Since I was little, I have always had this responsibility for children. My mom was hard-working, she was one of those independent women who wanted to do it all herself, if not only to prove to herself that she could, to prove to the world that it could be done and to show her children that effort and hard work was always rewarded.
There were five of us, and she did it all on her own.
What that meant was as soon as my brother came along, my sister and I had this unspoken responsibility for him. We were his protectors, his surrogate mothers, his sisters, his friend, whatever our mother needed us to be. He was four years behind me, and my sister had a bit of a mean streak to her, so we stuck together as much as we could.
As time progressed, my brother and I grew apart, my sister grew up and we got two more brothers. The age difference between my brothers and I are four years, eight years, and ten years. So by the time my second brother came along, I was more willing to step into a maternal role for him. Babies to me at that age were cute, and I was more than willing to lend a hand.
I could say that when my teenage years came around I became rebellious, I didn’t want to babysit because I would rather be out with my friends and there was always something else I would rather be doing… but that would be a lie. I was a bit of a homebody. I liked making little hiding places for myself around our house, curling up in there with a dull light and reading a book. I was the go to when it came to someone to watch my siblings because my sister was more the rebellious type, she had an attitude and to be quite frank, my brothers were terrified of her.
When I was ten we moved into our first townhouse. We had only lived in apartments up until that point and the prospect of having a back yard and my own room that I didn’t have to share with my sister… who at times I could have sworn was possessed by a demon, seemed like some type of dream coming true. What also seemed like it would be something new and fun was that we lived a mere few blocks away from my mom’s sister, my aunt and her four kids.
It was fun. It was back in the time when children weren’t really supervised. We went outside as soon as we came home from school and stayed out until the streetlights came on. We roamed the neighbourhoods without fear, crossing streets, and climbing fences and no one could care less. We were being kids.
It was also a time when it was completely acceptable for a ten or eleven year old to watch your five or six-year-old. What this meant is that I was responsible for a whole brood of children while my mother, aunt and uncle were at work.
Most would think that once I got older, got my own job and a taste of freedom, I would put as much distance between kids and myself as I possibly could. I was finally in my teens, I had a handful of friends and was no longer a hermit. Somehow, pushing kids out of my mind and out of my way never really felt right. I went from babysitter, to volunteering at the local recreational centre, to being a camp counsellor, to working at a tourist attraction that was a mix of families and drunk university students. One way or another, no matter where I turned, kids were there.
I was never the type of person who dreamt about being a mother, despite always being surrounded by kids. My mother became a mom very early, and although she never really spoke about it, I could see her struggle. I could sense her desperation at times. She had my sister when she was only eighteen years old. I came along at twenty and so on.
My sister also go pregnant young. She had my nephew when she was twenty-two. It seemed like no matter where I turned, there were young mothers, especially growing up in the low-income “ghetto” that I did. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of those young moms, that I would try to figure my life out first. Mostly, because I didn’t want to do it alone.
Single parents have it hard. They are wonderful and they have a strength that few can understand unless they live through it. I have the utmost respect for them. That being said, I wanted something different for myself and for my family when I was ready for one. I didn’t want my kids to experience the heartbreak of seeing their parents break up, of promises to see a father that showed up once in a while and then never at all. I wanted that picture perfect family.
It may seem silly to some, but I didn’t want to follow in my mother’s footsteps… or even in my sisters. I lived through the struggle with both of them, I’ve heard about their regrets and didn’t want those regrets to become my own.
For a short amount of time, I did step away from kids. I moved out of my mom’s house. I became a hostess at a bar, a waitress for a time. I worked a bridal boutiques. I did whatever would make me the money I needed to try and sort my life out. I wanted the independance my mother had always strived for, I wanted to provide myself with things I felt guilty asking for as a kid.
Yet somehow, I ended up as a nanny.
Right back in the kids zone.
Now, as I am so close to becoming a mom I think about that a lot. About all the choices I made and how I always seemed happiest working with kids. There is just something about their innocents that almost rubs off on you, it lifts some of your worries and woes and leaves you a little bit lighter.
These days I find myself worrying about what is going to happen when the baby in my life is my own. When I can’t simply return it at the end of the day. I wonder if I will still have that patience I am known for, if I will still marvel in that innocence. Mostly I worry if I am as prepared for it as everyone else seems to think I am.
As someone who has always been surrounded with kids, I should be ready for this.
So why don’t I feel ready?
Is ready ever something anyone expecting to be a parent can be?
These are questions I am going to have more than enough time to try and find the answers to, questions I will learn the answers to sooner or later… ready or not.
Until then, I guess I will just keep on pretending.