This post is based on a comment from a stay-at-home mom. Please adjust the gender accordingly if it is different in your situation.
Because I deal with all the little "stuff" during the day (I don't want to go to school, I don't need a coat, he's hitting me, when can I watch TV, I am hungry and I want junk food, I want a playdate!) I am so worn down that I can't think straight by 6 p.m. Then my husband comes home, and he's the star. Warm, patient, and clever, he can get them to do anything. Which is terrific and frustrating, all at the same time!
Some days, whoever is home alone with the kids all day feels like they've endured the equivalent of water torture.
We rarely even notice the first few drops. We are as patient as can be when the kids start breakfast by arguing about who has the most raisins in their oatmeal.
But as the day wears on, and the eighty thousandth drop lands with the thud of a muddy shoe on the clean kitchen floor ... well ... you know how it goes. Even though we are aware that ranting and raving are rarely successful at gaining cooperation, we just can't seem to help ourselves.
Finally, Dad comes home from work, where he may or may not have been enduring a different kind of torture all day. Nonetheless, Drop Eighty Thousand and Nine for you is only Drop One for him, so he can parent coherently, even patiently.
Is it because he's a better parent? Nah. He's just fresh. Don't take it personally. Pass the baton to him gratefully and go for a walk or run an errand. When you get back, you'll feel rested and refreshed, and are likely to be more effective again.
Some dads do not come home from work ready to parent well, and need some time to decompress first. That can be even more challenging for an overwhelmed mom who's been counting the minutes until he gets home.
If this your situation, it can help to pace yourself based not on when he will walk through the door, but when he can actually take over for you. That way you still have some energy left for the home stretch, and are less likely to feel resentment while you wait for him to take a shower, go for a run, or read the paper while he switches gears.
If your husband is not the type who can or wants to take over for you when he gets home, then you need a plan B. Rather than wish and hope that he would be different, find another backup. Maybe a pre-teen neighbor will come over for a few hours in late afternoon so you can take the dog for a walk, go to the gym, take a bath, or make dinner in peace.
If you are feeling especially stressed, you know something's gonna give. Rather than hanging by a fingernail until your spouse comes home, why not make a conscious choice to let something go? Consider pizza or cereal for dinner, or an extra half hour of tv for the kids. That way, you can actually connect with your spouse when he gets home instead of tagging and running.
As always, it comes down to this: Parenting young children can be very exhausting. We are much better at it when we take care of ourselves. And our marriages blossom when we bring in additional support from the outside. Remember, parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. It's really important to stop at those rest stations and refuel ourselves.