Moms will do anything for their kids.
From driving our minivans like hamsters in a wheel for hours after school to orchestrating the family calendar with the precision of a military general, we run tight ships. We want to be there for every activity, and we want to make sure our kids feel that they are supported in those big life moments. Moms run themselves ragged day in and day out when it comes to making sure their families get the very best of what we have to offer.
Mothers don’t get sick time, and to be honest, this came as a huge surprise to me when I first became a mom. A few months after my son was born, I had a terrible stomach virus, and I spent hours on the floor of the bathroom, praying that the Porcelain Goddess would have mercy on me and my pendulous breastfeeding boobs. As I heaved everything but my toes into the toilet while my infant son screamed mercilessly to be fed, I realized pretty quickly that sick time was not part of my new mom contract — even when I was sick.
Somehow, I just accepted the idea that I wasn’t allowed to get sick. I spent years pushing through fevers, bouts of strep throat, and stomach viruses because my family needed me. I convinced myself that my family couldn’t function without me, and often, I joked that the ship would go down if the captain left her perch. So I attended soccer games doped up on NyQuil and presided over PTA meetings while trying not to toss my cookies into another committee chair’s lap.
But that all changed the day I lost my shit in the school parking lot.
On the day in question, I had just returned from a business trip and had performed logistical gymnastics to be able to attend my son’s school play. Because he had a speaking part, I was desperate to be in the audience to see him shine. And since I had been away for the better part of a week, my mom guilt was running deep. I was going to be the mom who juggled it all, and I didn’t want one single ball to drop.
As I dashed through the airport, my stomach started to rumble in that funky way that makes you wonder if that charcuterie platter was really a great idea. But I pushed away my growing nausea, collected my suitcase, and marched on toward the parking lot. When I arrived home, I blamed my dizziness on travel weariness and ignored the fact that I had begun to feel like my stomach was doing backflips. As I put the kids to bed, I wearily collapsed into bed with an extra blanket because I couldn’t stop shivering.
Then the vomiting started.
Then the shitting started.
Then they both decided to happen simultaneously, which is always a special kind of hell.
It all continued to go downhill from there.
I lay on the couch, furious that a stomach virus had decided to happen right now, the worst possible timing. As our family dog brought me her ball, her eyes willing me to get up off the couch and play with her, I stared at the ceiling and gave myself a pep talk. What’s a little vomiting, right? My son’s play was only an hour-and-a-half long. Surely I could drink a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and sit in the back row. He needed me there. I had to go.
On the way to the school, my son eagerly talked about his lines and his costume. He was excited. We arrived, and as he jumped out of the car, I lurched forward and puked in the grass. There I was, on my hands and knees, shouting out instructions to him in between dry heaves. “Break a leg!” and “I’ll make sure to video your scene!” were mixed with the sound of my stomach contents being hurled onto the pavement.
Yet I still wasn’t convinced that it was time for me to cry uncle.
I mean, I had just puked, so I should be in the clear for a little while. Right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
My stomach announced that it could not even one more second. My forehead became sweaty, and I doubled over with cramps that made me question whether or not I was in labor.
As the cramps filled my abdomen, I had the urge to fart. There was so much pressure on my butthole, that I had to start negotiating with myself.
Surely, letting some of the air out would help the situation, right?
People, hear me: Never trust a fart. Ever. Especially when you’ve recently been battling your insides.
As I felt my sphincter release what I thought would be air, I realized that the air was actually wet.
And running down my leg.
And soaking my pants.
And starting to smell really bad.
For the love of God, I had shit my freaking pants on school property.
I had reached a new mothering low.
I stood there, shit leaking down my leg, and I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself, right there in that parking lot. As I mopped up my mess with dried up antibacterial wipes, I tearfully admitted that I had pushed myself to the limit — like the actual limit, rock bottom. Not only had I not listened to my puking, shitty, feverish, exhausted body, but now I was also going to miss my son’s big debut because no one wants to be the mom who shows up to the ticket table smelling like a literal piece of shit.
In my need to be everything to everyone, I literally lost my shit.
And it was humiliating.
And also humbling.
But in retrospect, losing my shit was what I needed to flush away the idea that I needed to be super mom all the damn time. I poo-pooed the notion that I have to be the perfect mom and decided on the spot that being the world’s okayest mom was good enough. It’s time for me to take sick days and vacation time and demand a raise for the work that I do every day for my family.
Or at the very least, it’s time for me to admit that it’s okay to cry uncle when I’m having a case of the “right now”s in the parking lot. As in, I have to go right now, or I’m going to shit my pants. Because losing your shit isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Trust me.