My Parenting Win Was My Husband's Loss — And That's Okay

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Kids always have to use the potty at the most inconvenient times — like as soon as you get in the car, as soon as you get out of the car, or as soon as the movie starts. The worst is when you see your food coming at a restaurant, when you are all cozy in your seat, really excited that someone else is cooking and cleaning up for you. This happens in our family without fail. And it is exhausting, mainly for us stay-at-home moms who do this bathroom nonsense by ourselves 99% of the time.

One fine spring day, I took my three kids out to lunch and thought it would be grand if my husband met up with us so I couldenjoy his company. As soon as we sat down with our food at the local sub shop, my youngest made an announcement for everyone waiting in line on this busy Thursday afternoon to hear, “I have to poop now!” Of course, my daughter decided she had to go too. Apparently, it’s fun to all go into a public restroom together and touch all the things.

I looked at my husband, who was excited about the meatball sub that was about to enter his mouth, and I raised my eyebrows.

“I do this all the time. It’s a piece of cake. You can handle it.”

“Alone? Can’t you come with me?” There was fear in his eyes.

Since there was only one family bathroom, and they were 3 and 4 years old and still needed help in the number-two department, he would need to take them both in at the same time. They had reminded us several times they “had to go this second,” so it would be better if they lost control of their bowels in the restroom instead of in the booth next to me and my lunch.

“It’ll be easier that way,” I told him. I knew I was lying through my teeth, but I was hungry. I wanted to sit down and eat for a change. It was a mom fantasy at this point. Because I am home with the kids and usually venture out with them alone, my level at the public bathroom game is expert. My husband’s is not, so it was time he improved his skills. I must also mention he asks me all too often why I don’t leave the house with the kids more. He was about to find out.

I was enjoying my lunch and light conversation with my oldest, and we could hear the banging and thrashing that was coming from the bathroom — so could everyone who was waiting in line as their sandwich artist was making their lunch.

After an eternity, my youngest emerged. Actually, it looked like he got shoved out of the bathroom, and then the door slammed behind him. His pants were pulled high and crooked. He looked uncomfortable, but it didn’t stop him from telling me what just happened in the bathroom.

He held out his hands a foot and a half apart while shouting, “Mom, my poop was this long.” I heard him loud and clear, and so did everyone else since the bathroom was right next to the very long line of nice folks waiting for their lunch (a poor setup if you ask me).

Another long stretch of time passed, and then my husband came out with our daughter who appeared to be feeling much better. My husband looked like he had given himself a shower and said, “Those kids need a bath when they get home.”

I could tell he was disturbed about what happened in there. He had the face of a newbie, and I was partly to blame.

It’s not that he had never taken them to the bathroom before, but I was always there to take the other sibling who always had to go at the exact same moment. He has changed diapers and cleaned up after them, but I do it more — way more. I do it because he works hard all day, and I feel like I can handle it with one hand tied behind my back.

Maybe I should have gone to help, but the truth is I stayed put because for so long I had just done it. It was the first time in over six years I had gotten through a meal without getting up and tending to someone else’s needs. It was so satisfying it was sad. It was about time things changed. I was starting to feel resentful, and half of it was my fault for always jumping off my ass to wipe somebody else’s so my husband could enjoy his meal. I want to enjoy my meal (at least half the time) too.

As parents, we look for the small wins every day, and this was a big win for me (not for my husband, mind you). But I enjoyed my lunch, so it was a good day. And while he has always been a pretty active and hands-on father, he had never been out with all three of our kids by himself, so he had never experienced the hell known as escorting them all into them germ-infested public bathroom. He learned something that day about being a full-time parent: Going out in public can turn into a shitshow really fast.

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