When I last checked, I had a total of 22 nieces and nephews (including several greats). I have since stopped counting and have decided to use use my brain cells for other things; I just can’t keep up anymore. As you can imagine, I have had my share of babysitting and caregiving. At times I have watched 6+ kids at once and not only did this include my nieces and nephews, but also the children of other relatives and/or family friends. Everyone knew my M.O., if they get out of line, I will whoop yo’ kids. With my family being the way it is, EVERYONE was okay with that. Respect is very real and more parents today need to take a step back several decades (when the village really did take part in child rearing) and teach their children more of it.
Yesterday was one of the most gorgeous days of the summer. It was about 85 degrees, sunny with an ever so slight breeze and the humidity was next to nothing for a change. I live around the corner from a shopping mall and since I don’t typically cook on Saturdays, I decided to head outdoors and take a walk over to the mall into the food court for lunch. I had no other plans and was suffering from a degree of boredom, so on my walk back I decided to sit in the marketplace plaza situated directly in front of where I live.
There are several stores as well as condos and other apartment buildings surrounding this plaza. The scope of the neighborhood is generally made up of working class families with small children, stay at home moms, grandparents who are caregivers by day, nannies, dog walkers and single career folk like me. In the wintertime it is transformed into an outdoor ice skating rink; in the summertime it is filled with cafe tables and chairs with the biggest attraction being 3 brass elephants situated directly in the center of the plaza that spew out water. The kids go crazy for this and with the hot days of summer in full effect, it is always full of people.
I watched the children (some in swimsuits others in play clothes) run all over the plaza, get wet, fill up water pails, squirt each other, hide from their parents, throw tantrums when they had to leave, etc.
I watched the parents (some looking stressed, some relaxed) as they chatted with each other, ran to their children’s aid when they slipped and fell, cried for no apparent reason, needed a play companion, were being mischievous, chase and call out to them when it was time to go, etc.
I used to do all of these things as a babysitter. And I desired to do it full time with children of my own.
But yesterday as I quietly watched, it hit me how much my mentality has changed. I have had such freedom; I’ve left the state or even the country when I’ve gotten ready, I go out with friends, enjoy drinks (even too many drinks if I feel like it), I go out on dates when I get ready, I go running for miles because I like to, I have peace and quiet at home when I just want to shut the world out. I shut my ringers off sometimes, I order take out when I don’t want to cook, I can sleep in late and without having to worry about someone waking me up saying they are hungry and need me to cook. I only have to shop for myself, I can waste money on a $600 designer bag and not worry about having enough left over for diapers or an activity fee for summer camp or daycare.
Has freedom and selfishness squeezed the life out of my maternal instincts? Do I still want children this late in the ballgame? If I choose not to, will I regret this decision when I am old and gray and possibly need someone to look after me and my business affairs?