Make Room for a Little Throw-up
by Alexandra Kuykendall
“Mommy!” I hear the cry of a sick child down the hall in the middle of the night. Sprinting out of bed, I jump over piles of laundry on the floor and dart through a maze of toys in the hallway. I rush into her room to find vomit all over my daughter and her bed. Continuing my super-hero mom routine, I simultaneously comfort my child while cleaning up her and her bed.
I’m already thinking about how this will impact the next day. A sick child for a working mom throws the delicate balance of work and home life off-kilter. Four kids with different school and childcare needs. Our family plan to get out the door in the morning looks like a military strategy map involving two drivers, three schools and one sitter. One thing changes and the whole plan could collapse.
Our family makeup and schedule has evolved over time. With the number of kids increasing and work responsibilities changing, we’ve adjusted our routines as needed. I know kids thrive with consistency, so we build it into our lives. Breakfast together, nap times, family dinners and baths are all part of how we function. But like any family, when a surprise factor is introduced, we need to make some adjustments and to make room for a little throw up.
Even though I’m a super-hero mom, I can’t put more than 24 hours in a day. I have to fit the family necessaries (feeding people) in with our priorities (church participation). These are the consistent elements I want my kids to experience, regardless of season or age. Add in the extras, things I want for my kids (ballet lessons) and me (a night out with friends). And I have to be a little more flexible — recognizing there will be a lifetime of opportunities for these extras. They may not all fit into this month or this year.
Once my sick child has been cleaned up, the jammies and sheets are placed in the washer and I’ve showered, I crawl back into bed. Mentally, I run through the options for the next day. Guilt is hovering as I assess my strategy map for the coming morning. I know the normal routine won’t work. I’ll have to adjust and drop some responsibility that I’ve committed to. Thankfully my job is flexible enough that I can miss a day or call in for a meeting. In the wee hours of the morning, I recognize not every mom has the freedom to be so nimble. But even with understanding people around me, I feel I’m letting someone down.
I remind myself that more important than the next morning’s strategy is our family’s larger strategy that emphasizes the values behind the tactics. It adjusts as needed and allows me to do the same. And my family strategy allows me to make room for a little throw-up every now and then.
Alexandra Kuykendall has recently made room for more throw-up with the addition of her fourth daughter. You can connect with her at mom-ology.org/blog where she and other moms write about motherhood or on twitter.com/alex_kuykendall.