Thoughts on Action
"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~ Nicolas de Chamfort

The Humiliations of Motherhood: Enough to Scare the Crap Out of Anyone (Quite Literally)

Last week I was at the library (yes, yes, Nerd Alert and all that), and met with a most horrific mother-and-child scene in the Ladies restroom. [Warning: The following story is not for the faint of heart.]

I can’t say for certain what actually occurred just prior to my arrival, but I can say this: The mother was at the sink wiping her legs from top to bottom and her dress was soaked. The child was in a similar state of disaster on her backside. The floor was covered in “debris” that somehow managed to span two of the three stalls. The smell was like nothing I’d ever encountered in this world. (And this is coming from a woman who once managed to melt a plastic cup in a malfunctioning dishwasher.)

The mother was saying something along the lines of, “You’re old enough to know when you have to go! Now I’m a mess!” *Sigh* “But I suppose all that matters is that your tummy feels better now.” She was wiping down the counters with the industriousness of a career janitor and profusely apologizing for subjecting me to their little horror show. Putting on my amateur sleuth’s hat, I deduced that this poor couple must have been enjoying a little reading time in the Children’s room when the girl promptly let fly with a substantial “accident” on her mother’s lap. (Please, call me Nancy Drew henceforth.)

This, I’m certain, is only one of many such stories in this woman’s repertoire of bathroom debacles. Not because her child is a monster. But because that’s what kids do. They’re ticking time bombs of bodily functions they haven’t yet learned to control. In fact, I imagine every parent has a Rolodex of bathroom related traumas that still stick out in their memory twenty, thirty years later.

When questioned on this subject, my own mom had this to report: “Do you not remember when Matt threw up a pile of moo shoo pork in the back of the station wagon the day we bought it?” Good grief, no! ‘Tis a blessing I have a terrible long-term memory, evidently. But while I’m sure it was a nightmare to clean puke out of station wagon upholstery, at least that could be dealt with in the privacy of our garage. My friend from the library? Not so lucky.

To be clear, it’s not the act of having to deal with bathroom…material that terrifies me. I can handle a lot of truly disgusting stuff. There are things I won’t even mention that I have to do for the cats and I do it without blinking an eye because they’re my babies. I know this is how parents feel, and I know I wouldn’t have a problem with that kind of stuff at home with kids. I’ve never balked at a diaper (unlike Drew, who staunchly refuses to go anywhere near them when we co-babysit).

But dealing with these things out in public? That’s a whole other realm. One I’m not sure I’m capable of sailing through with a cavalier “Oops, oh well! That happened I guess!” attitude. I would have been MORTIFIED if I were in that mother’s shoes in the bathroom. And it would have taken me twenty minutes and several shots of gin (because I’d no doubt have to start carrying a flask if this was the kind of bedlam I’d be encountering) to get up the nerve to tell someone at the front desk about the complete disaster that is now their bathroom and ask for a mop.

I know this post will be read by parents who say things like, “Oh, you learn to get over that kind of stuff real fast.” Okay, maybe most people do. But there’s a whole spectrum in terms of comfort levels with regards to how people are perceived in public. I’m someone who’s hyper-aware of not inconveniencing others, being loud, or generally being a menace to a peace-and-quiet loving society. Drew is the same way – he came home a bit wild-eyed after dinner with his two small nephews earlier this year because he’d never experienced being “the loud table” in the restaurant. Even the most well-behaved kids act out every now and then, and every time our child would accidentally pee on a chair, scream their head off, knock over a shelf of books or pull down a librarian’s skirt, we’d die a little bit inside. I know we would. And yes, I know kids aren’t capable of this kind of chaos for the entire 18 years they’re under your roof, but it is a pretty substantial number of years where you’re dealing with it. Particularly if you have multiples.

This, amongst many other things, scares the crap out of me. What event have you witnessed that’s scared the crap out of you with regards to parenting?

17 Responses to The Humiliations of Motherhood: Enough to Scare the Crap Out of Anyone (Quite Literally)

  • Serious_about_Smoothies says:

    Oh that is super GROSS! And how awkward to witness that (for all parties involved, minus the child, probably).

    While everything related to disease + bodily functions + training display in public is a super scary reminder of the joys of parenthood, there is one more thing that I find both sad and irritating: When these post-tantrum or diarrhea-induced messes are taken care exclusively by (a) the nanny/sitter or (b) mothers only, never the father. I remember attending a couple of birthday parties in my hometown where the nannies had their own table and when something like this happened they knew it was their job to clean up (plus taking the kid to the bathroom). I have also observed an unequal division of labor between male and female caregivers whenever the gross factor is involved. Why? I understand the need of support of a sitter to keep a mother\’s sanity… but the expectation of \”somebody cleaning up after my child\’s mess 24/7… not me…\” (including nannies, waiters, janitors, mother-in-law, etc.) I don\’t know about that.

    Plus… I don\’t know if it\’s just me and my biased view, but it also seems that Hollywood is increasing the amount of projectile vomiting and long-distance peeing in any show or movie featuring non-nurturing or non-\”conventional\” parents-to-be (e.g., Life as we know it, Up all night). What is the point of that? Overcoming your disgust=Automatic excellent parenting?

