A classic rock-bottom moment for me was when our small city condo was on the market.
At the time, I had a newborn and an 18 month old. Our condo was overflowing with a ridiculous amount of cribs, jumperoos, swings, bottle warmers, and a ton of other critically important baby paraphernalia. Our realtor was appalled. “It smells like baby in here!” she’d snap, spraying her lavender air freshener in our faces. “You’ve got to get that baby smell out of here!”
We’d watched the boring buy-a-house shows. We knew how important it was to stage the place. Each showing was painful. After frantically cleaning and stashing items for a few hours while carrying around a toddler and a newborn, I felt like my arms would fall off.
It was tough, but we did have it down to a science. Boy, our system worked. All it took was that text, “showing at 1:00,” and we hauled the toys to the basement, put the cradle in the trunk of the car, and stashed the computer printer under the bed. We put the fruit bowl in the storage ottoman, the coffee maker in the clothes dryer, and the toaster oven inside the real oven. I must admit that I always had that unnerving feeling about putting anything other than food in the oven, but it sure made the kitchen look stunning.
After no fewer than 120 showings, it finally happened.
I preheated the oven for a pizza. A short while later, the rancid smell of plastic smoke hit me hard. I yanked open the oven door and saw our innocent toaster in there, melting all over the place. Its cord oozed around the oven floor like a sneaky, gooey swamp monster.
I tried to fish it out with some oven mitts, but it was even too hot for those, and it was stuck. I threw open the bedroom door and called for my husband, who handed me our baby and somehow pried the scalding-hot toaster oven out of the real oven and into the alley. “I cannot believe this. I knew this was going to happen!” I said, trying to tug the windows open with one hand as I held my starry-eyed toddler with the other. It was freezing outside, and now it was freezing inside too.
If you asked me at the time what I had learned from this, I would have muttered, “Not a thing,” which you may not have heard because that night I had to put a towel over my face to keep from breathing in the plastic smoke.
But time heals. Looking back, I can see that it was funny. In that moment, I was forced to surrender, to accept the fact that I can’t control everything, clean everything, or make everything work out all of the time.
Melting the toaster also helped me make changes like getting rid of some of that “essential” baby stuff, de-cluttering, and not worrying so much about making our house look perfect.
There is such an astounding humility in parenting, which my rock bottom moments have made me truly appreciate.
Photo credit: Kate Hiscock