I used to be a great babysitter.
I'd show up to the house with what became known as my Mary Poppins Bag. Do you remember that? From the movie? She'd pull the most amazing things out of that tiny thing... lamp, a table... it never seemed to end! In actuality, mine was just a large blue Adidas duffle bag, but the contents are what made it special. For one trip I might have a few Disney videos, bubbles, boondoggle keychain materials, coloring books and crayons, paint and markers, sidewalk chalk, gummy fruit snacks, candy and a box of macaroni and cheese. I'd change things around after every trip and tried to keep it exciting. The kids weren't allowed to touch my bag, making it seem that much more mysterious. Bribery was my best friend! Kids were happy, I was happy, parents were happy (and they always paid me generously!)
I've been thinking a lot about that bag lately and felt a little sad that that part of my life was over. Those carefree days of shopping at the Dollar Tree to buy some fun little toys, making a quick trip to Walmart because they had the best deals on those vanilla sandwich cookies one family liked. Receiving phone calls for a babysitting job, looking at my calendar and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm not available," or "I'm not feeling well." Receiving praise from the kids when they'd tell the parents all we did when they came home. Having to say that you're not accepting any more families because you couldn't keep up with all of the jobs your current families wanted you for. To be wanted. Appreciated. Well liked.
As a mom, we are immediately put into a situation where people just expect you to know what you're doing and your 'clients' rarely say thank you. When your child asks for the treat on the top shelf, there's no one else you could call and ask if it was alright. You can't just say "Oh, I didn't know what the house rules are," or "Sorry, they're your mom's rules, not mine," because you're the one calling the shots. When your baby cries because you had to pull him away from the jar of Vaseline he was playing with, you feel horrible but you know that sometimes, parenthood requires us to be mean like that. The buck stops with you. We are ultimately responsible for the decisions - how every small they might be - on a daily basis. And it's not always easy.
As a babysitter, I could pick up a screaming baby and hold him in my arms for two hours until the parents got home. Let a screaming baby cry? NO WAY! As a babysitter, I might let them eat their lunch in front of the television in order to finish the movie before I had to leave. Cleaning up the extra mess? NOT A BIG DEAL! I don't mind cleaning it up! As a babysitter, I'd be home by 11:05pm and could even sleep in the next day.
As a mom, I know better. The crying baby is fed, clean and comfortable; it's okay for him to cry it out. It's alright if the kids eat somewhere else, but they need to clean it up; if I let them do that all day, I'd go out of my mind. For moms, this is our life. We don't get to hand off our kids back to their original caretakers or cancel because we're not feeling well. We don't have the luxury of leaving the dirty messes to someone else. Molding kids' lives while also maintaing the smallest details of their day takes a lot of effort. It is physically and emotionally draining. It's exhausting, especially since most of us are with our children longer than 4-6 hour intervals!
But gosh, I wouldn't trade this job for anything.
I still have a Mary Poppins Bag, although now I call it my Diaper Bag. It's amazing what I can fit inside that little thing. I don't receive the accolades I used to get from the appreciative children I babysat, but the smiles on my boys faces make me feel like I'm doing something right. I may not get paid for the work I do on a daily basis, but the benefits are outta this world!
At the end of the day, I am so incredibly proud of the fact that I get to keep these boys.