Over the last couple of months, one by one at separate times, most of the seven of us "builders" have sent around an "I can't handle much more" email to the group. I just sent mine and then realized how not-novel it was. Mine was the fifth or so in a string of them. All our circumstances have been different in some ways (from Red's first trimester misery to B-mama's mono) and similar in others (return from family "vacation"--to call these trips "vacation" for a mother is a sick misnomer). This is unusual. We're not really a complaining or self-pitying bunch, and I must say that the other six builders have a remarkably high level of forebearance.
I've put into place some essential sanity savers like daily exercise outside before the family wakes up, sacraments and prayer according to a schedule, Diet Dr. Pepper (when the nutrasweet kills me, I can honestly say that it made my life happier during the time I lived), and predictable home routines like laundry and grocery shopping.
But I'm getting the sense that a regular weekly break is an essential component of pacing myself for the marathon. Not a "break" to run errands or clean house kid-free, but a break to do something I choose. I think I know some of the activities that truly recharge me and make me feel free. Otherwise, as the builders have been discussing among ourselves, we really can start to feel trapped and entangled and become more and more frayed until simple cheerfulness requires more energy than we can muster. We don't get a break or have time away ever. I can't complete a thought in my own mind without being interrupted. When I reflect on it like this, hiring regular help seems obvious.
One other thing, AWOL Mommy made a great point recently in favor of hiring a sitter... it's a hard situation when we're relying on tag-team parenting, like as soon as our husband walks in the door we leave the kids and dash off to take care of responsibilities or even to take a quick break for ourselves. Problems with this are: (1) it can make me resentful that I have to ask for a short amount of time off as a favor, even when my husband gives it to me willingly and (2) more importantly, it takes the place of time that we should be spending together as a couple. Paid help during the week really seems best for the family, because it doesn't cut into valuable time with our husbands, it's simply a break for us from our daily "workday" responsibilities.