Over the past week, I received two emails from two Moms of several small children, who described a similar problem: both said they can hardly find the time to do anything around the house, let alone time for themselves, because the children (ages from 1 to 5) demand so much attention. Both described the situation as extremely frustrating for themselves and their husbands, who come home to a cluttered living room, a nonexistent dinner, and a stressed-out wife.
I'm probably not the ideal person to give advice in such circumstances, as I'm a very new Mommy and have no experience in juggling the responsibilities of several children, but I still wrote a reply to the two ladies; it was very much alike in both cases, and I'll share an abridged version of it here.
I can relate to not having as much time as you used to, either for housekeeping or personal time for refreshment and rejuvenation. With Shira's arrival, I learned an important lesson in gratitude, patience, and lowering my expectations.
I was grateful, primarily, for three things: a beautiful and healthy baby girl - so many people long for children, and would gladly have all the messes and sleep deprivation, yet their arms remain empty; a wonderful husband who is always ready to help and never criticizes the (sometimes pitiful) amount of work I accomplish in a day; and my own strength and good health, which enables me to continue being motivated in the area of homemaking.
Learning to lower my expectations was a big one. Before I had a baby, I used to have time to cook new, elaborate dishes. I always baked. I never passed a day without knitting or crocheting. Laundry was folded the minute it was dry, and my iron was out a good deal more than it is now. Today, if the house is in a reasonable shape, dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is done and there's something (usually very simple) to put on the table, I consider it a good day - a very good day indeed.
Now, I don't know exactly what is going on in your house. Perhaps what you consider "a mess" is something that another person would think entirely reasonable for a house with small children. I'm not saying having children is an excuse to living amidst heaps of dirt and clutter, but little ones aren't known for helping keep a clean house. They explore, and pull out any drawer within their reach; they paint (sometimes on the walls); they drop their food on the floor.
I've seen houses of families with several small children, and if Mom tidies up only in the morning and evening (which is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion), by late afternoon the house might look as though a hurricane passed through it. Maybe dinner is never on time, but look at it this way: at least there's dinner!
My husband has been very understanding, and I think there's a good chance yours might be, too, if he knows what your typical day looks like. I can't be sure, but I think that your husband is stressed because you are, not because the laundry isn't folded or dinner is not on time. Perhaps, even if he comes home to see a living room littered with clothes and toys, and you only started making dinner, you could welcome him with a serene smile and say, "Make yourself comfortable, dear, we'll eat in an hour". Perhaps if he sees that even though you are a bit behind on usual evening routine, things are under control, and then he might regard the problem as nonexistent.
Anyway, I think it would be good if you talk to a more experienced mother, preferably someone who has several children.
And that's where you, dear ladies, come into the picture! Perhaps those of you who are experienced in raising several small children can share a word of wisdom with the two young Moms? It will be much appreciated.