I know that nothing in life is perfect and things don’t always go according to plan and no one gets everything they want. I know about half-full glasses and silver linings and making lemonade.

But every day at six o’clock, when dinner is disintegrating around me and the kids are fighting and the balanced meal I worked so hard to put together is all over the floor and I’m talking in my sweetest voice through my gritted teeth and it’s just me alone against five tired, hyper, cranky, picky kids — I think, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Moish calls around five today, like he does every day, to say he’s going to be home late. “Just come home for dinner,” I beg him. “You can go back to the store later, you can work from home, whatever. Just come home at six, we’ll all eat together, you can spend time with the kids. And me,” I add, as an afterthought.

“Avigail, you know I can’t. I have too much to do here.”

Playmobil crunches underfoot. “There’s a lot to do here, too.”

“Is Gloria coming?”

“Gloria is not a father,” I snap. “Gloria cannot eat dinner with your kids and help them with their homework and kiss them goodnight.”

“Do you think I’m partying here? I’m working.”

“So work from home.”

“Working from home is not the same, you know that. We’ve been through this before.” I’m quiet, because he’s right, we have been through this a million times before, so many times that I usually don’t ask, because in all the times I’ve asked he has never, not once, actually come home.

Some people dream about making it big or about staying in kollel forever or about finding a cure for cancer. All I ever dreamed about was a big, happy family. I’d be the warm, nurturing mother, Moish would be the protective, idolized father. And we’d eat dinner together every evening, go around the table and discuss the day; I’d tickle the kids when I put them in pajamas and tuck them into bed with sweet songs, and Moish and I would stand in the doorway side by side, smiling down at them as they drifted off to sleep.

But instead, today, like every day, dinnertime is a chaotic, one-man show where the kids mostly don’t eat and the conversation consists of me barking orders while I’m trying to feed the baby. And only after I’ve managed by some miracle to shepherd them from table to homework to bath to bed, and the house is finally quiet, Moish tumbles in at 8:30 or 9:30 or 12:30. And he goes from room to room, kissing each child in his sleep (except the baby — don’t you dare wake up the baby), and when Shimmy opens his eyes briefly and gives Moish a slow, wide smile before falling back asleep, the bitterness rises up and crashes over me and I think the disappointment is going to drag me out to sea. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 572)