I shut the door behind me, closed my eyes and let out a long, slow exhale.
Perhaps my first exhalation of the day. Or the week? Perhaps the year, given how it’s been going.
Before I knew it, I let the tears flow. Tears that I had been fighting back as the mounting overwhelm tried to grasp me. Earlier in the day, I had snapped at my 8-year-old daughter for not having her school iPad charged for her remote class, which of course started at the same time as my own work meeting, and then realized I had actually been hoarding all the chargers in my room. I told myself it was an honest mistake but it was one of the 200 “honest mistakes” I had managed to make in the past week. And finally, after being late to log into my own Zoom meeting, and frazzled during my (sub-par) presentation to my team, I broke.
Or, well, I ran. Quickly. To the pantry.
Within those four walls I felt safe. A bit ironic perhaps given that it was the smallest space in my house but alas, it was away from the world. Away from the kids. Away from my husband. Away from the next Zoom call. Away from the unchecked to-do list.
It’s my great confession that I use this space to come undone. A break to sometimes just… breakdown. Alone. In the safety of my own solitude.
For years, I was embarrassed by my need to get away from people I loved so deeply. But slowly I’ve come to realize how necessary it is. And as I began to have conversations with other mommies of young children, I also learned that many mothers have their own secret hideout.
For some, it’s their shower. Letting the water catch their tears or deafen their cries.
For others, it’s the car. The moments before you head inside from your day’s work.
I’ve even known people to step outside, risking a neighbor catching them mid-breakdown before they risk their kids seeing them.
These are the places we flee when we’ve heard one too many screams for mommy. Received one too many requests from the world. Are expected of one too many things in the household.
On this particular day in the pantry, it was all of the above.
After I started to gather myself, I looked around.
“This is exactly why my secret hideout is the pantry,” I thought.
I smiled as I reached for the Oreo container, quickly registering how light it was. (Due to my need to escape, I have also become the primary culprit of eating said Oreos.)
As though sensing my intentions, I heard the pitter patter of feet towards the pantry door.
“MOM-MY? Mommy, where are you?”
I waited just long enough for my darling to head into another room. With the quickness of a ninja, I wiped my tears, stuffed an Oreo into my mouth, and slunk out of the pantry.
I had my moment. Now it was time to mommy again.