Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Advice Needed

 OK. I need help thinking through a particular muddiest point that I am dealing with re: evenings. And I realize that Minnie is not my first baby (ha! HARDLY!) but sometimes I feel like I am brand new at this.

I am feeling very overwhelmed by the hours of 5:30-8 about 4 nights a week, and it is causing me some major unhappiness.

The deets:

Dorothy and Cooper have swim three nights a week, and we have another night that is just a maze of drop offs and pickups from 5:30 until about 8. All of these nights are making me hate my life (I mean, not really, but... sort of after dinner). The big kids have homework to do (and you know how I feel about that), and they are... not successful at entertaining Minnie during the post-dinner clean up, and my evenings are a horrible slog from the end of the workday through bedtime, and I HATE IT. When things magically go ok with chores, and Minnie is happy, someone loses their ever loving mind about something. Never the same someone. Never the same something-- no way, you see, to control for all of the variables.

Then we have 3 easy nights in a row, and everything feels manageable, and I can convince myself that I was overreacting. And then the week starts up again, and I screamed at nonstop from about 5:30-8 while juggling in homework and housework, and everything sucks again. (Mostly just screamed at by the baby and I know every baby has a dinosaur phase and it is her way of talking emphatically, but the noise makes me so so so nervous that I end up snapping at the other people. And also SOMETIMES THE OTHER PEOPLE ARE SCREAMING. Not usually at me-- but sometimes at me if homework really sucks-- usually at each other).

COVID is partially to blame because Minnie cannot just come along to run crazy at the activity place like the other kids could back in our interminable hockey days. I used to pack picnics and feed kids sandwiches at the rink-- no clean up! no extra solo parenting!-- and those options are not available to us now.

We have started planning takeout one night, leftovers another night, and a make-ahead grab-and-go option the other 2, so it's not that I am serving elaborate meals. But still. THE CLEAN UP is not possible. Minnie is very screamy and wants to be read to or held for the 2 hours leading up to bedtime. When Ben is home, this is no problem. But he handles the swim circuit and the pickup gauntlet, which is wonderful. I don't think he could do more to alleviate the situation, unless he drops kids off with Minnie in the car and comes back home and then goes back out to do pick up. This sounds extra crappy for him and will not work one particular day because our terrible evening is preceded by two freaking hours of driving and waiting (ok, not quite 2 hours-- we leave at 3:45 and get home by 5:15) for me and Minnie and Cooper, joined at various points along the way by Dorothy and Jack. On that night, I don't want Min to have to ride somewhere AGAIN.

My work life is fraught, and it's not like the kids are coming home from school to find me fresh and ready to serve them. I have been working alongside them all day with all of the unpleasantness that entails. Also, I am still not sleeping all the way through the night, so I could be a little more well-rested. The lack of work time and sleep time is making everything worse. I spend all day doing everything I can think of prep-wise to make our night smooth and then it's rough anyway, and I am doubly frustrated.

I am sick of being so exhausted and annoyed, and Ben is sick of coming home to a nasty shrew.

Should I leave dinner sitting out and clean it up after bedtime? I have been reluctant to do this because that's my general approach to lunch-- just deal with it when she goes down for a nap-- and I am starting to use nap time for housework even when I have other stuff I need to get done and this makes me feel resentful, too. When I get the kids to bed, I like to take a shower and collapse on the couch to do absolutely nothing. I would hate to add another 90 minutes of intense hands-on post-dinner parenting to my schedule and then also have to clean for 30 minutes or so after bedtime and delay my own end-of-day routine. But maybe it would be worth it if everyone was more peaceful. Minnie is pretty happy to play in the basement in the evenings. I could like veg on a floor pillow beside her and read a book maybe?

What do you think? A reframe idea or a hack that will fix our busy post-dinner solo parent nights? Maybe takeout or delivery is the answer most days? (But obviously this is not ideal, either).


  1. I think the answer is childcare- either during the day to mute the work stress or an extra person in the evenings. You could have a driver, someone to handle the house work while you handle the baby, or someone to manage homework, or some combination thereof. I don't think that's doable alone with any measure of sanity, I don't think it's you or your kids :)

  2. You are overwhelmed. And honestly, with your scheduled, I would be crazy! I think something has to give, and or might be one activity or night of activities. I only have four kids, but I have realized to stay sane, we can't be on the go all the time. And that is without a baby and different level of concern about Covid. I am currently gone the consecutive nights a week, but the day before and after I rarely leave the house. And the middle night is short, so I have time to clean up and recover either before we leave or when we get home.

