If - as I sometimes suspect I will - I drop dead suddenly of (a) exhaustion (b) frustration or (c) falling asleep and plunging head-first into the kids' bathwater, it will be between the hours of 6 and 7pm.
Any mothers of children under 5 will appreciate this sentiment. That hour when your energy has been sapped almost to nothing, but you have to 'step it up' in order to have any chance of having the children bathed, pyjama-ed and in bed by 7 (ish). It's also the hour in which (a) tired children get ratty (b) nappies seem to be more likely to be filled with the brown stuff (probably scientifically something to do with the amount of time after dinner) and, of course (c) toys that have not been attractive all day suddenly become fascinating. ("Mum! Can I get the playdough out!" "Painting?" - "NO, NO, NOO. It is TOO LATE!")
My goals for this hour, on a nightly basis, are as follows (1) survive (2) try not to be too much of a cow to the children before they go to bed (3) try to muster up some enthusiasm for "look mum, I'm swimming!" (in the bath) and (4) 'Belly Button Book' (the preferred bedtime story) for the fifty-thousandth time.
Then comes the 'reprieve' - an uneasy time between 7 and 8 when the children are in bed, but things are not 'stable.' Are those lights on the baby-monitor going to start flashing? Is there going to be call for mummy or daddy? Are Ray and I going to have the 'parent stand-off' where we sit and watch said baby monitor flash and see who can bear it the longest before one of us cracks and goes upstairs...
Of course, at the moment, my morning sickness (which pretended it was going away then CAME BACK like an old enemy who JUST WON'T DIE), together with a nasty cold* is tipping 6 o'clock from the "bit difficult" zone to the "oh my God just kill me now" zone. Perhaps in week or so, this hour will seem less like the 'death zone' and more like the 'sleepy zone.'
OK, I realise that, on the scale of problems the world is facing, the 6 o'clock issue is nothing. But, those of you with quiet houses, normal nights and time to brush your hair/shower/breathe once in a while, spare a thought for the long-suffering mummies (and daddies) who are just about getting to the end of their rapidly dissipating energy.
(Cue violins... and fade).
*if I had never had "proper flu" I would call my current "nasty cold" flu. However, for anyone who has had real, bona-fide, wipes you out for weeks, can't open eyes because it hurts too much FLU will understand why I can't use this term lightly. I am on my computer, typing. It's a cold.