My Babysitter Is Better At This Than I Am

When observing your kids’ caregivers in action, do you ever get an inferiority complex?

I’m SAHM-ing it these days, but I swear our date night babysitter puts my parenting to shame.  She’s like the Latina Mary Poppins: cheerful yet calm, confident yet flexible and seeming to possess a black belt in the parenting arts.  (No, you can’t have her number.)

Here are just a few ways my babysitter is better at this than I am:

1. She creates adorable hair-do’s that I can never replicate.

2. She knows how to carve watermelons, pineapples and mangos without wasting a bite, or slicing up her own fingers.  (I’m the jerk who spends double at Whole Foods for little pre-cut cubes.  P.S. I also have 8 stitches in my left thumb.)

3. She somehow manages to clip Viv’s fingernails without a screaming fit, or if there is a screaming fit, I’m not there to see it.

4. She can turn anything in my refrigerator into a delicious soup that Viv loves.    (See this post for our favorite Babysitter Chicken Soup recipe).

5. She leaves our place much cleaner and neater than she found it.  It’s gotten the point where I’ll purposely leave a burnt pan in the sink or casually mention a disastrous junk drawer knowing that when I get home it will have been magic-wanded into submission.

6. She never ditches my kid in the middle of a hot game of peek-a-boo to send an urgent Tweet, check Facebook or jot down some ideas for her next blog.

Luckily, Viv isn’t grading by skill – she loves me just because I’m her mom.  But when I measure myself up against the babysitter, sometimes I feel a bit lame.

Of course, the babysitter’s got an advantage: she’s a professional.  I’m an amateur.

Before my daughter was born, I was a television producer.  I chose to stop working for a while, and I feel incredibly lucky every day that I get to make that choice.  But in transitioning from the office, where I mostly knew what I was doing, to the home, where I’d only ever slept and watched television, I’m realizing how domestically challenged I am.

I don’t know how to sew or remove stains.   I “iron” by hanging clothes in the shower.   None of this mattered before I had a daughter.   Now I wonder, what happens when Viv wants to be a punk rock unicorn for Halloween?  I’ll be like the Project Runway contestant who hot-glues everything and gets eliminated.  God forbid she becomes a Girl Scout.  Do they give merit badges for googling?  I do that really well.

The irony is that I have all this higher education – a master’s degree even – but somehow never took a Home Ec class.  I really wish I’d taken a Home Ec class.  I know my Mom tried to teach me this stuff when I was a kid, but I was profoundly uninterested.  It would have been impossible for my 12-year-old “maybe I’ll be an astronaut” self to imagine that someday, I’d think staying at home with a baby was the cat’s pajamas.  I wish I knew how to make the cat’s pajamas.

I guess I’m going to have to learn on the job.  Until then, let’s just pretend that stained, torn and wrinkled is the look I was going for.

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  1. Mailisha
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Okay, you know what’s even worse? I was terrible in my profession (couldn’t wait to ditch it for the easy-and-oh-so-wonderful job of SAHM!), but now that I’m home with my two little girls I have found that I’m actually not that great at it. I can pass, but my wife -the one who LOVES her job, but would take a year or two off in a heartbeat to stay home with them, if I had any chance of being able to support us… Which I don’t and I can’t- she is the one who ROCKS it. She leaves early every morning, goes to work and runs a public K-8 school in a rough inner-city neighborhood (ours, actually) and then comes home twelve hours later and helps me figure out how to get the girls fed and us fed and the kids to bed… UGH! Why didn’t I know that I would suck at this? I’ve always wanted to be a mom… Is this like one of those disastrous relationships when you realize that love isn’t enough? Perhaps I should have someone else raise my kids while I go do… Something else during the day. Ha! As if.

    • Amy
      Posted July 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Mailisha, no matter how “bad” at motherhood you might feel, your kids think you’re the best at it. They just want you. Try not to be so hard on yourself. I hope your wife knows how much you admire and appreciate her – I would love to read your comment if it was written about me :)

  2. Jenny
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Amy, I think this is a REALLY interesting point. My high school didn’t even offer home ec classes. Sewing and cooking and housekeeping, not to mention parenting classes like Love & Logic and sleep training, would absolutely have come in handy. For men, too. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the other day that my husband knew how to sew a button onto his pants.

    We were just having a similar convo at work last week. If a person invests X time and resources to earn a JD or PhD, how long must that person “apply” this investment before it’s considered to be paid off? Would fewer women become SAHMs, or do it for shorter amounts of time, if they felt an obligation to “return” on their investment? When a man leaves his career to do something different — like start a company, or move to Africa to photograph wildlife — why don’t we question his “commitment” to his investment the way we seem to do with professional women who quit to become SAHMs? Is it all because parenthood doesn’t come with a paycheck?

    Culturally I think there is value to the MBA, JD, or PhD who drops out and becomes a SAHM. I think the idea that the person who chooses to stay home is somehow less valuable to society is broken. An MBA who stays at home, regardless of gender, is still projecting the values of eduction to her children … not to mention the fact that there are other ways to contribute that MBA to society: blogging, volunteering, political office …

    No woman I know ever believed, or knew ahead of time, that she was going to drop out some day … or when, or for how long, or that her options to lead an integrated life of work and family responsibilities would seem so limited. If you had been more prepared for parenthood in the long-term arc of your life, would you choose a career path more amenable to part-time work or freelancing? Or would you purposely marry a spouse whose salary prospects were the inverse of yours, so that one of you would be destined to be the fulltime worker and the other the fulltime caretaker? Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic was the first time I think I’d heard someone of this stature recommend that we look at the long-term arc of a professional woman’s career and proactively design better entry and exit points. I agree with Sheryl Sandberg that women need to be cognizant of their spouse’s support potential and career trajectories, and not make assumptions about who’s going to do what. But — as with being cognizant of one’s fertility window — this puts even more burden on the women themselves to map out the route to success, when changes in the workplace would so clearly benefit both genders!

    • Amy
      Posted July 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Jen, I think your response is far more nuanced than my blog, but it’s giving me some good ideas. I agree that professional education and work experience can be applied well in parenthood. For me, it’s the ability to multi-task, to stay cool under pressure, to work well with others…however patience is something I’ve had to learn anew.

      I often tell women who have flexible jobs, “I wish I’d thought of that 20 years ago.” While I would never want to limit a woman’s potential, perhaps young women (and men) should be made aware that some careers are more family friendly than others. This is obvious in a teacher vs. doctor sort of way, but less obvious when it comes to the varying corporate cultures of business jobs, say banking vs. human resources.

      You’ve given me much to think about, as always!