every nightEvery night, after my children go to bed, I let out a sigh of relief bigger than the night before. As a parent, nothing feels quite as good as that sigh. Unfortunately, that feeling only lasts for about 2.4 seconds. Then the reality of all the things you still need to do begins to sink in.

It’s a vicious cycle. Of all of the things you set out to do when you woke up that morning, you’re lucky if you accomplished two of them. So you think to yourself, “I’ll just get a few more things done before I sit down and relax.” Because once you sit down, there is a very good chance that you won’t be getting up again.

So every night, it’s the same. I go through a mental list of all the things I could do:

1. Fold laundry. There is a 98% chance at any given time that I have a minimum of three baskets full of clean laundry that I’ve been “meaning to fold,” and every night I start to feel a little guilty that my family will be forced to dig through them in the morning for their clothes.

2. Clean. ANYTHING. There are plenty of rooms I intend to clean every day. But as the day goes on, I decide that my time is better spent doing things like, well, anything but clean. Every night, I have ample opportunity to dust, sweep, clean the bathroom, or wash the dishes. These are quiet cleaning jobs that won’t wake anyone, and are much more easily accomplished without children needing things or fighting every five seconds.

3. Make lunch for the following day. Be it the school year or summer, this would be an incredibly helpful thing for me to do for myself. My mornings would be so easy if school and beach lunches were packed ahead of time.

4. Prep dinner for the next night. I can’t tell you how many times I go to cook dinner and I have no meat thawed and no idea what to make. Actually, I can tell you. It’s every night of my life. If I could just muster a little energy and motivation to head to the kitchen and do something as simple as take frozen chicken out of the damn freezer, I’d be all set.

5. Read a book. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. If I crack a book open, I probably have a maximum of seven minutes before I pass out. Then I’ve completely wasted the whole night and all of my “alone time” is spent sleeping.

6. Exercise. Haha! Nope.

7. Write. Since I’m trying to give this whole writing thing a go, one might think I’d try to write whenever I can. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough brain power left after the kids go to bed. Instead, I try to write during the day, ignoring the fact that my children are destroying the house, just as I’m doing at this very moment.

8. Take a shower. I actually do this on occasion, if I have the energy, because it’s the only time I can without having to break up a fight while screaming from the bathroom. Also, because of this:

If I can’t remember, then I make myself take a shower, no matter how tired I am.

That’s a pretty good list, don’t you think? Now here is a list of the things I actually do after my kids go to bed.

1. Curl up on the couch and watch TV until I fall asleep. I don’t even watch new and happening shows. I watch reruns of sitcoms that I’ve seen before because I don’t have to think too hard to follow along.

That’s it. That’s what I do. I suppose I could save some time and go right to the second “list” instead of kidding myself that I’m going to do anything on the first list. But sometimes just thinking about being productive makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. And for now, that’s good enough for me.

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