If adults got merit badges for trauma in their lives like scouts get for good deeds, many people would be walking around with shirts full of metal pins.
There are certain jobs with built-in trauma – working in an emergency room, for example, or as a first responder. And then there are other jobs, like mine, that don't come with trauma every single day, but it is an integral part of what we do.
Covering a disaster, like a hurricane, is what I call a trauma-assignment. I'm not talking about personal trauma - long days, discomfort (wet/cold/tired/hungry) or issues with logistics (getting around in an unfamiliar place with flooding or damage, finding a place to stay). These are all first world problems.
I'm talking about the trauma of witnessing other people's catastrophic loss - of seeing their devastation firsthand, up close, in a very personal way, and not being able to do anything about it.
It's gut-wrenching, yet at the end of it all, we're supposed to go home and unload the dishwasher, go to the grocery store and help with homework like everything's normal. But "normal" is hard to return to because trauma is transforming in a way that doesn't allow for a seamless transition back to normalcy. By definition, it changes you in ways that aren't always readily apparent.
Children have no concept of this. With limited life experience, real trauma is something most kids, thankfully, don't know anything about. So, they don't give us any time to transition from trauma back into regular life - carpools, school forms and sleepovers.
In some ways, that may be good. It shifts your focus away from the trauma and back to the more mundane tasks of life. But it also gives you no room to process what you've experienced in a meaningful way.
So, what if we had an adult merit badge that told the world we had just been through something? Would anyone, including our kids, give us a break? Probably not. Oh well, it was a nice thought ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books, including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.