Mike is gone for eleven hours every week day, leaving our house at 8:00 am and returning at 7:00 pm. When he arrives home, he usually walks into a combination of any of the following scenarios:
~Annie is in her room for quiet time/time out. The two of us need that separation by the end of the day.
~I am nodding off on the floor/couch.
~James is screaming in his high chair because he’s been strapped in for 45-minutes while I make dinner.
~I am laying on the floor, defeated, while James and/or Annie sit on top of me.
~Rigby is barking for dinner.
~I am two seconds from texting Mike, “Where are you OMG?!”
The last 60-90 minutes before Mike comes home are the hardest. My energy levels crash at 4pm, so I spend the rest of the afternoon mentally and physically struggling. Even on the best days we’re all just done with each other by 7pm. I miss Mike, the kids miss Mike, and we just want him home.
When I was the work-outside-the-home-parent and Mike stayed home with Maddie, I worked long hours, too. We had a ten-minute decompression rule where I’d come home, change out of my work clothes, and have a few minutes to myself before I jumped into parenting duties. The same rule applied when Annie was little and Mike was working outside the home. The decompression rule was easy to follow when the girls were little. It’s impossible now.
The second Mike’s key is in the lock, Rigby is running to the door barking, Annie is shrieking, and James is squealing. It’s adorable and probably very fun to come home to, but it’s unrelenting. They all immediately start climbing Mike, hollering/barking over each other, clamoring for attention and scratches behind the ears and kisses. They don’t leave him alone for a single second until it’s bed time. They’re basically trying to fit an entire day’s worth of Mike into 30-60 minutes. It’s really intense. For him.
It’s not like I throw the kids at him so much as they run screaming from me, but I don’t do anything to stop it. Even though I know it’s crappy to basically tag-out the second he gets home, it’s hard to resist the sudden expanse of silence that surrounds me once Mike walks through the door. Even when they all eventually join me at the dinner table, I don’t have to do anything because they’re trying to sit on Daddy’s lap, or “Daddy cuts my food the best,” or “I have to tell Daddy about my day,” or, “DADADADADADA.” No one is trying to eat off my plate, no one asks me for a napkin, and I only have to cut my own meat. I have some time to gather my thoughts and make my night’s to-do list, completely uninterrupted. It’s like a vacation. For me.
I really do feel badly that he has to immediately go into dad mode as soon as he gets home, because I know how tired he is at the end of the day. And I know he’d never complain because he’s just as happy to see his kids as they are to see him. Still, I feel like I should try to teach the kids to give their pop a little bit of space so he can breathe, but I’m not sure how to do it without confusing them or hurting their feelings.
Or, you know, making them back-off so completely that they start ignoring Mike and start climbing all over me. That would be really terrible. For Mike.