Witching hour or as we call it in our house, “Unhappy Hour,” is that time when parental exhaustion meets baby’s desire to list all of the wrongs of the universe at the loudest possible volume. Baby standard time dictates when this will occur.
With my oldest, her wind up began around 4:30 p.m. so that by the time my spouse returned from work, I was in desperate need of a hand off and hot shower. With my middle guy, 6:00 p.m. marked the beginning of unhappy hour, meaning bedtime for the oldest was often a juggling act of bouncing an unhappy baby and corralling a overtired toddler.
Whether it occurs at 4 or 8 p.m., this tricky hour (or three) requires a basket of tricks and Nested Mama’s got a basket ready for you. In this three part series, I’ll share with you my favorite resources, tips, and sanity promoting approaches to surviving unhappy hour.
Last week in Part 1, I shared with you some tips and tricks for making your way through this wonky time of day. This week, I’m sharing some ideas about relaxation and affirmation that can potentially alter your experience of the witching hour.
When you think about the experience of the witching hour with a tiny little one, relaxation is probably the last word that comes to mind. Maybe you are thinking, Johanna, you are absolutely nuts for even trying to put relaxation in the same sentence, even the same zip code, as this dreaded time of day.
I hear you. I really do.
And it makes good biological sense - we are programmed to hear our babies cry and have a corresponding response. Everything about their crying compels us to tend to them and meet their needs.
If you are like me, often that tending comes with tense shoulders up to my ears, fast breathing, and a tightness in my chest when I’m in the thick of a late afternoon with a cranky baby.
As you pace the floor, rock, nurse, and bounce, your way through this time of day, you can also take a moment and a breath.
Right now, I want you to breathe with me. A nice big breath expanding your belly.
Good. Now slowly let it out.
That feels good, right? If you practice yoga, you know how important breath can be to find a sense of calm inside you.
When in the thick of the witching hour, take that good deep breath. Now, let it out.
Notice the tightness in your neck. Send you next exhale there.
Note your shoulders. Help them drop down with your exhale. And so forth.
It sounds so simple on paper, but it takes a combined focus of body and mind. And, it really does make a difference.
Often when my babies were small and restless in my arms, I found that progressively relaxing my own body helped them, too. And, any space of calm and positivity you can carve for yourself into an otherwise less than wonderful time of day is a very good thing.
When tired at the end of a long day of parenting or facing what seems like a desert of time between wake up from nap and bedtime, my thoughts become filled with “shoulds” and with the shoulds come lots of frustration.
A good affirmation can stop those thoughts and change the direction of my mind. And, it can provide me a powerful touchstone when the day’s parenting has been more than a wee bit rough. Here are a few of my favorites -
Learning to practice relaxation and dig into some meaningful affirmations is well worth the effort. This is true for the witching hour, but it is also applicable to many moments beyond that time of day and phase of tiny baby life.
Toddler throwing a tantrum with full on face-plant in the bank lobby?
Breathe in and out. This is not an emergency.
Trying to make dinner but life is one diaper explosion after epic nursing session after diaper explosion?
Take a deep breath. This is tricky, not tragic.
Feeling overwhelmed by parenting decisions x, y, and z?
Breathe. I am enough.
Kiddo losing it because he dropped the last jelly bean into the wasteland that is the back seat of your car? (And, if you are wondering, yes, this did just happen.)
Breathe deep into your belly. I make space for my child’s feelings.
Whatever parenting or other challenges life is throwing at you, breathe with me. You got this.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.