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That final hour of the day parenting solo is exhausting

I thought I wasn’t going to make it through that final hour before you got home from work. The day had gone okay. Or maybe it hadn’t. Maybe it was a day without naps. A day without any real accomplishments at all. Maybe it was a day of tried patience and ear-splitting tantrums and struggling to “positively parent” when all I really wanted to do was hide under the covers until you got home.


Or maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe it was a good day, but a tiring day nonetheless. A day of being endlessly needed and meeting work deadlines and cooking lunches and dinners and giving baths and constant clock checking to see just how far off bedtime was.

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Regardless, that final hour tests me.

In my mind, that hour stretches into days that I have left to wait for you to get home and help me. I feel like I’m holding us all in my arms, and I’m not sure I have the strength to make it until you turn that door knob and come home to us.

The trouble is, we’ve done what we need to do. We’ve played and we’ve sang and we’ve danced. We’ve gone to gymnastics or the park or a friend’s house. We’ve eaten and been wiped and bathed and brushed teeth. And now...we wait.

The moment I look at the clock and see it so clearly—one hour until you’re home—it sometimes settles like a weight on my shoulders.

It says, “Now what, mama?”

It’s the moment my daughter remembers all the toys we’ve already cleaned up and crafts we’ve put away. It’s the moment she regrets not eating all her dinner and asks for a snack. It’s the moment she wants and whines. It’s the moment she asks for you.

I second that request, by the way. The “witching hour” has begun—for both of us—and we need you home (and know you want to be here with us too).

We read four books and I’m dismayed to see that only 15 minutes have gone by. Et tu, Goodnight, Moon? I try to turn cutting her fingernails into a project. At least her thrashing and fighting me off takes up another five minutes.

I choose her least messy toys to play with and hope she won’t remember the Play-Doh in the kitchen. (Of course, she does, and that stand-off takes another 10 minutes.) I’m trying to muster up the creative energy to match her seemingly endless supply, but I’m spent. I need the break I can almost taste, just minutes away.

I know that this hour can’t stretch on forever. I know that, eventually, you will walk through that door, the returning hero for us both. In a minute, you will become our daughter’s whole world, and my day of providing for her every need will be forgotten. It should bother me, but truthfully, I’m just waiting for that moment too.

When you come home, I can spend 20 minutes on the couch lazily scrolling through Pinterest while you put our daughter to bed. I can close my eyes and truly rest for the first time all day, confident that you have the parenting reigns under control.

But for now, still half an hour from your valiant return, I’m not sure I’ll make it.

It’s sometimes funny the moments that show us our mama mettle, what we’re capable of. Our ability to dip into those deep wells of endurance and grit and find a way through. Because even though I always think I won’t be able to make it that last hour, I always do.

I dig into that deeper place of mama resilience, proving to myself that I’ve got this, even when it feels like I couldn’t possibly. It’s those moments I try to be kind to myself, remembering that I’m doing this, even the hard parts—and I think I’m even doing a pretty good job.

I find ways to enjoy our last hour together, just us. To sneak a few more cuddles on the couch, even better with this freshly washed baby. To whisper secrets and discuss our day, even if it didn’t all go as planned.

I know these moments won’t last forever. One day, she’ll share secrets with someone else and roll her eyes when I ask for snuggles. One day, the days won’t drain me like they do now, as she grows up and needs me less. So I remember to relish these quiet moments only we share—for now.

In that last hour, we test each other, and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. But we always make it through.

And suddenly you are home, and I’ve bested that hour again. I hope you can tell by our faces how much we’ve missed you and how happy we are that you’re home (though probably for different reasons!).

I’m so grateful for the way you swoop in, tired from your own day of work, but still willing to immediately help, already shifted into “dad” mode as you swoop our little girl upstairs to start the bedtime routine while I—finally!—rest on the couch.

Tomorrow will have another final hour to challenge me. But these moments? These make them all worthwhile.

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