Growing up I, like lots of little girls, often played house (of course I was always the mom, telling everyone else what to do). When I grew tired of house, I transitioned to playing school (where I was obviously the teacher, also telling everyone what to do).
As an adult, I achieved my childhood dream by becoming a real life grownup teacher—the giver of As through Fs for 100 students. With a stroke of my red pen, I could determine a walk across the stage at graduation. Or summer school. I was drunk with power.
Well into adulthood, my obsessive compulsive tendencies were allowed to flourish. Saturdays were for laundry and scrubbing the apartment spotless. Sundays were for grocery shopping and cooking. No deviation from this plan was permitted. Towels were color-coded in the linen closet, folded into perfectly symmetrical rectangles. Shoes were lined up on the shoe rack immediately upon entry. The bed was always made. Nary a speck of dust could be found. If it sounds a little OCD, it was. But I was the boss, so it was okay.
Then I had children.
You know where this is going.
Motherhood meant I was on my way to achieving my other childhood dream. Like in teaching, I’d get to be the boss of people all the time, I thought.
Like a fool.
And truth be told, as I look back on the past 9 years of being a mom, I think I was slowly stripped of my crown a little bit each day. I fought a good fight, though. I clung to each last bit of control with a death grip.
Once I stopped teaching and became a stay-at-home mom, I ran a playgroup with 75+ moms. I taught Sunday School. And Vacation Bible School. I was room parent—class party planner extraordinaire.
I was endlessly searching for ways to be in charge. Because at home, I was not.
I was coming to terms with the reality that the greatest joke to pull on a woman with control issues is to give her kids.
My epiphany came on a day of frustration, yelling, door-slamming, and time-outs. I had asked my son to put his toys away. Much to my dismay, he looked me right in the eye and said, “No thanks.”
“What just happened?” I thought. “Does he not know who I am? Does he not know how this works?”
I literally pointed my finger at myself and shouted “I AM THE BOSS!” as I sadly realized the truth. A real boss doesn’t have to tell everyone that she’s the boss. There I was, 7 years old again, telling the other girls in the neighborhood to sit down and practice their letters while they laughed and ran away to play Barbies.
However, even then, I wasn’t quite ready to wave the white flag of defeat. I could reclaim that crown. I WOULD reclaim that crown. The boss doesn’t quit!
Well folks, turns out she does. I’m here today to confess that the boss is tired. I’m done fighting for my title. Despite my room-mom status and shoe racks and color-coded towels, there is truly one aspect of motherhood I am not the boss of. And it’s killing me. But it’s true.
I am a mother. And I am not the boss of poop.
There, I said it. That’s the first step, right?
It has take me nine years to accept this reality, but I think it’s time.
I am not the boss of when poop emerges from my children’s bodies.
I am not the boss of where they are when it comes out—like sitting in a church pew, or jumping in a bouncy house, for example.
I am not the boss of little hands trying to clean up after said poop, or even better, “hiding” it.
I am not the boss when I see my child’s eyes, wide with terror, across the room at a birthday party, and I know the “get there in time” window of opportunity has closed.
I am not the boss of poop floaters in the bath. I am especially not the boss when I watch in horror as it begins to disintegrate while I frantically try to grab it.
I am not the boss when poop falls out of tiny butts and rolls away. I am not the boss as I search on my hands and knees for a poop ball that rolled under the bathroom vanity and I wonder how in the hell this is my life.
I am not the boss when I check my child’s swim diaper every 90 seconds for fear that we will be the family causing the “pool is temporarily closed” announcement over the loudspeaker.
I am not the boss when I am unclogging a toilet for the 3rd time in one day.
I am not the boss when I am at the park with my kids where the nearest bathroom is a 10-minute walk. And I say, “Can you make it in time?” and the response is, “Probably not, Mommy.”
And I am definitely not the boss when that same child tells the cashier at Target about her park mishap later on that afternoon.
Finally, I am not the boss when I do the chocolate or poop test upon finding a brown stain on my clothes, and the verdict is “not chocolate.”
So, I’m here today to confess my truth. I’ve been overthrown. My crown has been usurped by my children’s bodily functions. Despite my exhausting efforts, I am, in fact, not the boss of this.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go cook up some dinner, put some shoes back on the shoe rack, and of course, fold some towels.
Like a boss.
This post was originally read at the 2017 Listen to Your Mother Show in Kansas City.