“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.
Laura and Tom live in Evergreen Park, a suburb on the South Side of Chicago with two kids— four-year-old Meredith and 17-month-old Connor. They also have a 17-year-old cat named Cassie and a 125 lb. Bernese mountain dog named Thatcher.
Laura is a financial aid officer at a local university and Tom is an architect. Laura has recently gone back to school for her MBA and goes to class one night a week. That night happens to be on Wednesdays, so after dinner she leaves Tom to fend for himself with the kids.
“Tom leaves for work before anyone is up in the morning, so I’m on my own to get us all up and out the door on weekdays. I like that this gives him a taste of that challenge.”
Laura described her Wednesday evenings as “pressured, hectic and rushed” because she operates on a very tight timeframe between when she gets home to when she has to rush out the door to get to class.
“I race out the door from work as close to 4:30 as possible, so that I can pick up the kids around 4:45, which gets us home about 5:15pm, leaving me an hour with them before I have to leave.”
But she is very happy with her decision to go back to school.
“There is never an easy time to do it, so you may as well put aside your hesitations and jump in. That being said, having a spouse or partner who supports your effort is so necessary.”
Laura and Tom moved to the suburbs a few years ago when her commute to the north side of the city became unmanageable with a new baby. Her new commute is five minutes from work to the kids’ Montessori school and then another five minutes home.
Laura talked about how having a short commute has become both a blessing and a curse.
“While it’s great to be so close to the kids, not having a commute leaves no room for time to myself. Tom has 30 minutes on the train to listen to music, read, etc. I often wish I had 30 minutes of quiet time to leave my workday behind, before jumping into the high-energy, demanding life that the kids bring.”
Laura describes her hour home with the kids as “complete chaos” having to make dinner the second she walks in the door.
“After being at school all day, all my kids want is mommy’s attention. Sometimes I involve Meredith in measuring, pouring, mixing –which she loves. But Conor simply wants me to hold him, so I’ve gotten very adept at getting dinner going with only one hand.”
On class nights, Tom arrives only a few minutes before Laura has to leave.
“I feel like I race home, dump everything, cook dinner for everyone, then race out the door to school without getting any family time! Tom and I only see each other for a few minutes on class nights. He takes an earlier train home, so that he walks in the door before I have to walk out at 6:15pm. On class nights, it feels as if we’re passing the baton in a relay race.”
Laura also tries to squeeze in nursing Conor before dinner, since she won’t be around for bedtime. Nursing Conor at bedtime is her favorite part of a typical evening.
“As much as I sometimes lament the fact that he only wants mommy all the time, I also cherish our bond and the fact that nursing allows me to still see him as my little baby.”
When the timing works out, they try to sit down for dinner together but Laura has to eat fast and head out in the middle.
“Leaving them mid-family dinner is really tough. But being an adult student is so different than when you’re 20 years old; I really enjoy the learning process and usually come home late at night, excited to share with Tom what was discussed that night.”
Laura also talked about watching what she says about leaving for class around the kids so she models positive feelings surrounding education.
“Kids watch, see and absorb everything. I’m kind of careful not to say, ‘Ughh…I don’t want to go to class tonight!’ because I don’t like the message that sends about school.”
I asked Laura how Tom felt about her going back to get her MBA.
“He was totally onboard when I suggested it and agreed without hesitation. He completed his master’s right out of undergrad, before we were married or had kids, and felt it was important that I have the same opportunity to pursue further education if I wanted. He is a planner, so he started in right away with the logistics on how we would make it happen.”
To make things a little easier, Laura and Tom have scaled back bedtime routine on Wednesdays mainly by omitting bath time.
“I have no idea how he handles it on his own and am curious to see what goes on when I’m not there! Somehow he makes it work, because I’ve never gotten a text from him, when I’m in class, asking me where something is or how to do something.”
After dinner, Tom gets Conor ready for bed first while Meredith plays on her own.
Tom says it’s been “a process to figure out what works best for the little guy” but now that they’ve developed a routine, “it’s a lot easier and faster for me to put him to bed than for Laura—if she’s not here, he isn’t interested in lingering over bedtime.”
Although Laura’s happy everything goes smoothly, she admits that sometimes she wishes her absence didn’t seem quite so seamless for Tom.
“I guess that I’m looking for some validation that managing two kids is hard. I know he’s an amazing dad and can handle just about anything they throw his way, but I’d like to think I’m an integral part of things and that it’s tough on him when I’m not home!”
After a bit of back and forth with Conor, Tom gets Meredith ready for bed.
They read a few books and then it’s lights out.
Tom uses that alone time to clean up around the house and get some work done while he waits for Laura to return.
I asked Laura what she thought about the photos.
“On Wednesday nights, my attention is split–it feels as if I’m racing to get out the door from the moment I walk in with an eye always on the clock. It’s nice to see the moments of being together and focused on one another still do exist. When you freeze them and take them as single moments, I can see the trees instead of just the forest.”
Laura also talked about seeing photos of the time when she isn’t there.
“After I walk out the door, I turn my attention to school and try not to think about the fun I’m missing at home. In my mind, they head straight to bed! But I loved seeing that Conor doesn’t cry the whole time I’m gone and the three of them have a good time together.”
She also said she would like to add the word “fun” to the adjectives she used to describe her evenings.
“I still see the rush from moment to moment, but there’s so much more laughter and silliness in the pictures than I have recognized before!”
Tom says that although hurried, Wednesday evenings have become a time he really looks forward to, because he gets to see a different side of the kids on that night. When I asked him for his reaction to the photos, he said, “They do an incredible job of capturing the special little moments that are really easy to forget amidst the chaos.”
He also wanted to mention what a positive influence he thinks Laura going back to school is for their kids.
“I think it sets a great example for our kids that learning is a lifelong thing and fosters a sense of school being something to look forward to. I love when our daughter asks Laura about her schoolwork and is interested in the fact that her mom’s still learning.”
Laura added, “It’s really fun for us to have the visual of what feels like lost moments and to know that we’re creating the home we wish to have for ourselves and our kids.”
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.