Imagine this: As you’re in the midst of school, you hear the toilet still running so you swing open the bathroom door to find a lake on the floor and a gushing waterfall coming from the commode. Later that same day your preschool daughter who is completely potty trained but sometimes has trouble pooping in the sitting position smears not one but three pairs of panties (what is it with my children and poop?). She also poops on your kitchen floor and then insists she didn’t have to poop (she was just exercising, she says; it did look like she was doing squats). This all happens after you gave her a bath. Meanwhile, your toddler, who ran away from you giggling and stark naked, has peed all over your wood floor and walked through the puddle leaving a trail of wet, pee footprints all over. Oh, and the dog is trying to lick up the pee.
There have been other mishaps, too, and you’re feeling sick with a stomachache and worse – completely, utterly out of control. You feel fat because you always feel fat when you’re faced with the reality that your pretty, little plans are not unfolding the way you’d hoped. (Somehow even after treatment for an eating disorder and therapy, you still have it in your head sometimes that if you lost a few pounds, life would be better because it would prove that you can will yourself into slashing calories. A-ha! You do have some control, after all! )
Then imagine this: In walks your husband. He left home when it was dark and it’s dark again. He hasn’t had time to eat much of anything. As he steps into his home, you rush by without so much as a glance. You’re pouty because he’s late (again) and you’re tired, and there’s poop graffiti all over the house.
He asks why the blinds are open and you snap, “Because I never see the sunshine or the outside world and live in a black hole, so sometimes I like to open the blinds.” (Husband doesn’t like people seeing into the house at night. His protective instinct kicks in and you just squashed it.)
You know your husband’s job is important, and you’re very, very proud of him. You clipped a news story about him with his picture and in the headline it mentions he saves lives. He saves lives. Meanwhile, back at the ranch you’re mopping up toilet water, wondering if your 6-year-old is really learning enough in this mad house, wiping up poopy and pee-pee footprints and wanting to cry. But you don’t cry. You let subterranean resentment bubble up. You’re snappy, pouty. You stink at this dying to self thing. That’s probably why you’ve been called to this life. For your type A, look-at-me self a professional, flashy career might be easier, but it wouldn’t bring you to your knees, not like being a mom does. You’re just getting by trying to figure out this homeschooling thing while reminding your squatting preschooler that she doesn’t need to do anymore exercises but she probably does need to sit on the potty and try to poop and while keeping your 19-month-old from scaling every piece of furniture in the house.
Once things have calmed down a bit, you’re all in bed together. Your husband slips an arm around you. Preschooler squeezes in between you. Husband says, “Wait just a minute. I want to sit next to Mommy for a second.” And he squeezes your arm, and you feel like such a louse. But you also feel loved. And this feeling of absolute unconditional love is better than losing weight, a paycheck, professional accolades or anything. It’s worth flooded toilets and accidents and foiled plans.
“I’m sorry,” you whisper.
You say it again in the morning. But you don’t have to; he forgave you long ago. He rolls with the punches (and the poop) so much better than you do. And you think about how sometimes being a mom to little ones is tough and sometimes this vocation feels very hidden and unglamorous, but your husband makes it so much easier and better and more beautiful, and if you can just love him well and love your children well, love them all well, then you’ll be saving lives, too.