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Dealing With Mommy Overload

Just an hour or so ago, you were confidently closing a deal or happily feeding your contented child. Now you're consoling a crying tot and stirring a pot on the stove, close to tears yourself. Welcome to the witching hour, when the day's stresses catch up with you and your baby. "Employed moms desperately want some time to decompress, and at-home moms may yearn for some quiet time alone," says Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author of The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood. "Yet children are often at their most needy during the hour before dinner." How do you switch gears while keeping the peace?

If you drive home from work, make the most of your commute. Put some soothing music on your car radio, or relish the silence. Once you've pulled into the driveway, sit in the car for a moment and take a few deep breaths before going into your house.

Relax for 20 minutes when you first come inside, says Kendall-Tackett. Change out of your work duds, then take a quick shower or play with or nurse your baby before diving into housework. You can also bring the baby into the bathtub with you if there's no one else to watch her. "The mistake many moms make is to come home and immediately jump into chores."

Draft Dad for duty. Let him take the baby for a walk while you enjoy a few minutes alone in the house. Switch roles the next day.

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