The Privilege of Motherhood

From the top of the stairs: “Mama!”

“Yes?” I call from the kitchen.

“Mamaaaa!”

“YES! What is it?”  I say louder.

“I need to change my diaper, I have poopies!”  My 3 year old says, immediately followed by, “I need to change my panties too because I went potty in them.”  This coming from my 6 year old.  This happened twice.  Today.

I’m not surprised.  She’s had the stomach flu off and on all week.  So in addition to my 1 year old’s teething-related bowel problems and my 3 year old twins who are still not potty trained, I have changed, cleaned up, flushed, scrubbed, laundered enough excrement in the last week to fill up every bath tub in my house (I have 3, one of which is a large soaking tub).

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Astonishingly, I have been okay with this.  Of course its not a pretty site (or smell), but I watched this video again, after having watched it several years ago before I was quite SO up to my knees in all of this.  It hit me harder this time as I imagined what would it would be like for my children to be going through what they’ve been through this week without a mother to care for them.

A few days ago my daughter had been throwing up all day, unable to keep anything down and barely able to sit up.  She said she wanted to sleep on the couch upstairs (in the same spot she hadn’t moved from in 12 hours).  I sat beside her rubbing her back and pushing her hair back out of her eyes as she breathed weakly.  Finally I equipped her with a big plastic bowl and a sippy cup of water before going downstairs to be with my husband.

We sat at the kitchen table playing a lovely game of skip bo (that I won) and trying to enjoy the much needed silence during the rare time when all 4 kids were sleeping, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed her to be closer to us.  I needed to hear her breathing.  So I made my husband go upstairs, pick her up and carry her, her blanket, cup, and bowl down to our bedroom to sleep on the floor.

It was the second night that we stayed up most of the night rinsing out the bowl, changing clothes and sheets, bathing, and rubbing backs (third night if you count doing the same for the baby).

My one child who hasn’t been sick this week (so far) is the one who laughs, cackles even, hysterically and uncontrollably in the middle of the night almost every night.  Usually I enter the room in a fit of anger, only to have him calm my rage by stroking my face and telling me “I like your eyes.  I like your cheeks.  I like your hair.  I like your fingers…”.  I can’t help but laugh as I say “I like you too”.

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I’ve said it more times than I can count, and every time I feel a little bit guilty, but MOTHERHOOD IS HARD!  If anyone wants to argue with me that it is not the most difficult job in the world, feel free.  I will win.

But in the same breath I can say that I am SO lucky to be the one to take care of these children.  Everyone once in a while I get a glimpse of how in the WORLD God would think I can handle this.  I’m so grateful for the perspective that sick kids give me of my purpose.  It may be a thankless job more often than not, but this week I have gotten more thank you’s, I love you’s, and cuddles (from the one who can’t talk) from these little ones than I think I deserve most of the time.

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“Its a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it” and I wouldn’t want it to be anyone else but me.

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Adventures in Babysitting

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In case the mother of my most recent babysitter happens to be reading this, I first need to say you have raised an amazing young woman and she is exempt from any  “criticism” 🙂  Moving on…babysitting from multiple POV’s.

As a Parent looking for sitters

Fortunately for our family, for the majority of our married life with children we’ve had family very close by and haven’t really had to find a sitter.  Not to mention we live in a town where there’s not a lot to do on dates so there’s rarely a need.  But when we DO go out, we usually enlist the help of my wonderful MIL.  She knows and loves our kids and respects our house as much as we do, so not only can we count on her to take care of the KIDS but I trust she’s not going to be stealing from us or inviting boyfriends over while we’re gone (right, mom?).

I have only very recently realized that there is a major shortage of good babysitters out there.  The few times that we have had teenagers come to our house, I come home and find it messier than it was when I left, no diapers have been changed, and I’m $20 (or more) poorer.  More like $50 after gas and dinner.  Was it worth it?

My question is, for those of you who are in this stage, do you make obsessive-compulsive lists for your babysitters of what you want them to do?  Or do you expect them to just use common sense?