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Hmm, what IS up with that? It’s funny that I never really questioned Drew on it or argued about it when we babysat. I always just figured that since I didn’t mind it as much, I would do it. He does more than his share in all other areas of our life, but can’t handle the diaper thing – I wonder if there’s a genetic difference between men and women in terms of disgusting stuff tolerance?

      • Rachael says:

        “I wonder if there’s a genetic difference between men and women in terms of disgusting stuff tolerance?”

        There is, but sadly it’s WOMEN who in tests done by psychologists have higher levels of disgust, probably because it protects us (on an evolutionary level) from exposuure to bacteria and parasites when we may be pregnant or feeding a baby. So there’s zero genetic cop-outs on that one, and 100% conditioning socially that women just knuckle down to do the shit-work and men “can’t handle it”… that probably sounds a little harsh, and it’s not meant that way, but it’s just factual.

        Men tend to mind this because from babyhood onwards, they’ve watched women clean and mend and fetch and carry, and it’s no part of their image of what they should or could be doing. Whether you feel strongly enough to address it is none of my business, but there is ZERO biological or evolutionary basis for this.

        • Maybe Lady
          Maybe Lady says:

          That’s interesting to think about it from an evolutionary perspective – that kind of stuff never ceases to blow me away.

  • Erin says:

    I have to say that not all Dads shirk their fair share. Rick has been known to hose off E on more than one occasion, especially during a bad bout of stomach flu. Luckily we’ve been spared public displays. But, E is a pretty good kid. We’re a little concerned what we may be in for with Thing 2, though.

  • Jessica says:

    It’s so funny that you brought this up now. I just went camping, and, well, something happened that (at least temporarily) threw my “maybe baby” self very much in the “maybe not” camp. Now, going into this, I knew two things:

    1. Parents who camp with small children are either super heroes or really stupid, I’m honestly not sure which. They always seem to be rushing around, someone is always screaming or crying, and very few of them look like they are having fun.
    2. I know from my mommy friends that public bathrooms and small children are an absolute nightmare. I’ve heard the horror stories about having to hold the kid on the toilet, the kid being terrified, etc.

    So… here we are, in a perfect storm of camping and public bathroom hell. I walk in, and there was a wait (yes, even in the wilderness, there’s a line in the women’s rest room…). Here’s where I witness probably the grossest thing I’ve seen in recent memory. In the handicapped stall (mind you, one of only 2 stalls there), a mom is trying to get her 2-3 year old kid to go to the bathroom. The kid has already expressed that she has to, um, go #2. However, she starts making this blood-curdling screaming sound every time the mom offers to put her on the potty. Finally, after a few rounds of screaming, the mom decides to lay toilet paper on the floor (not nearly enough. There could never be enough.) and tells the kid to go. On the floor. In one of only 2 stalls available for every woman in the area to use.

    And she does. Boy howdy she does. And because of the architecture of public bathrooms and the size of 2 year olds, everyone got to watch.

    And then the mom picks it up, flushes, and exits the stall like nothing happened. Now, maybe she was mortified (I would’ve been dying at that point, and no flask could’ve saved me), but she sure didn’t look like it. In fact, she just looked exhausted, and like that wasn’t the first time her kid pooped on a floor. And that made me really sad for her, but it also made me realize that I never wanted to be in that situation. I fully realize that having a kid doesn’t automatically mean I’m destined to follow in her footsteps, but it’s a possibility. And I’m sure if it weren’t that, it would be something else, something possibly worse. And so, for at least the next 24 hours, I firmly planted myself in the “oh hell no” camp.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Haha! Wow. This reminds me of an Adam Carolla podcast I was listening to where Dana Gould told a very similar story of not being able to get his daughter to go in a restaurant bathroom and she eventually just went on the floor. She then later peed on the floor in the actual dining area. I think I’d just start traveling with a tarp.

  • Marie says:

    LMAO! I’m going to take this in the opposite direction and say maybe we all need to unwind a little (myself included) and get onboard with this pooping on the floor thing. So much less inhibition. So freeing.

    (And similar to Erin, my husband is way more onboard with messy cleanup, though we haven’t experience anything to this degree. I think this is because once he was bouncing my daughter all around after dinner and she barfed in his hand so now he feels responsible for all that stuff.)

  • JustMe says:

    What scares me about parenthood? THIS website! hahahaha!!! Specially the last one. I have a lot of art supplies at home ;-)

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I love the one where the kid spread butter all over everything, including the cat. That cat must have been JAZZED to lick it all off.

  • Scott says:

    You’re lucky that the poop disaster was contained in a restroom, where at least it generally belongs.

    Much more retching is the tableau I once saw, a woman changing the baby’s well-used diaper on the table at Denny’s. No free meal on my birthday is worth that.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I’ve heard of this happening even in restaurants classier than Denny’s! How on EARTH can someone think that’s acceptable?!

  • Scott says:

    What I was hoping you would have gotten from your mom was some related, embarrassing story involving James Vad Der Beek, something you have no memory of but she has seered into her memory.

    Or, just make one up.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I think she remembers his mother (stage mom!) more than him – probably some good stories there…

      • Scott says:

        Too late. In my memory of this story, Van Der Beek is the little kid in the bathroom. People remember what they choose to remember.

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