I’m a working professional in my mid-forties. I never had children, but I’m a proud Aunt and have always felt I’ve had a good grasp on family life and what working parents must experience. I’ve been an employee of working moms, a friend, a colleague, and a boss of employees who have children. I’d sometimes wish I had their life, left at 5 p.m., and always had a legitimate excuse if they were late in the morning. So, when my work-from-home mom/friend called with an emergency request to babysit her eight-month old baby and three-year old boy for 24 hours, I immediately said yes. No sweat.
MY DAY IN A WORKING PARENT’S LIFE
The day started out smoothly enough. I fed baby Sean his cereal and bottle of formula at 8:30 a.m., and then attended my conference calls and was coping well. At 11:45 a.m., I went upstairs to get the baby (whom I had put down for a morning nap), and spent another half an hour feeding. Although time consuming I felt I had everything under control. But by mid-afternoon and half way through my presentation, things got interesting. This was when my friend’s sister-in-law Maria burst through the front door and began to speak loudly. “Shhh!” I whispered with my phone on mute. “I’m on a conference call and I’m presenting.”
“Oh, sorry no problem,” she said, immediately speaking at top level on her cell phone. I grabbed my laptop, and almost fell down the basement stairs to find a quiet place. As soon as my presentation was over I had to field work calls, write emails, feed the baby, and make dinner – all before 5 p.m. At the same time, I was caring for the family dog, whom every fifteen minutes, seemed to change her mind about being inside or out. At 4 p.m., Maria went to Preschool to get Max.
In the meantime at Preschool, Maria was dealing with an upset Max who suddenly realized his parents were away. By the time they reached home at 5 p.m., Max was so exhausted from crying that he fell asleep on the couch. I fed and changed baby Sean, and Maria and I ate dinner. Maria prepared Sean for sleep, while I cleaned the kitchen. I could not believe how much work it was just to cook, clean, organize, constantly change, and feed the kids. I think I forgot to press send on three emails at this point, and didn’t answer another five awaiting a reply.
THE CHALLENGE CONTINUES AFTER FIVE
By 7 p.m. I carried the sleeping Max upstairs, but as soon as I laid him down on his bed, he relaxed as he thought he had pull-ups on, and peed the bed. Nuts. I got Max to the bathroom to change and shower him, but a second melt-down ensued, whereupon he screamed relentlessly “No, no, no!”, sitting on the bath matt in his school tie and shirt and wet underwear, refusing to budge. Maria took over and saved the day as “good cop.”
I threw the soiled sheets in the laundry and changed Max’s bed. To add to the chaos, the dog started barking like mad. Finally, I realized I had given the dog my plate to lick at lunch, so maybe that was it? I handed her my chicken tandoori plate. She stopped barking.
Then, Max decided he did not like his star pillow case. After tearing apart the linen closet trying to find his preferred “cozy” pillow case, Max asked for the one with the stars. He went to sleep, and I went back downstairs to drink a glass of red wine. Just as I was starting to relax Maria said. “We’d better get ready for the morning, we need to prepare the breakfast table.” What do you mean I thought, when is the break?!
After the prep, I went to sleep, only to be woken by the silhouettes of Maria, Sean, and Max standing over me at 5:30 a.m. We made breakfast and fed the kids. “Why is it so dark outside, Auntie Rachel”, asked Max. “Well, I said, “that’s because its nighttime, and everyone else is asleep.”
A LESSON LEARNED
Together we all played with Max’s train set in the living room. The boys were happy; everything seemed idyllic. I guess those are the treasured moments that keeps parents going. As I drove off for work that morning, I realized that I had learned a very important lesson. And that never again, would I take working parents for granted, or wish I had their lives. What they do, and manage to get done, every, single, day – is nothing short of a miracle. These real-life superheroes, deserve every possible break they can get. So, hats off to you, working parents everywhere.
You are nothing short of amazing.