I feel like getting a babysitter puts me in a really weird position.  I still don’t feel old enough to be calling babysitters; I used to BE the babysitter not that long ago.  So when someone arrives at my house I still feel the need to communicate with them like we’re on the same level.  I hate telling them what to do because in a sense its like telling your peers what to do.  Plus I think they should just assume that if they make food they should wash the dish, or if there’s a messy diaper, it probably shouldn’t wait til I get home.

Me, as a Babysitter

When I was in middle school, my mom made me take a babysitting course that included CPR training and certification.  I’m not sure if this was just a house rule, or a state mandated law.  But I returned home from the class a qualified babysitter, ready to approach “clients” with my skills.

I was told that it was appropriate and appreciated to tell the parents how much you charge, when you’re available, and to ASK THEM what they want you to do while you’re there (ie: dishes, laundry, bathing, diapers, etc.).  If you happen to have kids toys or books, bring them.  Kids always love not to have to play with their own boring toys.

I had lots of different babysitting experiences, some for parents who already had an extremely tidy house and just needed someone who would fix dinner and make sure the kids were alive (although this was never all I did, even if it was all that was expected).  Some for parents who had a very specific list of tasks to accomplish before they got home (Wednesday: bathroom cleaning day, Thursday: laundry day, Friday: clean the wood floors day).

It seems to me that parents are not teaching their kids HOW to have responsibilities.  I think that most parents of teens, when they hear that somebody needs someone to watch their children, automatically volunteer their own teenager.  The problem is many teenagers think that babysitting is the easiest job in the world because all they have to do is SHOW UP.  Heaven forbid they do something besides turn on cartoons and text on their phones.  I never ever expected to be paid to just sit at someones house and not do anything to help them.  So my point is, if you don’t feel qualified to be a babysitter (or don’t think your teen is qualified yet), DON’T TAKE THE JOB.  It shouldn’t be the world’s easiest job.  Just like parenting, it should be a job you “show up” to and take pride in

As someone who has been “babysat”

Children are impressionable.  Just because they are young doesn’t mean they won’t remember what you do when you’re there.  I still have vivid memories of experiences I had with babysitters, good and bad.

When my parents got divorced my mom had to get a full-time job and was forced to find a full-time babysitter.  She hired a woman named Mickey.  My 7-year-old-memory of this experience may not be accurate, but this is how I saw it.  I was dropped off at Mickey’s house every morning before school, I walked to school with her kids, and returned after.  Here are my 3 most distinct memories of my experience at Mickey’s house: I used to have to take naps on her living room couch while she watched Oprah and soap operas right next to me.  One time her kids were all going to see a movie with their dad and she told me I wasn’t allowed to go.  I cracked my chin open on the side of her pool and as I waited for my mom to come pick me up and take me to the hospital, she kept yelling at me to stop crying.  My mom says Mickey was a very nice lady who made a good impression on her so I guess you never know.

I had one babysitter during a summer in North Carolina with my dad who invited her boyfriend over while she was watching us.  My friend Bryan came over to play and we caught the sitter and her boyfriend making out.  When she saw that we were “spying” she made fun of us and then dared us to kiss.  I was 8 years old.  That was my first kiss.

Everyone else

I’m very aware that especially in today’s world everyone has an opinion.  Everyone is a professional on every issue.  So there will be someone who reads this and thinks “if you have such a problem with babysitters then take care of your own kids”.

May I remind you that I am a 99% stay-at-home mom.  The other 1% is the date or two that I go on each month to keep my marriage in tact (which is rare these days).  Because as much as I love my children, there will be a day when they leave the house and my husband and I are left with whatever remains of our relationship (which I hope is every bit as blissful as it was when he proposed to me).

I’ve come to realize that you can love your children with every bit of your heart, but still need a moment or two away from them.  And the truth is that they need time away from you too.  It doesn’t make me a bad parent to leave my kids with someone else once in a while.

All I’m saying is that if you are marketing yourself as a babysitter, whatever your age, you’d better be prepared for the requirements.  And parents, teach your children (before they become know-it-all teens who are unteachable, like I know I was) the life skills they need to become a babysitter BEFORE you unleash them into someone else’s home to take care of their most precious things.