This Is What Happens When I Reach My Maximum B*tch Capacity

by Sara Stillman Berger
Imgorthand / Getty

I’m a bitch.

“No!” you say, aghast. You’re not even pretending. You really don’t believe me. I know, it’s hard to believe. I’m the sweetest bitch you’ll ever meet.

But here’s the thing: You know when you’re in college and you finally figure out how many drinks you can have before you puke? Or when you’re in yoga and the instructor says “you can either try putting your foot on your head…or you can rest in child’s pose,” and you choose child’s pose? You’ve learned your limits — and when it comes to being a parent, I’ve learned mine.

I call it my Maximum Bitch Capacity (MBC). I’ll illustrate the term: I’m with my two children, ages 6 and 8, and they are taking turns pinching each other until one of them screams and I’m doing my best not to pinch them both to make them stop, when another mom asks me, “Do you want to have more kids?” and I look at her like she has three breasts and say, “No way. I’ve reached my Maximum Bitch Capacity with two.”

We grow up reading magazines that teach us about our bodies — from what hair cut fits our face, what jeans fit our body, and what boy fits our personality. But learning to recognize how much we can handle before we completely lose it? That’s a skill best learned through practice. And as a mom trying to keep it all together, I reach my MBC quite often.

I try to live within my means, because when I do reach my limit, it’s not pretty. If you still don’t believe I’m a bitch, I’ll break it down: Recently we were running late for soccer and couldn’t find the shin guards, and the dog hadn’t gone out, and the kids were digging their nails into each other’s skin because they were fighting over who gets to play with the tin foil that the frozen Eggo pancakes were made on, but they hadn’t eaten yet, and they hadn’t peed yet, and they hadn’t brushed their hair or teeth yet, and the game was starting any minute, and then they were screaming at each other and still, no one was dressed. So I ripped the tin foil away and crumpled it into a ball…. “Mine now!” I thought sinisterly.

All morning I tried remaining calm. It didn’t work. My MBC had reached its limit.

“STOP IT!” I screamed, louder than both of them combined. They stared at me bewildered: He, holding his eye where she hit him; she, holding her arm where he pinched her. I yelled until they hated me so much together that they were best friends again. And then I yelled at my husband for not helping control this. Not helping find the shin guards. Not making them breakfast. Not getting them dressed. And the whole way to soccer we were all silent and my throat hurt from screaming. I’m that kind of bitch. And that was just trying to get us all out of the house.

I often feel guilty that my maximum is not maximum enough. After all, I see so many moms juggling kids, work, and social lives every day — they are heads of the PTA and coaches of the soccer team and managing color-coded after-school schedules for their multiple kids, some even in multiple schools. They seem to have more patience and can handle more responsibility. And I think…wow, their Maximum Bitch Capacity far exceeds mine.

It’s easy to feel insecure. On the phone with a friend the other day, I wondered aloud: “I don’t know how you do it — three kids, a full time job…and you never seem to yell.” I marvel at how she gets them all to to different activities; packs three lunches; does three bedtimes; manages school conferences, school supplies, has them all dressed properly for proper weather all the time; and still seems to handle public temper tantrums with ease. But then she reminds me of her full-time nanny who cooks and cleans, and incredibly helpful in-laws who watch the kids whenever called upon, often driving them to and fro.

It’s possible my friend can successfully keep more balls in the air than I can, but it also makes sense that she has more patience before she blows: Her Maximum Bitch Capacity can be greater than mine because she’s able to divvy up the load. I have no nanny, and no family nearby. My husband is an awesome father, but mostly I’m in charge of the nitty gritty.

Still, I wonder if I should try harder, push farther. Should I be volunteering more? Playing more? Engaging more?

Maybe I need to breathe more.

A parenting article I once read recommended that I give myself a “time out.” That sounded good in theory, but in reality my kids could possibly kill each other while I’m holed up in my bedroom eating bonbons.

My husband meditates with an app on his phone called Headspace — he thinks I should try it. I guess I should try something, considering my inner zen comes from watching The Real Housewives, then feeling good about myself because I’d never reach that level of bonkers.

Honestly, I know I can’t be the only check-to-see-that-the-windows-are-closed (because the whole neighborhood doesn’t need to hear me) kind of a bitch. After all, we are all just doing their best at this parenting thing. The truth is, I know I’m a kind, caring, mom. My house is clean enough; my kids are happy, confident and empathetic. Yet, when all else fails, breaking the barrier of my maximum capacity and unleashing the bitch within is how I get the job done. Clearly, I’m still learning to accept my limits. Now excuse me while I rest in child’s pose.