Skip to main content

Of Mice and Motherhood

I discover the decaying carcass while cleaning out my desk. The putrid smell is unmistakable. I let out a shriek and lurch back, knocking over the chair. My 9-year-old daughter, hearing the commotion from downstairs, yells, “Mommy, Mommy, what happened?”

She runs upstairs to discover me jumping up and down, waving my hands in the air as if I’m at a Baptist Revival. “It’s a dead mouse! It’s a dead mouse!” I squeal.

“Ewwww,” she says. “I knew I smelled something.”

“Didn’t I tell you there was a weird smell,” my older daughter, 13, chimes in after emerging from her room. “You need to get it out of here.”

“I can’t. I can’t touch it,” I whine like a three-year-old, er, 43-year-old.

Here I’ve been divorced and living on my own for five years. I’ve prided myself on putting up the Christmas tree alone. I know the ins and outs of my home’s heating and plumbing system (well, more than before). I search the house when things go bump in the night, thinking I’ll knock out any intruder with my police-grade, heavy duty flashlight. I shovel my sidewalk on snow days. Basically, while I’m a woman who still relishes mani-pedis, I’ve manned up over the years.

Just not when it comes to mice.

I want to be a good role model for my daughters, to show them that women can do things on their own--no need for a knight with a shining mouse trap. Women are perfectly capable of discarding dead rodents, thank you. But this is a clear case of my expectations--and theirs-- not meeting reality. I long to be the roaring lioness, but I’m acting like a scared-y-cat.

As I jitter about, clenching my fists, chanting, “I can’t, I can’t,” my third grader locks her steely blues eyes onto mine in an attempt to pull me from my hysteria. “Face your fears, Mommy. You can do it. Face your fears and pick it up.”

“Why don’t you face your fears and pick up the mouse?” I reply maturely.

“Because you’re the grown-up. That’s your job.”

She has a point. “You’re right. I can do this.”

Yes, we can, I think, trying to channel my inner-Obama, as I march into the kitchen to grab paper towels and a plastic bag. With supplies in hand, I head back to the den where my spectators watch from the sidelines.

“See, girls, Mommy can do this,” I say, folding over four sheets of paper towels. I could pick it up with the plastic bag, but I want a thicker barrier between the carcass and my fingertips. With the dead mouse now firmly in the folds, I grimace as I try transferring it into the plastic bag. I must have jerked or something, because the next thing I know the tiny stiff body tumbles to the floor, ricocheting off my knee along the way.

“OhMyGod! OhMyGod!” I shriek once more. “This is so gross! This is so gross!” Why am I always repeating myself?

“Pick it up, Mommy!!!!! You can’t just leave it there,” the elder daughter scolds, as I tap dance around the grayish brown clump. Then she tells me to “calm down and breathe.”

The younger one repeats her “face-your-fears” mantra.

I steel myself for a second attempt. I need to get a grip--literally.




“It’s in the bag!” I whoop. “I did it!” The girls and I prance around the den and I give them high fives with my right hand while holding the nearly weightless bag in my left. I look like a player dancing in the end zone after a touchdown.

You’d think I’d just won the Super Bowl. In my mind, I have.

Taking the bag out to the trash, I feel empowered. It may seem a tiny feat (with tiny feet) to most, but to me it’s a tipping point of sorts. It’s not that I think men are unnecessary, but I certainly don’t need them for the mice.