I Was A Working “Mom” For A Few Days And It Tested All The Patience I Have
Yesterday, during Sunday school, we had a conversation about the importance of having childlike faith. As a child is innocent, a sponge soaking up everything, we, as adults, should have humbled, open faith in God. Somehow, the conversation turned into what it’s like to raise children, and a guy in our class spoke about being an uncle to two young kids. He spoke about how he molds their minds, the contributions he makes to them, and how they always tell him that they wish their father was more like him. As a room full of older women who have children listened intently, the Sunday school teacher literally started laughing out loud.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But as a parent, I’m laughing because kids always love to be around their aunts and uncles and godparents. There aren’t rules. But when those same people have to be authoritative the kids say, ‘When did you become so mean?!'”
Boy, she wasn’t lying.
Just a week prior to class, I was enlisted with the task of watching my nephew while his mother went out of town to soak up some sun and fun. I just assumed that because he was always so happy to see me when I met up for brunch with him and his mother every Sunday, things were going to go smoothly.
Don’t get me wrong, my nephew is an absolute sweetheart, but at the age of three, he likes to throw fits. Screaming fits where he also throws things. I had seen them briefly when he didn’t get his way at a few of those Sunday brunches, but they were something serious, and in full effect in the days I spent with him. If he wanted something that I couldn’t give him, he would repeat his “waaaaaaaaant” and “neeeeeeeed” of it. When that wasn’t enough, he would scream himself into tears and me into utter confusion. He would do this when it was time for him to go to bed. He would do this when it was time for a bath. He would do this when I threw away the ice cream cone that was dripping down his hand after wind blew dirt and leaves on it at the park. He also did this when I told him the DVD for his favorite children’s show wouldn’t play.
Then there were the accidents. Sure, he’s potty training, but during his night’s rest he would wear a Pull-Up trainer and man, would he make full use of it! Throughout the day, I would sit him on the toilet and he might urinate a little. But it was as though he was waiting until the wee hours of the morning to let loose. One morning I went to change him out of his Pull-Up and into his underwear and found a horrifying surprise that wound up getting all over my hands and in the tub. Yes, I’m talking about mounds of poop.
I would go out of my way to make his lunches fancy, just for him to say “No!” when I would place certain foods in front of him. He grabbed at my books, magazines, work computer and phone when I would turn my back. When I would take them from him he would shout that they were “MINE!”
He would try and strike me when he couldn’t get his way. I stepped on his Legos, as well as the rice he dropped on the floor and in the water he would spill after he would yell into the kitchen “I want water!” He would do this from the living room while watching Rihanna’s Home for the fifth time in three days. He would cry every time he spilled milk from his cereal on the table, which was every time he would take a scoop while watching Peppa Pig in the mornings. He did this as a signal for me to clean it up.
I was awoken at 7 a.m. even on the weekends to the sounds of him singing “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and “Old McDonald” from his room after an evening of listening to him kick his feet and bang his head on his pillow until he was ready to go to sleep. All this while also having to find time and money to go to the grocery store to fill the fridge and race to the New Jersey Transit in the morning to take the train into NYC for work. In no time flat, I was exhausted.
My nephew, in those few days I spent with him, was everything I had seen in movies like Parenthood, and watched on television. For all the sweet “Hey TT Vicky!” greetings I would get from him when I would see him once a week, in my short time as his guardian, I was treated like an enemy of the state. I was the adult telling him what he could and couldn’t do, and he was NOT happy, which, in turn, kept me stressed. I couldn’t get back to Brooklyn fast enough.
Granted, he wasn’t all bad. My nephew had his moments where he would climb on me because he just wanted some attention or affection. There were also times where he would say that he loved me after I helped escort him out of his timeout zone, and it was then that I would get glimpses of the cutie patootie I knew. But for the most part, he thought he was going to get his way, and that “TT,” the “TT” who had always given him gifts and hugged him and kissed his cheeks on Sundays, was going to comply.
It was through these experiences that I could not only understand what the teacher in my Sunday school was saying but most importantly, all that the women in my family have had on their plates all these years. That includes my mom, who used to tell me stories about racing home from work on the train to have enough time to cook dinner, play with us, help us with our homework and put us to bed, to which I wouldn’t think much of.
As I struggled to get in a nap during my days with him, instead thinking it a better idea to take a shower and get myself together while he rested so that he wouldn’t have to sit around by himself when he was up and moving, I could only feel for women like them, and working moms, in general. I couldn’t help but gain a new respect in such a short time for everything they do for employers, partners and children while eeking out brief moments to do things for themselves. And yet, my sister spends her free time trying to take my nephew to play soccer with his daycare friends or to the Crayola factory so that even moments of relaxation can actually be time for them to spend together. Hair appointments? No thanks. “I just feel like that’s time better spent at home with him,” she told be before. “I can do my own hair.”
While I’m often left wondering how she does it, when I see her dance with my nephew or smile at him, I understand that there is a deeper level of love there, a mother’s love for a child, that makes it all worth it.
Even though we’ve long passed Mother’s Day, I just have to applaud working mothers out there. I barely kept up the energy and enthusiasm to work while making sure to entertain, feed, clothe, clean and put my nephew to rest for a few days, and moms do this without a second thought every day. You ladies deserve a lot more than a kudos once in May, accompanied by some flowers or a reprieve for one day from your responsibilities. I can’t give you that, but I do want to give you your props.