Most parents are well aware of and need no definition or explanation for the dreaded witching hours that usually fall somewhere between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The span of time that occurs once the kids are off the bus, homework is completed, and younger siblings start to tire out — and everyone in the house simultaneously loses their shit.
It looks different in every household, but for most families it includes preparing dinner while at least one child is flailing on the floor, another is screaming at a younger sibling for breathing too loudly, causing the heavy breather to erupt in rage at above mentioned sibling. Once dinner is plated and all children are (semi) seated, sighs can be heard around the table because of the less than satisfactory dish placed in front of them. Parents watch as more energy is spent throwing food on the floor than actually being injested. And someone has to wrangle the middle child and force them to put their clothes back on.
Then comes the clean-up. Those shining moments in a parent’s life when we stoop down on our hands and knees to scrape mashed potatoes and gravy off the hardwood floor while silently cursing our children and their need to be fed nightly. We question what we did to deserve this. And finally, once all the dishes have been rinsed and leftovers packed into the refrigerator, where they will slowly grow mold for three weeks before being tossed out, it is time for bath time and bedtime rituals. Which turns into water fights, screams of pain as hair is combed, faces washed, and teeth brushed.
Some parents decide to read a book, sing a song, or lay down for a quick snuggle to tuck in their precious angels. And then the nightmare begins when 2 minutes later one is asking for a cup of water, while the other is crying that they have to pee SO bad. We then repeat the cycle of tucking in, praying we don’t turn into Mommy Dearest before they finally shut their eyes.
Like I said, the nightly routine looks different in every household. In mine, my husband is a chef who works mostly every night. This leaves me to handle the witching hours with 3 children alone, forcing my anxiety to peak to levels I did not previously know existed. Every evening after finally getting my kids to sleep, I reflect on the day. I worry over how many times I snapped. I question if I spent enough quality time with each child, and I doubt whether I am a good mother.
Until a little over a week ago when my husband said three simple words to me that changed my entire perception of myself and how I handle the strenuous everyday tasks of parenting.
It was on one of the rare nights that my husband was home with us. After a delicious dinner he had prepared for us, I began my role in the clean-up/bath-time/bed-time ritual. As I Swiffered the floor with sweat beading along my face, my hair unwashed and piled on top of my head, my husband stopped me, making sure we had eye contact, and he told me, “I see you.”
In that simple sentence, he ceased that voice in my head that constantly tells me I am failing as a parent, that I have lost myself as a person, that I have become a glorified maid. He validated all of the unseen duties and the grueling tasks that I complete daily to keep our household running while he works 65 hour weeks outside of the home to provide for us.
Those three words, “I see you,” showed more acknowledgment and appreciation than I had ever received before. In that moment I knew I was doing what needed to be done. I knew that through my huffing and puffing, I was providing the best home possible for our children. It made me aware that even though some days it seems like I have accomplished nothing, I have kept 3 little hearts beating — and that is spectacularly noteworthy.
So, parents, try not to be so hard on yourselves. When 6 o’clock rolls around and you’re ready to pull your hair out, remember, all those little tasks are seen, and appreciated. And partners, never take your spouse for granted. Always take the time to show how grateful you are for one another no matter what your differing roles may look like, sometimes it’s all one of you need to make it through to the next round of witching hours.