What happens when Mom is the one melting down?

You know those times when everything seems to go wrong? Kids get sick, work is stressful, you fight with your spouse, something goes awry in your house and it costs you X amount of money you had planned to spend on that vacation... No one gets a free pass. Admittedly, I had a good ride and enjoyed it while it lasted. But then IT came. I sucked it up. IT kept on coming. And coming. And then I lost it. 

I can count the times I've cried over the past several years on one hand. I'm not bragging, by any means, but it takes a lot to push me into that utterly vulnerable, hopefully fleeting, moment. It's funny - I remember crying over misunderstandings and boyfriends (obviously this is years ago), sad movies and emotional commercials. Now it's like there's a nearly impenetrable shell that contains my tears. I'm pretty sure it was created by having kids. It's the shift in perspective, from us to them. We don't worry about ourselves anymore - we worry about them. If we're sick we still do our jobs. If we're stressed, we move past it and attend to our kids' needs (and as we all know, those needs are great). If a frisbee, say, is flying straight at our child's face we will, without hesitation, hurl ourselves into the flight of the disc and break our nose. We do what it takes. 

But last week I crumbled under many months of stress and emotion. House issues, a child sick for several weeks, big changes at my work, single parenting while my husband traveled for work, and daily migraines. I just cracked. Literally it was like something inside me cracked open and I sank onto the bed and just cried. And while it was once a commonplace occurrence, this felt foreign. Wrong. Self-indulgent. And it happened in the very bright light of day. 

My kids caught me. They paused before approaching their hysterical mommy. Their wide eyes grew wider. They asked if I was okay. And then they hugged me. With their birdlike arms wrapping around me, clinging to my neck, I breathed them in. I closed my eyes and felt their silky hair against my cheek. And finally I grew calm and pulled back to look at them and thank them for being there for me. When they pressed me to tell them what was wrong I simply said, "Everyone has a bad day. And it's okay to cry. Mommy's okay, I'm just a little sad this morning."  

A nugget of guilt for burdening them with my pain stayed with me that day. But my close friends assured me it happens to the best of us. I rarely, if ever, saw my mother cry. But I know she suffered from depression and she SHOULD have cried in front of me. And the one time I saw my father cry was devastating. But despite the fact I was disturbed and maybe even a little frightened by seeing my parents' weaknesses, it showed me they were human. 

In hindsight I might've closed the bathroom door and melted down by myself. And I'm pretty sure it will be awhile before I lose it again. But since then, my kids, especially my youngest, checks in with me to see how I'm doing.  "Are you okay today, Mommy?" It's heartening to know that regardless of how it happened, my kids are learning empathy. And in this crazy, often hurtful world, raising empathetic kids should be a priority.