Monday, January 31, 2011

Ain't I a Mother?

My apologies to Sojourner Truth for the title; I’m not sure her sense of humor would extend to parodying her famous words. Yet those four words are the ones I find myself wanting to scream at parents, or at least email in all caps.

I am not a mother. I am a nanny. A sort of second-class mother substitute, if you will. I knew this going into the position, and I knew it was a risk. I get attached to people, especially people under the age of five.

One of the highest compliments I’ve ever received, in regards to nannying, was when Jacob and Caroline's dad told me that I acted more like a second mom than a nanny. It makes sense--I learned from my mother. I’ve been told since I was ten that I’ll make a great mom one day. I pay my rent by watching children, and it makes me so happy to be able to support myself doing something I’d do for free—and hope to, one day, with my own baby.

In the meantime, I spend upwards of thirty-five hours per week being, essentially, a mother. I’ve recently taught the twins to recognize A, B, and C; I’ve started them on potty training; I’ve gotten them to try new foods. I’ve driven to soccer practice and Gymboree. I’ve given baths and bottles, not to mention all the diapers I’ve changed. What I’ve never done, though, is make a decision. When the twins’ mom said she wasn’t ready to start actually potty training, I stopped pushing them to sit on the potty. I thought they could do it. I still think they can do it.

I couldn’t tell Timothy to eat his carrots, because his mother never made him. I can’t try cloth diapers to cure Bug’s diaper rash. I can’t sign the twins up for toddler classes (though I know they’d love them). All of this is obvious. I’m a nanny; I’m not a parent. I could leave or be left at any point. But it doesn’t make it any easier, when I disagree with a parent, that I have to simply acquiesce. The parents I work for are generally great: they value my opinions, and are always open to dialogue. But I never have the final say.

I’m not saying I deserve that power. I don’t. But when I’m spending almost as many hours with the children as their mother does, it’s easy to wish I had the same level of authority she possesses. I started nannying in an effort to quell my baby fever. My soon-to-be-wife and I aren’t ready for kids, but I desperately want to be. Instead, being a nanny has made me want my own even more. I’m not going to be a perfect mother, but I want a chance to try.

I’m so close to being a mother. I do all the mom stuff. My cat even wakes me up two or three times in the middle of the night. Interrupted sleep, diapers, throwing up…I’ve handled it all. Ain’t I a mother?

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