Not only does it give you a little mid-week holiday, but it can do wonders for the marriage, too!
Wednesday has always been that one day I've looked forward to as a working mum. But these days the lure of the 'hump day' is even more attractive, and I would like to thank the Dutch for that!
Well, maybe the Dutch don't quite deserve the credit for this one since it really came about by chance, but I've since found out that families in the Netherlands do this very thing and I think they're absolute geniuses for it.
The Dutch are onto something! Image: supplied.
"Working apart, but together"
Let me first explain our situation. My husband, Anthony, and I both work the same hours, except he does his over four days and I do mine over five. He works the afternoons and into the early hours of the mornings and I work super early, finishing just in time to do the afternoon school run.
Since I returned to work full time, Anthony and I tag team our parenting: he takes care of the morning school run which includes breakfasts and ferrying three kids to two different locations. I take care of the afternoon run, then I sort dinner, bath time, prepping lunches and bed time while he works in the evenings. Anthony also helps out with a grocery shop during the week and often helps out with meals and other things on weekends, too. It's a fairly equal partnership.
A break in routine is like a holiday
This generally works for us, but flying solo each and every night can take its toll.
Since Anthony's day off is Wednesday, I sometimes felt resentful coming home and cooking dinner after he'd 'had the day off'. My day starts at 4.45am, and it would be nice to be able to look forward to just one evening where I don't have to even THINK about what to feed the kids.
I remember back when I was a stay-at-home mum, taking care of the kids each and every day IS work, and granted, he does the morning school runs, which I absolutely despise. But I can see both sides - the working parent that just wants to come home and relax after a day at work, and the stay at home parent, who just wants to hand the kids over to the one who hasn't been wrangling kids all day. It's equally hard on both sides.
Heidi Klum (mom of four: Leni, Henry, Johan and Lou (above)): “I’m not someone who [lives] like, ‘OK, this is a museum and you can’t sit here and you can’t touch this and everything has to be put in its place - [the kids] live here as much as we do. You come into our house and a giant elephant and lion are welcoming you. We have toys and things everywhere.”
I loved being a stay-at-home mum and watching our three kids grow up, but I also quite enjoy the distance (and hot coffee!), and the mental stimulation I get from my job.
"Do you think you could take care of dinner on Wednesdays?" I asked Anthony a few months ago.
I don't recall his exact answer, but he was generally on board once I explained I could do with just one night without the mental load of coming up with something to eat. I also assured him he was free to grab some take-away or organise to go out for dinner. Just as long as I didn't have to think about it or cook.
There's nothing wrong with a little help ... Image: supplied.
When Claire first asked me to sort out dinner on a Wednesday night, I thought, 'Yeah sure, if it means I can get her to do the school run when she works from home so I can sleep in!'
I thought it could work easily as long as there are some benefits in it for me, too. I get home from work after midnight, so the school run can be a struggle some mornings so we negotiated a deal where Claire takes care of the Tuesday morning school run. That way I get my own sort of 'day off' which is really just a sleep-in for me (and coffee brought to me in bed when she gets back!).
I can see why she hates doing school lunches, but for me it's more about our lack of time in the mornings, so if that's taken care of, my morning run with the kids is so much easier.
I do their lunches on a Wednesday night, too, which gives Claire a break and also means we can relax together once the kids are in bed without anything else on our minds. To any dads reading along, helping out around the house is the gift that gives back once the kids are asleep, if you catch my drift.
Switching things up to give the entire the family the benefits of the 'Daddy day' is highly recommended!
Claire picks up Samuel (10) and Charlie (8) from school. Image: supplied.
The Dutch have a parenting trend that I think mirrors just what Anthony and I do with our family, and if you're feeling run down or over worked, you need to seriously consider giving it a try.
The word, Papadag, translates to 'Daddy Day', and was traditionally a regular day that dads take on the parenting duties. This was often a Wednesday, or even every second Wednesday, and some families adjust this to suit their own needs. But the bottom line is that mums get a regular day off from parenting duties and the dads enjoy more time bonding with their children.
Put on your own oxygen mask first. In other words, take care of yourself or you can't be a fully engaged parent. Parents who deprive themselves of rest, food, and fun for the sake of their kids do no one a favor. "People feel guilty when they work a lot, so they want to give all their free time to their kids," says Fred Stocker, a child psychiatrist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Kentucky. "But you risk getting squeezed dry and emotionally exhausted." A spa weekend may not be realistic, but it's OK to take 15 minutes for a bath after you walk in the door. (A tall request for a kid, yes, but a happier Uno player goes a long way.) Running ragged between activities? Ask your child to prioritize, says Taylor. She may be dying for you to chaperone a field trip but ambivalent about your missing a swim meet—the ideal amount of time for a pedicure.
Obviously, if your family has a stay at home dad, this would still work in reverse where the mum takes on the mental load of the default parent. It's not about whether the mum or dad take on the 'Papadag', but it's about the default parent getting some reprieve.
I'll also add that given Anthony takes care of the morning run most days, I take this on when I'm lucky enough to work from home one morning a week. So I essentially take on my 'Papadag' (Mamadag?) role on Tuesday mornings, allowing him to sleep in. It works both ways.
Anthony takes Olivia (4) to ballet each week. Image: supplied.
"Anthony's take on Papadag"
I really enjoy Wednesdays. I get to eat whatever I feel like for dinner because I'm the one choosing and making sure we've got all the ingredients.
We've learnt along the way a fair bit about communication too, from some trial and error.
There are some things that Claire cooks better than I do, but even when I just the buy ingredients and have it ready for her to put together makes for a happy wife at the end of the day. She really enjoys cooking but I can understand wanting an escape from the pressure of coming up with new ideas each day.
If she does cook on a Wednesday night, we spend time together, side by side. We cook together like we did before we had kids, and I really enjoy it.
She's often gone through cycles where she will be all over meals and even prepping in advance, but then other times we'll be eating toasted sandwiches more than once a week. Coming up with ideas that everyone will eat is hard, I know. But I can see how much difference just that one night off a week makes to her overall.
I also really enjoy being the number one go-to parent to the kids, too. Olivia asks me to help with her shoes in the morning and Claire seems pretty impressed with my organisational skills.
Anthony and Claire both agree their marriage is better for it. Image: supplied.
"Hump day is SO much better"
Papadag really works for us both. I honestly think that for anyone who is stuck in a routine or feels like the week drags on too much. Consider your own Papadag or Mamadag, or even just swap roles for one day a week so you can appreciate the other side of the coin a little more. I'm great at organisation, but if I'm honest, sometimes I think Anthony's better than me at the execution.
This Wednesday I got home from work to a hot coffee and a smiling husband. I had a bath while he ducked out and picked up our daughter from daycare and grabbed some groceries. I helped him cook dinner this week but he didn't need or ask for my help, I simply wanted to be there alongside him without the pressure of it all on the one set of shoulders.
Be the role model your children deserve. Kids learn by watching their parents. Modeling appropriate, respectful, good behavior works much better than telling them what to do.
Our Papadag, along with having my husband home from work one day each week, is what makes hump day my favourite day. It also makes for a much more enjoyable time together once the kids are asleep.