I love to give my boys airplane rides. There’s something symbolic about knowing I have the strength to hold them up, and to keep them balanced while they enjoy the ride. I’ve never let one fall. Of course, the older boys no longer get airplane rides, so now, I’m creative at finding new ways to keep them balanced.
Lately, I’ve been thinking hard about the decision I made when my third son was growing in my belly, back in 2001, before September 11. I canceled all of my outside consulting work, and canceled all babysitters. There was nothing I wanted more, at the time, than to “nest” with these wonderful boys, who were content to dress-up, and sit on the sofa beside me while I read them fairy tales. As the baby grew larger around my belly, and my older boys were all too eager to watch all the changes going on in the house as we made room for baby, and the fascinating changes in my body, I turned my focus entirely to them. Nothing seemed more important, and at that time, nothing was.
My work, at that time, consisted of 12-20 hours per week writing business articles at home for a few Fortune 1000 companies. A babysitter came in a few days a week to allow me to concentrate.
When the fourth boy came, I scrambled to find babysitters, just to stay sane, not to work. Thus began the era of the nightmare babysitters. I used references, referrals, and services, and still couldn’t find a dependable, reliable babysitter to save my life. Literally… to save my life. (I will write about those nightmare stories on another day.) So, I swore off babysitters for years. Never again would I subject myself, or my children, to such stress. Somewhere, I picked up the mantra that I was a good enough Mom… I didn’t need help. The idea of having a sitter made my skin crawl… my kids were awesome… I didn’t need help.
Now, I’m fondly reminiscing back to the time when I was free to run out the door for a monthly haircut, to make a phone call to a business client, and the calm that enveloped me on the days when I knew extra help was coming in just a few hours. True, I had been jaded by the last experiences with horrible sitters, but, having solid, reliable extra help, was as as smooth as chocolate.
Some days, I’m merely a puppet, with strings, attached to four boys. The messes they make for the day are my agenda. Bedtime, is the most wonderful time of the day… please… no one say a word… from 8 o’clock until 7 o’clock the next morning; I need this time to recover, and gather strength for tomorrow. If you must talk… use sign language.
The final straw was yesterday, when I took the boys to see National Treasure. After watching the team jet around to Paris, London and South Dakota, without jet lag, climbing caves, I was envious. Oh, to be that free. I cried on my husband’s shoulder and said, “I want to be a treasurer hunter!” He always laughs, but I’m serious. I’m glad my sons saw that, and more importantly, I’m glad they’re watching me do something about it.
E-mails are coming in from my wonderful babysitter, who is returning home from college this week. He’ll have another job, and I’m scooping up his available time. The boys are excited to hear he’s coming back, and counting down the days. I’m dreaming; no, I’m fantasizing, about having the uninterrupted time to simply back-up files on my computer, clean out the junk drawer, and even schedule interviews with book authors for articles I plan to write. I’m thinking I’ll meet my husband for lunch — alone, without anyone who asks for crayons with the menu.
I think my decision to cancel all the work, and stay home exclusively with my kids, might have been an error. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed the balance. I needed something outside and away from my kids to keep me centered and focused. I needed the breaks that involved writing about welding and filler metals. There’s calm in knowing there’s an escape hatch every few days.
My babysitter will go back to school in August. Finally wise, I won’t wait until May to get help again. I’ll start searching now to find a new babysitter I do trust, and that my kids love. This could take years to find one. But, Mommy needs this… from now on, so she can keep her balance.