The first time I heard this phrase, “the poison hour,” I was in a marriage seminar led by Reverend Don Harp. He told all of us newly married couples that spouses need about 30 – 60 minutes at home to unwind before we start asking about their day at work. He called this critical time “the poison hour.”
I found this was so true. In our early marriage, I got home from my job about an hour before my husband did. I already had time to unwind from my day. The minute he walked in, I so wanted to connect with him. The most logical way to connect would be to ask about his day, etc. Remembering the warning about the poison hour, I gave my husband space – time to change clothes, watch the news and relax. Later, we’d talk about things and connect.
I remember at that marriage seminar someone asking, “What happens when I need my husband to help me with the kids? I can’t give him 30 minutes to unwind.”
I don’t remember his exact words, but the minister basically told us that all the rules change when children come along.
Five years later, we had kids.
The poison hour had a completely different meaning for me. It was the time from about 4-5 pm – after nap time, but before dinner – when I had the most challenges as a parent. The kids were fussy and I had no backup as my spouse wasn’t home yet.
Over time, I adjusted and incorporated a couple of coping mechanisms. Often, I would take my children to a nearby playground and push them in the toddler swings. Also, I joined a play group in my neighborhood that met from 4 – 5:30 once a week. These were lifesavers for me.
As my children are getting older, the poison hour is changing yet again. It is now the time my pre-teen children get home from school.
In the early elementary school days, they were glad to see me after a long day. I was the “good mommy” that asked all about their day, how much homework they had and what was served at lunch. Now I get surly responses like, “I already told you. It was fine.”
I’m coming up with new coping techniques. Although it goes against my human nature, I’m finding that things go much better if I greet her with a simple “Hi there.”
No, “How was your day?”
As hard as this is for me, I have to remember when I was in middle school (or junior high as they called it back then) and my mom would ask me questions all the time. I didn’t feel like talking. I had been busy at school or piano lessons or ballet. Of course it went fine. Wouldn’t I tell her if it didn’t? Her questions just bugged me.
When had I turned into my mom?
But this not asking questions of my children right after school is so hard for me. Why? Because I’m so used to when they were little and were happy to see me when I picked them up from preschool. That was the routine. “How was your day!” “What did you learn?” “Who did you play with?” It was the time when mom could fix everything for them.
But I can’t fix everything for them and now they know it.
I have to remember that they don’t have the luxury of time by themselves until the get home. Even my husband has a little time to unwind in the car on the drive home. Yes, he’s navigating through traffic, but he can choose to listen to the radio, change the station, listen to CD’s or turn it off completely.
So, now I’m learning to let my children “be” for a few minutes – let them have quiet time, let them unwind before starting homework. One daughter comes home and immediately heads for the swing outside. She’ll spend at least 20 minutes out there and I realize this is her poison hour time.