It happens every day, usually right around 4:00 p.m. My twin girls, who are terrible nappers, start getting cranky, while my 4-year-old starts getting restless. My stress level begins to rise as my patience dissipates. I have to prepare dinner for my kids, and then feed it to them, which is typically nothing short of a nightmare. My toddler is incredibly picky and doesn’t always have the best table manners, and although my girls usually enjoy eating, the sloppiness that ensues when trying to simultaneously feed two infants is enough to make me lose my appetite.
Once dinner is over, I need to clean not just the dishes, but also my kids’ hands and faces, which is usually met with such intense squirms and screams, you’d think I was wiping them with sandpaper instead of sanitizing wipes. I then have to figure out a way to get dinner ready for my husband (and, ideally, for myself as well) while tending to a pair of crying, exhausted infants and a rambunctious toddler who somehow always manages to get a second wind in the hour leading up to his bedtime. In fact, I generally spend a good 30 minutes toggling back and forth between “Get down from there” and “It’s OK, sweetie” like a broken record until my husband walks in the door, at which point he gets seven minutes to scarf down his food, and help me get the kids into bed.
And so every day, starting around 4:00 p.m., I get this feeling of weariness-infused dread. And I start the countdown. First it’s a countdown until my husband comes home (typically between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. depending on traffic), and somewhere along the lines, it morphs into a countdown until my kids’ bedtime (if all goes well, between 7:15 and 8:00 p.m.).
But it’s a terrible way to function.
There I am, day after day, wishing away the hours—hours I should be cherishing, but don’t.
I hate that I do this. Really, I actually hate it, because it makes me feel selfish and ungrateful and sad. But it’s hard to stop and cherish the moments when your toddler is screaming and your infants are crying, and you’re suddenly trapped in a cycle of madness with no solution other than to put the day to rest, at least as far as your kids are concerned.
During that extended witching hour, I often feel like a little bit of a crazy person. My coping mechanism to date has been to repeat a little mantra of “Just get through it, just get through it” over and over again inside my head until the clock manages to tick down. Sometimes, I’ll even slip and say it out loud.
I don’t want to spend the last three hours or more of my day just getting through it. I want to make the most of this time with my children. I want dinnertime to go smoothly so that I can then hug and giggle my way through that last hour before bedtime. I want my husband to come home to an upbeat, happy wife, as opposed to the grouchy, frantic beast who all too often greets him with a “Come in, I love you, now hurry up and eat so we can get things going.” (At least, I throw in the “I love you.” Usually.)
I really don’t have an answer here. I wish I did, but as much as I can try my hardest to will myself to feel differently, I know that’ll only get me so far when I’m surrounded by crying babies and incessant screams. For now, I may just have to accept the fact that the last three hours or so of the day might just suck for a while, and do my best to keep my sanity accordingly intact.