The Straw that Broke the Mommy’s Back

The old, familiar phrase “the straw that broke camel’s back” is an idiom used to express the idea that one small, extra thing can be the breaking point for someone who is already burdened by many things. I think this idiom is especially apt to describe mothers, and originally, this post was going to be about those little things that send me over the edge when I’m already stressed out and overwhelmed. It was going to be about those last straw moments, but then I started researching camels, and my entire focus changed because it turns out camels are pretty awesome, and moms are pretty awesome in many of the same ways:

Camels can carry between 200 and 500 pounds. (

Like camels, moms carry a lot, literally and figuratively. We literally carry everybody’s everything. Getting in and out of my car every day often takes several trips because of all the STUFF we need for work, school, and extracurricular and all the trash that accumulates as we move from place to place. Once a week I find myself emptying my car, mumbling about all the trash and crap the builds up inside. It looks a lot like this. And of course, any time we go anywhere, my kids want to bring things I tell them they don’t need, we argue, they end up bringing it, and somehow, I end up being the one that carries it. Even my husband will sneak his phone, his keys, and his wallet into my purse and it will suddenly become twice as heavy.

But it’s not just the physical burdens. Every mom I know is all too familiar with the “mental load” of remembering everything for everyone. Did you brush your hair? Did you flush the toilet? Did you do your homework? Did you pack your sports bag? When are the kids due for a dentist appointment? Who is going to watch my daughter on the teacher in-service day? Did I return the school picture order form? What do we need to pack for the trip? Did anyone feed the dog? The list of things that moms have to keep track of on a daily basis is often overwhelming, but we bear the burden, like necessary but often underappreciated beasts of burden.

Camels are really fast. (the fact site)

For some reason, when I think of camels, I think of slow laborious animals, encumbered by the weight of their own bodies and the loads they carry, collapsing into the sand to chew the cud after a long day’s journey. While certainly, they don’t need to move quickly when they are traveling large treks of land or carry a great deal of weight, camels can move at speeds up to 40 miles per hour! Sometimes I feel like that image of a slow-moving camel, but like many of my mom friends, when I need to get things done, I GET. THINGS. DONE. I often feel like I am moving a mile a minute, frazzled by all the things that need to be accomplished and all the different places every member of my family needs to be. At the end of a long day, I have a tendency to focus on what didn’t get done and all the things that got undone immediately after I’ve done them (is anyone’s kitchen ever clean for more than five minutes?). But when I truly take a minute to take stock of what I did do, or when my husband expresses amazement over what I’ve accomplished, I am reminded that even when I feel like I haven’t gained much ground, I’ve actually conquered many obstacles, and I’ve earned the right to collapse into the couch with some wine and chocolate.

Camels spit in defense  (the fact site)

Probably the one fact that everyone knows about camels is that they spit when they feel threatened. And every child and spouse knows all too well that look that mom gets on her face when she has had enough. The look that says, “don’t make me say it again.” That look that says, “stop it if you want to live to see tomorrow.” That look that says, “give me space or feel my wrath.” When mom is spitting mad, she makes it known, and everyone else should back away slowly.

Camels can go long periods of time without water. (cool kid facts)

The analogy about not being able to pour from an empty cup has become cliched, especially when it comes to self-care commentary. The truth is that, while we might not be able to give our best when our own cup is empty, moms pour from empty cups all the time. Similarly, camels can go for weeks, even months, without water. Contrary to popular belief, their humps are not actually filled with water, but when camels do get a chance to rehydrate, camels can drink several gallons of water in a matter of minutes. And like camels, when moms finally do get a chance to refill our cups, it often doesn’t take much to help us feel human and a little bit more like ourselves again.

The word “camel” means “beauty.” (the fact site)

The most interesting fact I learned about camels is that the word “camel” means “beauty” in Arabic, and the language has over 160 words for camels. While other parts of the world might see them as goofy-looking animals, they are greatly valued in the areas of the world where they are essential parts of history and culture. And while moms might often feel judged by the world and might wish to change their name when they’ve heard, “mom, mommy, mama” a hundred times in a day, they are truly “diamonds in the rough.” So many of the day-to-day family needs would not be met if it weren’t for the intricate choreography of moms.

So, Mama, the next time you think you are at your breaking point, remember that you are a camel: a strong, beautiful creature able to survive even the harshest conditions.

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.



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