There are some women who grow up longing to be “mommies.” They play with the dolls – and count the days until they can have babies of their own. Some of them actually become great mommies, too! Even when I was a little girl I loved playing with dolls – “baby” dolls when I was little, Cabbage Patch Kids when they were popular, and a bit later, Barbie dolls.
Me and “Baby Crissy” in 1977. She had hair that “grew.”
Then there are women like me – and my friend Michelle. I’ve never had any children – and my friend Michelle had one child – and has pretty much done NOTHING to raise the child. Don’t judge her – for the first few years of the boy’s life, she worked two full time jobs while the boy stayed home with Dad, who played video games and watched horror films. When they divorced, she moved to Nevada (eventually remarrying) – and the dad moved to Michigan, where the boy’s grandparents lived. The grandparents would watch the boy when he wasn’t at school – and dad was at work. Mom pays child support from out of state every month – and visits the boy once a year or so. I certainly wouldn’t say the situation is ideal – but it’s not my call to make. At least she is being financially supportive of her own kid (plenty of situations out there where the opposite is true).
Michelle told me jokingly years ago:
I have the maternal instincts of a sea turtle.
If you know even just a couple of things about sea turtles, you know that they lay their eggs, bury them in the sand, and it’s pretty much just “thoughts and prayers” from that point on for the wee turtles. Sink or swim – eat – or be eaten. Here’s a pic from the Virginia Beach Aquarium in 2017.
I don’t know if I can say the same thing about myself or not – but it’s almost like everything was “pushing” me in the direction of eventually becoming a mommy (especially when I was a teenager) – but later – I decided it wasn’t for me.
Back in the Leave it to Beaver days, it wasn’t uncommon to see “stay at home moms.” Dad worked all day at an office or factory, and mom took care of the house – and the kids. That’s how it was with my folks, too. When my mom had to leave the house to go grocery shopping or run errands, my grandmother (who lived with us) – would step in to make sure me and my brother didn’t kill each other!
Times have definitely changed! Maybe mommy is the breadwinner – and dad stays at home – or both parents work full time jobs. Maybe there is shared custody because of a divorce – or maybe one or both of the parents aren’t living anymore – or one of the parents is in rehab and the kids are being raised by grandparents. There are plenty of single parents out there – men and women.
One of my grandmothers raised four kids as a single mother when my grandfather died in the early 1950s- at a time when it was not a “popular” (or in some cases socially acceptable) thing for women to do. The pressure was on her to try to re-marry – but she never remarried. She also worked her ass off to make sure she didn’t need to take any handouts (she was nothing if not stubborn and determined)! She may not have been the most “fun mom” in the world, but all four of her kids grew up really, really respecting her…
When I was a teenager, there was a bit of a “push” for me to take babysitting jobs. I took some evening/weekend jobs around my neighborhood to start off, then later I would score a couple of more “long term” babysitting gigs. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly take to them like a wee sea turtle takes to water (if it’s lucky enough to make it there without getting gobbled up by a bird or walrus).
I didn’t hate kids – in fact, I really enjoyed being around my cousin’s kids when she brought them over to visit…there was such an age difference that they were more like nieces and nephews to me. I made them customized book covers for their school books and had quite a lot of fun with them!
This little girl has since grown up and raised her own kids…one of whom is attending the University of Michigan on a full-ride scholarship (after graduating as valedictorian of her class). This photo circa 1988… I think this is a great “caption contest” photo!
The first such live-in babysitting “gig” was in the summer of 1988, when I was just 16. This wasn’t technically a “live in” job, I worked 8 to 5 during the day. I think my aunt hooked it up – my “job” was to watch a 3-4 year old little boy – and assist with light housekeeping for a pregnant woman and her husband (the husband worked at an automotive plant during the day). The woman was having a difficult pregnancy and was bedridden. I think I might have been on the job about a month or so before I walked out of it… It was at a birthday party for the little boy, which was in a public park with lots of family members in attendance. I was basically treated more like a servant girl than like a party guest. Someone had made a mess and I was “ordered” to clean it up (which I didn’t) I was thankful for the little bit of time out of the house, to be honest (their house was dark and depressing AF). I basically snapped – I decided I wasn’t having the way they were treating me – and talking to me. I said “I quit.” This was the only job I ever officially “quit.” I have no regrets about doing it. They had lots of family members – I’m sure they could’ve gotten any one of them to take over my “job.”
Second such live-in gig was in the summer of 1989 in Milan, MI. I arrived Monday morning – and left Friday evening (rode with my dad). Not in the city proper, but in a subdivision north of town (I have only a vague recollection of where they lived, but I do remember we drove by the “loony bin” on my way out there). My dad had a co-worker at the Ford plant where he worked nearby (I think it was Rawsonville) and she needed someone to do light housekeeping and watch two kids during the day. The little girl was about 5 or so – and the boy was maybe about 9. This gig actually went pretty well – I didn’t wind up quitting – but they wound up finding a a niece or someone who took over the gig. Let’s just say I wasn’t sorry to lose the job! And not just because I had to share a waterbed with the little girl (I can’t even imagine trying to get out of one of those things now)! I got to take my summer back – go see the Batman movie (multiple times) and hang out with my friends Michelle and Bill. That was the last babysitting job I would end up taking – I found a part-time job in a grocery store not long after that.
While on this “assignment,” I was able to read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and got a bit hooked on the Channel 7 “Action News” in the evening. Nothing really eventful – the biggest excitement was when one of the kids’ older cousins decided we were all going to a place called “Heath Beach.” It was one of those “fake lakes” that probably got a chemical treatment to the water to make it look more like a pool. The beach is still open, but under a different name – the last I checked… Some of the locals call it “Hillbilly Beach” now, from what I gather!
I’m thankful I had the choice that my mom – who got pregnant when she was still in high school – didn’t have back in the 1960s. I’m also thankful I married a very like-minded man!
I’m not going to go as far as saying that I have the “maternal instincts of a sea turtle.” But I think it’s probably better that I wasn’t “shanghaiied” into motherhood! And I would probably be one of those parents who would set the baby carrier on top of the car (I am pretty tall and could pull that off) – and drive off with the baby carrier still there! I would probably also sing Lullaby by The Cure as an ACTUAL lullaby! Here are some lyrics…(based very loosely on the poem The Spider and The Fly):
Quietly he laughs and shaking his head
Creeps closer now
Closer to the foot of the bed
And softer than shadow and quicker than flies
His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes
Be still be calm be quiet now my precious boy
Don’t struggle like that or I will only love you more
For it’s much too late to get away or turn on the light
The Spiderman is having you for dinner tonight
Really – isn’t all of humankind better off for me having made this choice? 🙂