Back in High School my friends would have definitely voted me most likely to marry and breed by age 23. In those days I was seeing a really nice guy and talked about having at least three kids so I can see how that would have been the general consensus. Upon graduating from High School I decided that bad boys were much more interesting and ended up spending too many years in a relationship with a guy that I think everyone is happy I did not choose to procreate with; I still wanted children, just not with him. In 1994 I accepted the position of Live-in Nanny for a fairly wealthy family in Boston and by the end of that position, all inkling to have a child went right out the window.
There is nothing, and I am sorry if I happen to offend anyone here, but nothing more difficult than raising a child. Granted at the time I was getting paid to do it but something tells me if I did the math I would find I was underpaid by approximately 99%. The undertaking of rearing a human being is vast and most nights I did not have the ability to get out and do my own thing. There was always some gala or charitable ball to attend, guess who insta-babysitter was? Good guess. The kids were cute, a five year old girl who I only had in the afternoons after school and a fifteen month old boy who I had all day except the two or so hours he napped.
While he was sleeping I became a Days of Our Lives junkie and literally counted the minutes on the clock until their mom went to pick up the girl from school as it happened to coincide with the last fifteen minutes of his nap and my only opportunity for a cigarette all day. Sure I could have quit but after also being convinced to do laundry for the entire family, picking up the playroom and bathing both children every night that smoke was the one thing that I could still hold onto as part of my own life Monday through Friday. Oh, did I happen to mention that nine times out of ten mom would be hanging out in her room, watching television, talking on the phone with her friends and eating while I raised her children in the playroom?
In order to remove my mind from the situation in the house there were many days that the little boy and I would just get out and go somewhere. I enjoyed taking him to places like Discovery Zone because he could run and play but I could sit and watch or the mall since I could just pop him in the stroller and spend hours walking around, eating pretzels and looking at all the items I could not afford. With absolute certainty I can say that every time we went out, and I mean anywhere, I heard a question similar to this “Oh your baby is so adorable, congratulations, how old is he?” Because we both had mousey brown hair and big blue eyes I can understand where people might have drawn the conclusion but in the early months of that job it drove me insane and my canned response became “Thanks, he’s 15 months, he’s not mine.”
Something happens to a person when they witness a parent not taking the responsibility they should take with their own children, when they have the full ability to do so financially speaking. After about half a year at that job it started to make me mental to realize I was spending over eighty hours a week with a child who was not my blood, teaching him to do things, spending special time bonding and his own mother was lazing about just two floors away when she could have been the one taking the initiative to raise him. After a while I developed a new canned response to strangers inquiring about my baby “Thanks, he’s about 20 months.”
Do not get me wrong, this was not some The Hand That Rocks the Cradle situation where I felt like he actually was my son, or rather should have been, but after months of saying ‘he’s not mine’ while simultaneously being the solely responsible adult in his life it just became easier to say ‘thanks’ to people I knew I would never see again. For a whole bunch of years after that job I tried to convince myself that the reason it was so difficult was because I was so young but now fifteen years later at age thirty five, I am not so sure that was the reason at all.
Many of you know that my friend S had twins at the end of last summer, we call them Hammer and Anvil, and those boys are now just over five months old. She asked me today if I would like to get some lunch at the mall and then if I would be alright hanging out with them for about a half hour while she had her eye exam. As if I would ever turn down an opportunity to hang out with my “nephews”, of course I responded yes!
We walked the entire length of the first floor of the mall and Hammer looked around curiously while Anvil slept peacefully. We met up with S at Brigham’s who grabbed each of us a black and white frappe after her appointment was complete and somehow I managed to navigate the monstrosity of a carriage into that ice cream shop. During my time alone with the little guys, not once did I have to say to a single person “Thanks, they’re five months, they are not mine” but around corners, in passing or in stores I heard the remark “Oh, twins!” generically uttered aloud more than I could keep track of.
It was the middle of the day so the teenager and senior citizen quotient was relatively low; in fact most of the people I saw while I walked around were mall maintenance workers or women with their own strollers. I started wondering how many of those alleged moms were not really moms at all, how many of them were “Aunties” or a Nanny and it made me wonder how many people saw me pushing this stroller and subconsciously assumed that these were my children even though they never asked.
As I walked around with the extra long stroller it occurred to me that I was not at all comfortable doing it. Not to say I was not happy to do so, I am always happy to help out a friend, but I felt as if I was wearing a jacket three sizes too small and everyone was pointing and laughing; it did not fit. My own paranoid delusion it is true and I suppose it is impossible to know just what I would feel if they were in fact my own but I can not help but shake the sense that in my world it would not be normal for me to walk through a mall with a stroller. I suppose it is nice to know that I feel that way rather than delude myself into believing I should have a baby just because everyone else is doing it. Luckily this is one of the greatest joys of being Auntie, I can hang with them all day and then gleefully return them to mom when it gets too binding.