You don’t have to look far to find articles and posts about how parents should avoid, “Acting like the babysitter.”
It’s typically about men/dads but there’s no reason it can’t also apply to moms. These articles have a point. If you’re a parent, you’re a parent, not a “helper,” and not a “stand in” for another parent or guardian in your child’s life. You’re not, “Watching the kids,” or babysitting, you’re just… living life. Because they’re your kids.
The other day, as I noticed my daughters joyfully playing in our living room, I pulled up the list in my head with the to-dos, both big and small. Empty the dishwasher, put laundry in the dryer, make a call, finish a task. Task, task, task. Not one of those tasks was being the babysitter.
Instead of tearing myself away from my kids because they were entertained and I could leave relatively unnoticed, I was frozen in place. Why couldn’t I take advantage of this magical moment? Instead of running to complete tasks, I wanted to… stay. Yes, that was it. Stay. Watch. Engage. Enjoy. I wanted to play.
A tiny – okay, I lied, it was booming – voice in my head asked: “Is this … allowed?” I had other things to do. But, there are always other things to do.
This summer, I pulled back from working full-time almost to not working. Ever since, I’ve been struggling with managing my time “properly.” If you know me in person (or even just on the internet) you know I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. To make the most of my time. Part of that is due to my personality and it won’t go away anytime soon. Another part stems from the fact that I’ve worked remotely (as in, from my home or a coffee shop instead of an office) since I was pregnant with my oldest.
In my mom life, I’ve never gone to work in an actual office. Working remotely for me means the lines between work and home are blurry all the time. Last year, however, I took a big step back from my biggest jobs and clients. Now that I have fewer work deadlines and clients, I’m in the process of re-wiring my priorities.
So, I’ve never been a mom who goes to an office, but I have been a mom who works. And I worked… a lot. I had childcare some of the time but I also took every opportunity from nap times to quiet play times to jump on my laptop and catch up.
I know I’m not alone in this. Whether we stay at home, work from home, work outside the home, part time, full time… we have to get things done when we’re around our kids. Cooking dinner, doing laundry, paying bills, connecting with family and friends. And what about pursuing interests and hobbies? Or the ever elusive self-care? It all has to fit into our day.
I do play with my kids. I work hard to live in the moment, to appreciate the slow, small patterns of life. And of course, fostering my children’s ability to play independently is a big goal too.
The truth is, I deeply envy the babysitter sometimes. I wish I could sit in the middle of my kids’ room and play without thinking of the laundry that I could put away in their dresser or passing a vacuum over their rug. Or sending off that email from the phone that’s calling me from my pocket.
There are lots of things I want to try that will help reduce the “running list” or mental load that I carry. But those things are for another post and another day.