My first baby doll was a Cabbage Patch. She was completely bald and her plastic head was shiny and had a sweet smell. I named her AnnieRose. My mom told me that I needed a diaper bag, so she gave me my brother Grant’s old green one that I filled with her bottles, clothes, and diapers. My friend Amber had a Cabbage Patch doll too and we would play house together. Amber had some play rings that we would put on our fingers and we used to pretend that we were married and our husbands were “off at war” while we stayed home taking care of our babies.
When I was 13 years old, my mom told me that she thought I was old enough to start babysitting in the afternoons. She enrolled me in a baby-sitters course at the YMCA. I remember learning CPR and sitting through several sessions on how to take care of children. When I “graduated” I received a certificate and a binder full of all the things I had learned. I was so proud. I felt equipped.
And so my babysitting career began. I babysat neighborhood children and church children. I would play outside with them and tell them stories. I wanted to be the best babysitter ever.
When I was a senior in college, I started taking care of a two year old and a six week old in the afternoons when I wasn’t student teaching five year olds. I had never taken care of an infant so young. It was hard. I didn’t feel equipped. I remember that he cried a lot. I would call my mom, practically in tears, asking her what I should do. She would give me tips: how I should rock him, how to put my finger on the roof of his mouth, and the greatest tip of all, “No one has to be upset but the baby.” By the time I graduated, I felt so comfortable taking care of him and I couldn’t believe how much he had grown.
I also remember that year discussing nannying with a college girlfriend. We talked about the families that we nannied for, and then she said, “The best thing about nannying is that you get to LEAVE at the end of the day because they aren’t actually your children.”
I listened, but I didn’t say anything, I was kind of embarrassed to say that I felt differently. Because to me, leaving was the hardest part. Sometimes it was hard investing so much time and energy into children that weren’t my own.
At the end of the day, when I went home, I left wondering how they were doing. Were they sleeping okay? Did they miss me? Did they find their missing toy? That’s what made nannying and babysitting so hard, they weren’t actually my children.
After so many years of taking care of other people’s children, I can’t believe that in less than three months, I will be taking care of my own daughter. I have been told that this will be the hardest and most challenging job of my life, and I believe it will be. I know that my little girl won’t be a Cabbage Patch. But I couldn’t be more excited about motherhood.
I know that I will get so much joy from investing my time into someone who I don’t have to say good-bye to at the end of the day. That will be one of the best parts. I wish I had said that to my friend that day. I wish I had told her how I really felt. I wish I had told her that I couldn’t wait for the day when I didn’t have to leave.