"Where is it? I know I set it down here somewhere...? Must've been at the end of my last pregnancy. Or maybe it was that time a bus hit my car the same day I got a speeding ticket and spilled taco sauce on my new work pants. No, wait, I set it in the bathroom next to the scale because I use it there a lot."
Ah HA! I found it. My trusty white flag. I shall now stand in front of the mirror and wave it. Proudly? Not so much. Necessarily? Abso-freaking-lutely.
I am human. I am a human mother who is simultaneously raising humans while growing another human. Cooking dinner for humans and cleaning up after humans. I drive humans to and from the homes of their small human friends and try to see other adult humans only when and if time allows. I am only human. I am only human. I am only human.
As a parent, I'm going to guess I'm not alone on this train of thinking. We have kids and (seemingly overnight) are expected to evolve into super humans. Don't get me wrong – I kind of dig being a super human. But there are times when the status doesn't suit me or I don't suit the status. Failure takes full ownership of the day and my hands fly into the sky faster than I can eek out a much-needed curse word. Be strong, they say? Be strong? What if I don't want to be strong today.
Last week, I had a white flag day. It started like this:
I woke up late thanks to a muted phone alarm and chased my daughter around trying to bribe her to brush her teeth while flipping over pillows on a desperate hunt for missing car keys. My ultrasound was scheduled for 9:00. It was 8:49 and the rain mixed with my hormonally-filled tear ducts caused me to miss the carpool lane and sit in 25 extra minutes of rush hour traffic. "The doctor will see you now," I hear 75 minutes after arriving late. Exiting the parking ramp, I rummage through my purse for the ticket and wind up sobbing in the attendant's face that I misplaced it and don't have $20 to pay the "lost ticket" fee. Mascara on my cheeks and stress in my face, I handed the understanding attendant $6 and left...completely mortified of the day I was having. It was at this point that I looked in my rearview mirror.
There sat a little girl. Reading books to her stuffed kitty, but noticeably concerned. As part of our super human parent strength, we become professionals at playing pretend. So I pretended. I told her today was going to be a good day and we were going to start over. And we whisked off to the dog park to let our terrier run freely and get some fresh air.
Fast-forward to the rest of our "good day": Dog found mud hole and enjoyed it far too much before I noticed. Burned chicken in crock pot for dinner (yes, it's possible). Missed a crucial deadline at work because, well, just because. Dropped a jar of mandarin oranges into the metal sink and spent a good chunk of time (and skin) digging glass shards out from the disposal. Oh, and our freezer stopped running. Because it knew today was the perfect day for that.
Now, hear me out before you judge me: I know it could be worse. I know it could almost literally always be worse. I know burning dinner and losing your keys should not necessarily be day-breakers. But sometimes, you guys, sometimes they are. There are days when they will be and you will come home and search high and low for that white flag because you just want to call it quits. Just for today. Just for one measly, powerless day.
And you can. Because you're only human. Maybe even super human. But human nonetheless.
At the end of the day, I know I have actually survived, contrary to what my tattered white flag may infer, and give myself a silent high five. I look at the note on my fridge and remind myself that I cannot do it all. My kids are asleep in the wrong beds and my house looks like a tornado went through it. The burned chicken is still adamantly stuck to the sides of the crock pot and my husband is tiptoeing around me like he could set off a nuclear bomb if he makes the wrong move. But...survival. I didn't give up. I. Didn't. Give. Up.
I had a friend tell me, when moods like this hit and your strength is depleted, to step back and focus on what makes you happy. Take your dog for a walk. Play board games with your kids while ignoring the piles of laundry that surround you. Nap. Read. Get a drink with your girlfriends. When your arms fly up and the curse words are simmering at the end of your tongue, it's time to reprioritize your needs. Not the needs of all those other humans in your life. Your own needs! Give what you can where you can and then check back in on life. Reset. And the strength will return.
There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough. As super humans, we need to make finding that difference a regular superpower because it will save days and tears and white flag raisings. It will help us remember that we give our all on a daily basis and if that's not enough, we need to reset. It's ok to realize that you are someone who's had enough, so long as you also remember you are someone who IS enough.
So tuck that flag away, but never get rid of it because there will be times when you don't want to be strong. And you don't have to be. You just have to be willing to come back from it.