“Why don’t you just shut the door?!”
My husband is shouting at me after he, once again, barged in on me while I was in the bathroom. I shout back an unkind retort, frustrated that someone always seems to need me the second I go to the restroom.
This time, instead of mumbling something and slamming the door on him, I look at my husband blankly for a minute and wonder, Why don’t I just shut the bathroom door?
I have to think about this for a minute because I don’t really have an excuse anymore. My kids are older now — not the babies and toddlers they once were. In fact, my youngest is now 4 and perfectly capable of not impaling herself on some small object or burning the house down while I use the bathroom.
Still, now that I think about it (and I know this is a lot of thinking for someone who is currently sitting on the toilet): My failure to shut the bathroom door is not just about this one moment. This moment represents the accumulation of many, many moments in my life spent as a stay-at-home parent of four kids who were at one point all under age 6.
This moment represents survival.
This moment boils down to the basic battlefield tactics I developed over 10 long years of mothering, when I was the primary person responsible for four little lives and quickly learned Rule #1 of Parenting:
Bad Stuff Happens When Mom Is in the Bathroom.
Sure, I may have started out my motherhood journey optimistically, vowing to go about my day like a normal human — but that all changed the moment I was home alone with the baby and had to take a shower. In that moment, I quickly realized that the regular rules of life no longer applied to me. There was only one ruler of my life now — and she weighed just under 8 pounds. Clearly, the best solution to actually getting clean that day was to leave the door open where my daughter was in plain sight, just in case.
And so it began. I eventually decided that it was easier to just leave the bathroom door open all the time.
For one thing, the second I went into the bathroom with the baby, she would start to cry. Yet somehow (for reasons that make no sense to me) if I left the door open and could see her, she would be OK.
Of course, if I had to shower, I had to leave the door open, because what if someone kidnapped her while I was in there or she suffocated and somehow the monitor didn’t pick it up?
Plus, what if she needed me, and the sound of my voice gently soothing her from where I sat on the toilet was the only thing that could comfort her? (Do not laugh because if you are a mother, you know you have done this.)
Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I added a toddler into the mix — and then another toddler a year and a half later. By that point, I had two choices: either never poop again or leave the door open so I could ensure the 2-year-old didn’t impale himself on a kitchen spatula.
Honestly, the amount of direction I have called from the porcelain throne would make a parade director proud. In fact, once I even conducted an entire conference call in the bathroom with all three kids trapped in there with me … because desperate times call for desperate measures.
By the time I had three kids ages 4 and under, I even added a strategic basket full of toys in my bathroom just to entertain my kids while I was in there. I literally put time and thought into how I could make my bathroom more pleasing to the kids. Perhaps they would enjoy this new, softer-ply toilet paper to unroll, I thought. Or, maybe they will enjoy emptying this drawer if I put these new toys in there!
Sadly, these are real, true thoughts that ran through my mind, simply in an effort to perform some basic bodily functions. It was just so much easier to have all of my kids in plain view where I could know no one was trying to run outside, climb in the oven, or paint my walls with their own feces (don’t ask me if this is a real example, OK?).
With the addition of child #4, I had fully embraced my open-door bathroom policy. I breastfed a baby, opened snacks for the toddler, answered all of the burning questions that my older children suddenly needed to ask me right that very second, and basically just resigned myself to the one cardinal rule of motherhood: Kids never need you more than the second you close the bathroom door.
So that, my dear husband, is why I never close it anymore. I guess you could say old habits die hard. And maybe, just maybe, I’m having a hard time accepting I’m no longer needed anymore.