I have come to the conclusion that without your mum there is no truly guilt-free childcare in the world. Only to your mum can you hand over a crying baby, close the door, climb into your bed and sleep, knowing that nobody minds. That she loves your baby as you do; that her love for the baby is an extension of her love for you. It’s all part of the same thing.
I should mention before I begin that I have two completely wonderful sisters, whose kindness and generosity and love have been unsurpassed, and without whom I would be utterly lost. I am touched every day by the depth of their love for my baby, and I look forward to the time when they have children of their own: nieces and nephews for me to love in turn. But I am writing here about my mum, and the things we miss because she is not here.
I find that unless the reason I need childcare is that I am actually going to work, to bring in money, my guilt is difficult to reconcile. I could never have somebody else take care of Eve whilst I get my hair done, or go shopping. They just don’t seem like good enough reasons to ask other people to look after my child. Luckily there is Ben, and so I am not walking about like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. But I can’t help feeling that the two of us are doing this on our own. If it takes a village to raise a child, I am afraid we find ourselves sorely lacking.
I am pretty certain that Ben and me would have had more nights out over the last 2 years had my mum been around. Hell, maybe even a weekend away. But she isn’t and it’s a good thing we like watching telly! Don’t get me wrong, we have been out (once or twice) and kind friends and family have stepped in to take care of Eve. But with everyone else there is that vague guilt that tugs at you half way through your film or your curry or your bottle of wine: surely they’ve got somewhere else they’ve got to be; something more important to do; we’d better get back. And what if the baby is a total horror and gives the kind sitter the evening from hell?
If it’s your mum, chances are she just won’t mind all that much, because she’s done it all before. Because the howling red-faced little person in her arms can do no wrong. She won’t tell you how awful it’s been, because it hasn’t been that awful, to her, and you really don’t need to know. And she’ll pace the landing all night long if she has to, just to let you sleep.
I also know that no one is ever going to turn up and just do my ironing, or change the beds or clean the loo. And I am fine with that. I don’t even do my own ironing. But I am sad my mum is not here to just come and sort us out once in awhile. The person you listen to above all others. Who has seen you at your very worst and who loves you anyway. Who you trust to choose the right thing for you, when you just need someone to tell you what that thing is.
Perhaps I sound like a lazy cow who just needs a cleaner; that I’m just pissed off because I’ve got no one to help me. But it’s not that. I am just grieving for the thousand tiny acts of love she would bestow if she were here. She’d have so loved these babies.
I am sorry to say that I often feel a stab of envy when I see kind grannies with their small grandchildren in the park or on the tube or at a playgroup. I want to ask them if they know how lucky they are. To make them understand what a privilege it is to be fit and well and enjoying a day out with the children of their children. Treasure these days, I want to say. For you are the fortunate.