As stay-at-home parents, whether we are part-time stay home or full-time stay home, we are all familiar with the “witching hour.” It usually happens anytime between 2pm and 4pm, when you have that horrific realization that it will still be hours until your spouse gets home from work, and your kids have hit the fan, sometimes quite literally (and, if so, they broke that fan. So now it is just a giant metal paperweight). It’s like they are getting to the point where bedtime is again becoming necessary, but obviously it’s too soon to put them to bed, and you have to also feed them dinner first, which they are guaranteed to complain about eating.
They are also starting to fight more than usual with each other—it’s like they’re sick of seeing each others’ faces and so they have to start fights, following their all-important code of justice, which is essentially (from what I have been able to discern over the years): “I just noticed you playing with that toy that I didn’t care about two minutes ago, but it is MY toy, that I got from Grandma four years ago, and it is all of a sudden quite precious to me and my new favourite toy, so you need to give it to me right now … Give it … Give it … Give iiiiiiit!” And of course you should never try to reason with them, because they are too tired and hungry for reason. Conversation is pointless during the witching hour.
So you will end up doing several other possible things, in order to survive. You might text your spouse. It is important for him or her to know how miserable you are, but not enough that they will refuse to come home or think it’s an emergency and rush home to your aid—just enough that they will later bring you wine and rub your feet. You also might attempt to absorb your children’s fighting spirit by putting on a show. If I know you, you’ve spent the day reading stories, playing dolls, having ridiculous conversations, snuggling, having them cough in your face, cleaning, or doing none of those things, and so trust me, putting on a show IS JUST FINE. You deserve a BREAK, kid, especially during the witching hour. You know it, and I know it. But the thing is, sometimes you need someone else to tell you it. And so, I am telling you now.
The reason I know this is because I spent the other day in a veritable coma, thanks to the fact that both of my kids came down with the flu and I had to keep them home all day from their respective schools. And they were miserable, especially my oldest. Apparently having the flu when you’re seven gives you license to be super grumpy and irritable all day, and it is no fun for anyone around you, least of all the person who is supposed to be caring for you (in this case, me). The day progressed as quickly as a turtle with four broken legs, and I did my best, I really, REALLY did. Breakfast and the devastating decision to keep them home from school, done. Book time in bed, done. Snack in bed, fine. Movie? Sure, why not. Lunch, of course. Reading them books on the couch, check. And then came the witching hour: whines, complaints, putting their feet on each other, singing songs to annoy each other, you name it. So I started to gently text with my husband, being pitiful-but-not-too-pitiful, you know, so he wouldn’t decide to make a break for Mexico…
“Just asking … La la … When are you coming home, and I’m debating about putting on another show for the kids and what to do … Ha ha …”
And then he texted me back. And it was a text so revolutionary, so text-sational, that it quite figuratively blew my MIND. And all it said was this:
“You probably need some time to yourself.”
And with that, I suddenly felt new permission to put on another show, and possibly another and another! Because, yes, I do! I NEED time to myself! Of course. Genius. But even though I am a genius, I would never have thought of that. Because we DON’T, as parents. When everyone around us is so needy, day in and day out, we tend to forget our own needs, or forget to make them a priority, or factor them in to our routines at all. And all I needed was to be reminded of that need (and that it was not just a want, but a need), and to be invited to make it a priority. I shouldn’t have to be invited, but realistically, I often need to be.
And I think we all do. So this is for you: I see you—you’re exhausted. You’re probably coming down with something—at this time of year, most of us are, especially with all of that kid-coughing in our faces—but since you haven’t stopped to check, you’re living in a weird limbo of being sick and tired, and you’ll probably be there for a while. You NEED some time to yourself. You do! I don’t care how social you are, OR how capable you are of putting up with misery. In the immortal, mind-blowing words of my husband: “You probably need some time to yourself.”
So you should go take some time for yourself. And while you’re at it, you should also eat that leftover cake in the fridge—you deserve it. Just make sure you eat it quietly… and in the closet.