.
Kirsten says she is “very grateful for the opportunity to work from home” but adds that she has “a hard time stepping away” and is working on shutting down the computer during dinnertime so she can give her family her undivided attention.
“The girls understand that I work and try to be respectful of my time, but if they have a need, they will interrupt me right away. I do a lot of silent shushing and waving wildly when I am on the phone.”
Once Mason woke up from his nap, Kirsten changed him and then strapped him to her chest to keep her hands free while making dinner.
Babywearing is something Kirsten didn’t really use with her older kids but is so thankful she discovered it for her littlest.
“I couldn’t do a lot of what I do, if it weren’t for babywearing. I have my hands free to do almost anything, while giving Mason love and attention. I feel very connected to him and happier postpartum than with my other babies. I wish I had known the benefits when dealing with Charlie’s colic!”
Kirsten cooks 5 out of 7 dinners a week, whether she is home or not (“I cook a lot of things in big batches, like meatballs, taco meat, and tomato sauce”) and tries to have everything ready by the time Alan gets home at 5:30pm.
Since Kirsten spends all day at home with the kids, her husband takes a lot of the responsibility in the evenings, whether she at the office or at home. Alan doesn’t see the kids much during the week (“due to a combination of a long commute and an early bedtime”), so evenings are when he tries to maximize his quality time.
“We both work during the day, but I do so from home while watching the kids, so he knows I need a ‘child-break’. He is a huge help in the evenings.”
Once Alan gets home, everyone plays together in the living room.
Kirsten says she wants the time when their whole family is together to be fun, but is often bogged down with the nightly routine—cleaning up, homework, showers. All the things the kids don’t want to do.
“I want to get the kids to clean up after themselves throughout the day, but it doesn’t happen, so having a clean playroom is a battle I usually lose at night. I try to balance harping on them and giving them a chance to do chores without asking.”
Alan, who Kirsten describes as “a hands-on and wonderful father,” usually feeds Mason while Kirsten finishes getting dinner together.
Kirsten says dinner is an important time for the family to catch up and bond.
“We play music and just try to have fun. Plus, I love to cook and feed my family good food. We eat together at the table anytime our schedule allows.”
Isabel and Charlotte love playing dress-up and usually dance after dinner.
“They both are full of personality. Even when I have a trying day and my patience is worn thin, they can make me laugh.”
I asked Kirsten how much their evenings have changed since Mason’s arrival.
“Honestly, I was scared the first month after having my third because it was so chaotic at night. Now that we have adjusted, our nights aren’t that much busier than with two kids. He just goes with the flow! When people ask what it’s like to have a third, I say he is either a really good baby or I am just a much better parent now.”
After dinner, the family cleaned up.
Then they gave Mason a bath in the sink all together.
“Isabel is especially helpful with Mason. She really enjoys having a baby in the house to dote on. Charlie goes between wanting to help and wanting nothing to do with him. But they both have very little jealousy towards Mason and I love seeing how great they are with him.”
They got Mason dressed for bed in the living room.
After Mason was in his pajamas, it was time for the girls to say goodnight to their little brother.
Alan took him upstairs for a bottle and put him to bed at 6:45pm.
Kirsten talked about her decision not to breastfeed which she describes as a “difficult topic.”
“I was a nervous first time mom with Isabel and breastfeeding didn’t work out well. I didn’t attempt it with Charlie. I really wanted to breastfeed this time, but it wasn’t right for me. The first time he cried and I was all alone in the hospital, I asked for a bottle. I was overwhelmed thinking about trying to learn to breastfeed, giving Mason enough of what he needed to thrive, going back to work, and taking care of the girls all at the same time. I got criticism from the lactation nurse, but no help. I did pump for all three for the first month—talk about time consuming!”
While Alan put Mason to bed, Kirsten stayed downstairs with the girls, folding laundry and quizzing Isabel on spelling words.
“I have more time with the kids during the day, so I can relax at night and let Alan have his special time with them.”
Alan handles the entire nighttime routine on his own 3 nights a week, when Kirsten is working at her office.
After Mason went to sleep, it was time for Charlie to get ready for bed.
“My husband likes to stagger the bedtimes and that is his domain. Mason needs individual attention to get to sleep. Alan likes to put the girls to sleep separately so they don’t fight or get distracted while getting ready for bed. They all have their own rooms, but last year, the girls started sleeping together anyway. Finally, we just got them bunk beds.”
Charlie is the most difficult of the three kids to get to sleep.
“Charlie is especially tough because she has special routines. The elephant blankie first (soft side down), then the pink, then whichever else is her favorite that day. Then you have to give kisses and hugs to her bear and then to her. You have to sit in a certain spot on the bed and read her exactly two stories. If you don’t do it right and she is over-tired, she flips out. I don’t usually believe in giving into a stubborn child, but nothing else has worked at bedtime.”
Alan sat with Charlie in her room while Kirsten went back downstairs to read to Isabel.
At 8pm, it was time for Isabel to go to bed. She is at the age where she can do her routine mostly on her own.
Although Kirsten says Isabel also fights sleep (“She tries every stall tactic”) and still comes downstairs at least once at night.
Once all three kids are in bed, Kirsten and Alan prep for the following day and then read their Kindles or watch TV together until it’s time for them to go to bed too.
“Even though we aren’t actively participating in something together, that time at night is special and important to us. Just sitting together.”
I asked Kirsten what she thought of the photos.
“I was surprised how well they turned out! The photographer did a great job capturing our family. And I wasn’t ashamed of the pictures like I thought I might be. Our house is old and I noticed a few things in pictures that need to be fixed, but it really isn’t important in the scheme of things. We work hard and want to spend our time with our kids instead of finishing projects.”
She also talked about her struggle with seeing postpartum pictures of herself.
“I gained a lot of weight with my first two pregnancies. Now that we had our last baby, I am working to lose it. I am embarrassed though, so I hardly ever post full body pictures. I don’t like the pictures of my body and seeing them was a little shocking, but I’ll use them as further motivation for my diet.”
All in all, she thought the photos represented them well.
“This night represented my favorite kind of night. Both Alan and I were home, the kids were happy, and we had a relaxing night. I like that it turned out that way because when things are not going right, I can remember this experience.”
Kirsten finished by talking about how much more she appreciates her evenings at home since she started working at her office a few nights a week.
“I used to count the hours until bedtime, but now I realize how valuable that time is. Especially after reflecting on my experience with this project.”
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.