How Parenting is Teaching Me to Handle The Unpredictability of Life & Recovery

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. But neither is recovery.

My middle son came down with the stomach bug last night. I recognized the immediate, all too familiar feeling of terror building inside of me. Seeing my child wretch in pain combined with the daunting task of cleaning up the aftermath was overwhelming to say the least.

Add to that the fear this nasty bug spreading, and my fight or flight went into full drive. The urge to grab a Lysol can and spray every solid surface in my house was equally matched with the urge to run away from home as quickly as possible. I considered coming back in the spring when hopefully cold/flu season has passed.

Thankfully I gave in to the first urge, but there is a part of me desperately wanting to flee right now.

What MIGHT happen

This is a familiar feeling. Because it is unfortunately not the first or even second time we’ve been through this (I stopped counting years ago).

In a household with three small boys, they tend to share everything, including illnesses. The week I brought home our youngest son from the hospital, his two older brothers came down with the stomach bug. My memories of that week are a blur but I vividly recall nursing my newborn baby in his room, silently willing the germs to stay out of my baby’s tiny body.

I was panic stricken, obsessing about what MIGHT happen.

What IF the baby got the bug? Or IF I got the bug? And IF I got it and then I got dehydrated and I couldn’t feed my baby? What IF I got it and I couldn’t take care of my baby… what IF my husband got it? How will the our other boys be taken care of?

The fear was so real, I could feel the affects physically. 

And at night, the fear was the worst. My heart beat fast, my breath was shallow, and my mind raced at every cough, sigh, or noise that came from one of the boys. In the darkest part of the night, it truly felt like morning may never come.


Almost four years to that day, I again find myself in a panic worrying about “what if.” And I started to realize this panic is an analogy for life.

The thing is- life is messy. Life is unpredictable. And there are so many things in life that we can’t control, no matter how desperately we long to.

As much as I want to find a way to make sure no one else gets sick at my house, I simply can’t. But I have a choice. I can let the next week be filled with terror, panic, and fear. Or, I can focus on trust, finding moment of gratitude, and surrendering the need to control.

I can choose to allow the worry and fear to dominate my thoughts, or I can choose to take deep breathes, ground myself, and focus on seeking out the positives- even among the mess.

For example: my husband was supposed to travel for work this week, but his trip was rescheduled. And I’m so thankful he was here and that he and I work well together in difficult situations.

Does recovery = easy life?

I used to have the irrational belief that once I was “recovered” life would be easier somehow. Less uncomfortable, less painful. And less messy.

The truth could not be further from that. Life is always going to be unpredictable and messy.

But through recovery, I’ve learned many skills to navigate through the chaotic, messy times. Because whether or not the rest of our household catches this nasty stomach bug, there will be other messes in the future. 

Recovery has taught me I have a choice in how I handle the unpredictable chaos. It has taught me I am not alone, it’s okay to accept help, and that even the darkest night will end when the sun comes back up again.

And there is always something to be grateful for, even among the mess. Because parenting is not for the faint of heart. But neither is recovery. Thankfully- they both come with infinite blessings amidst the messes.

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