Evenings are the hardest time for me. Mornings can be rough, but they are finite. Babies might be up early, but by 7 a.m. H and I are generally out the door. So, an hour or so at most of balancing responsibility for three kids and my morning self, then done. Done for hours on end of work, which used to be such a drag (and can still feel that way at times) but is generally great because it is calm and controlled and doesn’t involve other people’s poop or nap schedules. Work is where I can (mostly) let go; breathe in breathe out; stare at the wall and sip my tea and use my brain for entirely non-child related purposes.
But then, eventually, it is always time to go home. I’m usually anxious for it. In a good way, sort of. I want to see me kids; I miss them. But also anxious in the “oh god, I wonder how everyone napped and who will be screamy and what on earth we are having for dinner” sort of way.
My therapist calls it a problem with re-entry. Transitioning from my controlled work world to my relatively uncontrollable home life tends to send me into a downward spiral of anxiety that can only be cured by Ativan or wine or both (usually both). My therapist suggested I try planning out the evening in my head on the drive home so that I can feel more in control. But hello, I’m OCD. I plan every moment of my life ahead of time in my head, in slow motion, repeatedly … you get the idea. The problem is that the babies and H aren’t so interested in adhering to my plan. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think they were intent on thwarting it.
If I need to cook, babies need to be held. If I need to hold babies, H wants me to play. Or, H needs to cuddle and use the nebulizer because he seems to have another cold coming on (his 88th of the season; but who’s counting?).
So I take my meds and I have a drink (or three) and I carry on like a good little warrior. I make dinner. H refuses to eat most of it but drinks 3 adult-sized glasses and milk and a bowl of raisins the size of his head. The babies attempt to pinch tiny cereal puffs with their tiny fingers and then direct said fingers into their tiny mouths, mostly without success. Sometimes somebody gags or chokes or throws up or all three. Sometimes they all just sit there like little angles while M and I have an actual adult conversation about our days.
Then it’s time to clean up. I love cleaning. Cleaning is my jam. It is a relatively easy, relatively quick process resulting in a visibly cleaner and more organized environment. Clean and organized outside makes me feel more clean and organized inside which makes me feel happy, or a least a smidgen less freaked out.
Unfortunately, post-dinner clean-up is generally one-handed because it is now early evening which means babies cannot be put down. Ever. Even for minute, or 30 seconds, even to go pee. A baby, or both of them , will be hanging around (literally) until bed time.
But that’s okay. They are still pretty light and downright adorable and so we make due. One-handed table clearing, one-handed dish scrapping, one-handed dishwasher loading and one-handed bottle prep before we head up stairs.
Now is the time we divide and conquer. Daddy herds H into the bath and I cajole babies through diaper changes and more bottle so that they don’t get too hungry during the night.
After, we read. Sometimes together as a family. Sometimes just with H, as the babies are down for the count before he finishes bath. Then its H back rub time (a mommy only job) during which we discuss all sorts of Oedipus Complex issues, such as the fact that I shouldn’t go downstairs to talk to daddy, or go on dates with daddy, or generally do anything with daddy that doesn’t also involve H. Preferably, I should just do things with H, dates included.
I’m getting better at extracting myself without making unreasonable promises, or returning every 15 minutes. Then, it’s mommy-daddy time! Sadly this usually just involves eating ice cream while watching television, but sometimes there’s cuddling, too. Then bed, where we go to try to re-charge so we can do it all over again tomorrow.
None of this is perfect or easy, but we are doing it. And we are (sometimes) laughing along the way. And that is enough for me. That is living my life as best I know how, maybe not for always, but at least for now.