Who else has a babysitter who is so fabulous that you never want to give her up – but secretly you wonder if your kid prefers her over you and it makes you an insecure wackjob?
Please tell me someone out there is raising her hand. Please?
Miss Amy is the best babysitter in the whole wide world, according to Grace. And I am in no position to disagree with her.
She’s a kind, sweet, wonderful mom who raised three fabulous kids of her own. A former kindergarten teacher. CPR-certified. Cheery and soft-spoken. Pretty much your dream babysitter.
Miss Amy comes over every week, equipped with interesting books and an unlimited imagination, ready to entertain and educate Grace for several hours while I work.
She’s perfect, really.
And that’s my problem with her.
Grace has gotten a taste of the sweet nectar that is an adult’s undivided attention, and now she is addicted.
She wants me to get on the floor and pretend to be a kitty with her. Play school and restaurant and pirates. Investigate the backyard, looking for bugs and butterflies. Constantly and consistently and forever and ever, amen.
Just like Miss Amy.
The thing is, I’m not Miss Amy. I’m Mom.
Sure, I can do some of those fun things, sometimes. But I can’t do them for hours on end. I don’t have the stamina for doing anything for hours on end anymore.
And facts are facts. I am Mom. And that means I have a whole lot of unentertaining mom things I need to do.
You know, the boring crap that makes the world go round: cook, clean, do laundry, run errands, reply to emails, go to Target, get teacher gifts, prepare for dance recitals.
And Grace doesn’t get it.
She stands by my side and pleads for me to play with her as I’m washing dishes. Her little brow furrows with disappointment when I say, “I’m sorry honey. Not right now. After we go to Target, we can play outside together.”
My unsatisfactory answer makes Grace scrunch up her sweet face at me. She thrusts our her lower lip as she drives her little guilt-dagger into my heart:
“But Miss Amy always plays with me.”
And the dagger twists:
“Why can’t you play like Miss Amy?”
And then she rips my heart out and goes and plays doctor with it. You know, since I’m ignoring her anyway.
I know logically that I should NOT feel guilty about this. While Miss Amy adores Grace, I pay her to play with Grace. It’s her job to be Grace’s playmate. I am not Miss Amy and I am not supposed to be Miss Amy.
But what Grace sees is another adult woman who plays with her and gives her undivided attention for half a day. And so she thinks, “Why can’t my dumb boring mom be more like the fabulous and perfect Miss Amy?”
Okay, maybe I’m projecting a little.
Yet more and more, I have been fighting off that obnoxious, nagging mom guilt.
Am I spending too much time trying to get things done, and not enough one-to-one time with Grace?
Is Grace deprived of her mom? Is she neglected? Is she sad and bored?
Is she spending too much time watching Octonauts while I make dinner and clean up?
Am I creating an intellectually and emotionally stunted child in the name of getting through my inbox?
AM I SERIOUSLY MESSING UP MY CHILD BY NOT PLAYING TEA PARTY WITH HER FOR HOURS?
Of course not.
I know Grace wants me to spend more time with her because she loves me and wants to be with me all the time. I know this.
I know I do at least one fun, undivided-attention activity with Grace each day we are home together. Usually more than one. I involve her in the errands and the chores and try to make them fun. I know this.
And I know as Grace curls up next to me after a day of running errands – peppered with some gardening fun and a good dose of Dora – and declares, “Mommy days are the BEST!” that I’m doing okay. I know this.
So what’s with the Miss Amy guilt?
That, I don’t know.
But if you know, how about you clue me in?