Ask any mother for her most trying parenting moment and she'll be hard-pressed to choose just one. Is it the time Junior barfed on her suit just before the big meeting? Or the morning everyone got locked out of the house in the rain?
When we asked Canadians to share their harried-mom memories with us, we found that many involved bodily fluids or keys. Airports are particular hot spots, but the living room can be equally hazardous. And the classic response? Panic.
So, this Mother's Day, perhaps even the cynics who dismiss it as just another cliché should consider giving thanks to the people who held things together amid the chaos. Of course, we moms can't really complain – we knew what we were signing up for. And, of course, some of the worst moments make the best stories
Media and public affairs consultant, Toronto
Kids: 1 and 4
Mommy moment: It was raining. The dog didn't want to go out because it was raining. I was trying to get the kids dressed and fed. My son didn't like the shirt I picked – it's not "cool" enough. I didn't have time to be the Hallmark mom and tell him "cool comes from the inside." My daughter hurled her Cheerios onto our new couch. In the midst of this chaos, the dog puddled at the door. The cat hadn't been fed and was howling at the top of the stairs, which sounded like a baby crying. It was 8 a.m. and I still hadn't showered. I had to get the kids in the car, drop them off and make it to the office by 9. I threw on a dress. I split my keys so I could warm the car up a bit. My son was crying about getting wet, so I carried him with a towel over his head into the car. My daughter, I just forced her in there. I got in and drove away. I made it to work relatively on time, but then realized my house keys are missing from the chain. Panic. My colleague's husband was in the area so she sent him to the house. He called to say, "The dog's outside, the cat's outside and your laptop bag is in the driveway." The keys were dangling in the front door. I hadn't even closed it.
This Mother's Day: Her husband is hosting the day at their house, with her mom and mother-in-law. "I think my husband is doing it all. I'm going to try to relax."
Freelance writer, Vancouver
Kids: 5, 8
Mommy moment: My daughter was about a year and a half old. We'd just moved into a new house. We were getting a PVR for the television installed. The cable guy was there for a good 40 minutes, and my daughter watched every move he made. He gave me a quick lesson with the instruction manual but I wasn't really listening because I was making dinner and looking after her. He helped me turn on some cartoons and left. I went 10 steps to the kitchen and then had my back to her, concentrating on marinating some big steaks in a bowl. I heard the sound of the cartoons turn to static. I rushed in to see her standing there with a mischievous grin on her face, standing behind the TV clutching a huge bouquet of wires. I thought "Oh my god I have no idea how to put this back together." I bent down to figure out which wire goes where, with my bum in the air. Two minutes later I felt the shock of cold steak hitting me in the back of the neck, the gloppy marinade pouring down my back. She was laughing. I just lay down on the floor. It was just one of those moments: You just can't keep up with parenthood. I don't remember what happened to dinner. I might have just scooped it up. Your standards get really low.
This Mother's Day: Breakfast in bed and lounging all day.
Advertising account director, Ajax, Ont.
Kids: 3 and 7
Mommy moment: It was about two years ago – we were going down to Disney for my son's fifth birthday. In the airport in Toronto, my daughter started to vomit. There was a computer delay, so it took us three hours to get from the ticket counter to the plane. The whole time, she was throwing up. By the time we got there, I had run out of every spare bit of clothing and wipes. She ended up in Florida wearing just a diaper. And you could tell the people who had kids and people who didn't. The people with children had sympathetic looks. Less than 24 hours later, it was over for her, but my husband and my five-year-old and myself all came down with the same virus. We were staying in a condo with only one bathroom. When we travel, I'm the one who organizes it and packs, so this was just the cherry on the top. Now every time I travel, I panic.
This Mother's Day: Running in the Sporting Life 10K. "I told my husband that he and the kids can take me out for mother's day breakfast after the run!"
Career counsellor, De Winton, Alta.
Mommy moment: I was home with a concussion from playing hockey the night before, vomiting and crawling around because I was so dizzy – and still having to look after our four-year-old. As my husband walked out the door for work I gave him the look of death. I was lying on the couch, head in a bucket. I couldn't walk. It was horrible. My son watched a lot of TV that day. And that's a terrible thing for me to have to say, because I don't believe in watching a lot of TV. Getting lunch ready I said, "I hope you like pasta, kid" – I could at least sit down while it boiled. I couldn't drive and take him to daycare. I couldn't do anything. I phoned my parents in Winnipeg and asked them, "How fast can you get here?" It would have taken them a day. I had to suck it up. It's still a sore point.
This Mother's Day: Plans are still in the works.
Investment management, Toronto
Kids: 5, 3
Mommy moment: I've had those crazy lock-my-kid-in-the-car moments, but a more regularly occurring moment stands out: My husband is often away on business. I have a meeting at 9 a.m. every day and if we have companies that report their earnings, they usually do their press release at 7:30 or 8 a.m., which is a terrible time for me. The last time this scenario happened was about a month ago. The kids were eating their breakfast. I was trying to read on my iPad. Kids at this age, they don't ever stop talking. They're talking to me, talking to each other. I'm trying to read and remember these numbers. I can hear my five-year-old counting to 100, "28, 29, 30, 31, 33," and my two-year-old is kneeling on the chair saying "Mommy! I have a dirty diaper, needs to be changed!" I'm thinking, "Really? Could you have worse timing?" A little panic sets in. If I don't have the reading done, I'm going to get into this meeting and not have one intelligent thing to say, which is terrifying. I sat there and looked at the ceiling. This is a quintessential working parent moment.
This Mother's Day: No plans yet, but hoping to spend time with my family and set aside the chores.
These interviews have been condensed and edited.