Do you remember Jo Frost – Super Nanny? I remember watching her show, mesmerized at her wisdom and ability to bring order to chaotic homes across America and the UK. Even today, at 45 years old and without children of her own, she strives to teach families how to manage and discipline their children with strict routine and order. I do wonder if her philosophy would change if she had her own children….
Long before having my own children or even getting married, I had the privilege of caring for other people’s children. I believe I was 11 years old when I first started babysitting. I instantly became infatuated with nurturing and caring for children and did so as a nanny, babysitter and mother’s helper for many years. I didn’t start having children until I was 30 and now almost a decade later, I have 4 children of my own. When you work with children full time but they are not your own, it is easy to say you know a thing or two about them. And that’s a fair statement. However, everything changes the moment that baby is yours. You suddenly find yourself as the primary caregiver and you can’t always hand them off to someone else when you want or need to.
Immediately upon bringing them home from the hospital (and maybe from weeks of uncomfortable sleeping in the last weeks of pregnancy) you are sleep deprived. And this isn’t the kind of exhaustion you describe after an extended night of fun out with your girlfriends! Exhaustion means something entirely new to you when you become a mother. Now, take that exhausted mother and force her to go grocery shopping. Her family needs to eat and grocery shopping is a necessity in order to have the food to prepare. But little baby (who of course is along for the shopping trip) is restless and just can’t get settled. She needs to shop and the baby won’t stop crying! I promise you that the only people in the store that have a compassionate heart towards that struggling mama and baby are other moms. The demands of motherhood are real and they don’t go away for a long time. It only changes as the child grows and as the mother matures in her role.
Motherhood is VERY different than babysitting though it doesn’t seem so from the other side. Besides physical, something very psychological happens. You love beyond any capacity you thought you knew you had in you. And in those moments – you know – the ones where you’ll do anything to make them feel better or just to gain that moment of peace and serenity? You will grasp at anything in that desperation to make things well again. The difference here is that this desperation for sanity is predominately motivated by an unexplainable love for this dear child. This again is just something you can’t explain to a woman who has not yet had her own children. It’s something she learns the moment her new baby is placed in her arms after 10 months of backbreaking pregnancy and 12+ hours of maddening labor.
Another important thought to consider is that babysitters get paid….MONEY! Could you imagine if mothers got paid for their work? Might we do our jobs better knowing a paycheck was attached to how well we performed? According to Forbes.com, mothers would make $115,000 yearly if they were paid for their stay at home work! Clearly, mothers are not motivated by their invisible salary. While babysitters make $10-$20 an hour for their work, moms are motivated and paid in love and the satisfaction of their children’s happiness. I once heard a saying that goes like this: “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” Isn’t this so true? A babysitter may be annoyed or frustrated by the saddest child in her care, but at the end of the day, she goes home and moves on, only to long forget someone else’s sad child.
Here’s the hard part for moms. Children don’t come with manuals. And chances are, the more you have, the more different each of them will be from each other! Take a poll with moms and you will find that most of us are just trying to get through one day at a time, trying to find a routine that involves peace and some sanity; even better if it comes with a meal plan and a house cleaning strategy. The uncanny truth about this is that those same moms will just finally start to find that routine and BAM! Pregnant with the next baby.
My last words to the women out there reading this: If you are the babysitter, non-mother out there reading – Enjoy your peace. Enjoy your sanity. Enjoy your rest. Do your best not to judge us moms who are in the thick of it. It’s not as easy as some may make it look. One day you’ll be in the thick of it too and you’ll want that added measure of grace. Oh!! I can’t forget to say THANK YOU! We appreciate you… we really do! You are the ones who help us find our sanity again when you give us those few hours of peace back.
Fellow mamas – the best thing any of us can do to prepare ourselves as a new mama – whether its our first baby or fifth, is to keep an open mind and heart and be willing to try anything if it may benefit us and our little one. Never say never – as in “I would NEVER let my baby cry it out!” or “I would NEVER wear those crazy baby wrap things!” or “I would NEVER use a pacifier!”. It’s usually the things you swear you’ll ‘never’ do, that you wind up needing to do to gain that sanity. Don’t judge other moms. You haven’t lived a day in her shoes and you have no idea why she is making the decisions she’s making or doing the things she is doing. And you have no idea how you would react if you were in her place because you’re not. Keep on keeping on. Don’t worry about the mess. Enjoy every moment you have because it goes so fast. And lastly, call your babysitter and do something nice for yourself! You deserve it!