    Honestly, your kids are seeing what is happening, and it is time for a honesty talk about your family schedule. With 5 kids, it simply isn't realistic to be involved in a ton of things and maintain order at home. And having peace in the home I think it more important than a ton of activities...

  3. Anonymous9:34 AM

    Can the older kids do post-dinner clean-up? I know they have homework, but my parents always had us do the dishes and I think it took a lot of stress off of them as two working parents. Maybe if they all did it together many hands would make light work? Have you considered an earlier bedtime for Minnie? We put my almost-2-year-old down by 7 at the latest every night, and it is an amazing feeling to be done with that intensive baby parenting by an early hour of the evening. You may also need to just prioritize sleep (hah, easier said than done)! I read somewhere that if you aren't getting 7-8 hours of sleep there is not a point in waking up early to work out--your body would benefit more from the sleep than it does from the workout. I hope you are able to find something that works for your family! You are a superwoman!

  4. Anonymous9:58 AM

    Echoing thoughts by others - big kids need to help with dinner clean up. Baby needs an earlier bedtime and maybe a carpool option for the activity kids?

  5. You have some really great suggestions already, including hiring a driver to help with the slog and having the bigger kids help with clean-up. I also think the idea of having a frank conversation with the family about resource allocation is warranted. You as a family have a finite amount of time/energy and it's got to be allocated judiciously. If it were me, I'd consider having Ben make the extra drive to come home or somehow make dinner clean-up even easier (paper plates, maybe?). It seems like that might be the lowest hanging fruit.

    AND you might find yourself less overwhelmed on the rough nights if you approach them accepting that it's just going to (probably) be a shitshow. In psychology it's called Radical Acceptance. Basically the premise is that your frustration comes from feeling like the evening is a failure or an affront, when in reality, it just is what it is. Easier nights with all hands on deck are easy and busy nights are rough. It's not a failure on your part to maximize the time and effort and it won't be like that EVERY night.

  6. One other idea. When my kids were littler and wanted to be held a lot, I would wear them on my back (either in the Ergo or the Kelty) while I did the house chores. And bonus, I would count chores as exercise since it's not easy to do all that with 30 pounds on your back!

  7. Growing up, my parents allocated “chores”. Two cleaned the kitchen after dinner, I helped fold laundry, my brother took the garbage out, ,etc…your oldest have reached the age where they can assist with some of those activities. Or re-allocate when the housework needs to get done. I’m at the point where I want to hire a cleaner to come in once or twice a month because trying to be super mom is exhausting.

    I agree with a lot of suggestions already posted so I know you have a strong village of other mothers supporting you.

  8. I know if I don’t get enough sleep I feel like everything is wrong and everything is my fault. Also noise and mess kill me on those days. Hard with baby wake-ups, but maybe working out a schedule with your spouse so you each get to sleep through the night half of the week is fair.

    Ordering out on the hardest night if you can pinpoint what that is. But knowing that is not always healthy and gets expensive. Crockpot meals might help. The time planning/prepping on weekends isn't fun (family activity?) but weekday you will be grateful. No weekday clean up either and if everyone is responsible for their dishes you will gain lots of time.

    I’d make a list of must-do’s, like-to’s (must feed everyone/homework - like to run dishwasher/walk/watch a movie) and have a family meeting. The homework portion is hard. Getting it done as early as possible helps. Talks about and asking their solutions too might help. Entertaining a baby - have her help with cooking/laundry. Obvs she isn’t really helping, but carrying around socks, playing with bowls, hand her a broom makes it feel like she’s playing what your doing and maybe she’ll be less likely to fuss for attention.

    I get what you’re saying it’s not a lot of activities, but a lot of kids and a baby in a pandemic. I think if everyone says what they need/want and see what everyone else does too (esp. kids seeing what you have on your list) you can all brainstorm/compromise a way to make it work. Trial and error until you find the routine. Having a same old routine everyday helped make it work in my house. Kids liked to know what to expect and love habits.

    The house - I use a timer. I feel like everything is overwhelming. But if I set a 10 minute timer and work til it goes off I discover a) most tasks take under 10 min. b) things might not be perfect, bit waaayy better after 10 minutes of work. 10 minutes and on to the next - it will be there tomorrow. “Embrace the Season of Chaos” - every day Minnie gets older it will get less. Hard to do, I know. But it’s the reframing that might work. It’s a temporary season.

    I am sure you know all this. And you are probably doing fantastic, I know overwhelm feels awful. Good luck to you! You are doing great!