I’ve said it before: babies scare me. That includes mine. I’m terrified of my child, and I’ve often been unsure of what to do when left alone with her. That probably explains why the longest I’ve been with her, without the company of the nanny, my Lover, one of my sisters or friends, is three hours tops. Until recently, when my nanny took a few days off to visit her family.
Every day for three weeks before that I thought about what I’d do with Gong and no nanny. I was anxious as hell. I mean, babies are nice and everything, but only for a few hours you know? They’re especially nice when you can hand them over to someone else every time you need a break. Don’t judge me. There are women out there who are born to be moms. Motherhood comes naturally to them. I’m not one of them. Sometimes I look at my child and I’m floored by what a blessing she is. Other times I look at her like: you’re nothing but a one-year-old buzz kill. It’s called balance.
Anyway, when my nanny said she needed a few days off, I immediately went into a panic. How was I going to balance work and taking care of the baby? Then I thought; my employer provides a fully staffed crèche, and if people can take six-month old kids there then surely Gong will be fine, right?
Then the week the nanny was to leave, Gong came down with an ear and throat infection so there was no way I could have her around other kids and their lethal kiddie germs. And to be honest, I wasn’t trying to take days off my leave to stay home with her (I need those days for a girls’ trip I’ve been waiting for all year) so I thought, why not just work from home while taking care of her?
Big mistake. Issa lie. I worked, but 98 per cent of it was not my employer’s work.
My nanny leaves before feeding Gong her breakfast. Now if you’ve been reading this blog and/or following me on Instagram then you know that mealtimes are Gong’s “let’s torture mom” times. My Lover leaves for work, I try really hard to drown the dread, panic and resentment that’s rising in my throat, and I get out of bed. My plan is to get as much done as possible before she wakes up with all her needs. I manage to shower, make my bed and defrost her uji (yes, I asked my nanny to meal prep before leaving).
By now I’m praying fervently that I will survive the day without calling the nanny or taking Gong to her father and booking myself a spa appointment. I am reminded that I serve a living God when Gong feeds well, plays and takes a 2.5 hour nap. I manage to squeeze in some work while she sleeps, wondering what good fortune I have for this child to be behaving herself. Day one goes really well.
Saturday starts out promising. She fusses a little while having breakfast but still manages to finish it. By this time I’m thinking I can do this. I go with her to a friend’s house. This is where Gong decides to remind me that yesterday was a special favour because I prayed so hard. She refuses to eat her lunch, follows me around everywhere, bullies my friend’s infant son, refuses to nap, cries for no reason.
By the time we get home, I’m tired of her. But I’m still determined not to call the nanny crying and begging to be delivered from this. Dinnertime, and she refuses her leftovers from lunch (rice, veg and with a tomato sauce) and the pasta I make her as a second option. I’m here making this child a freaking-two course meal and she can’t even be bothered to try it, so I decide that I won’t be bothered either. I give her yogurt and milk, bathe her and call it a day. By the time I go to bed I can’t even calling her by her name. She’s either “this child” or “your child”.
I insist my Lover must get a taste of his child too. I announce in the morning that I need to fix my hair. Today. So they drop me off at the salon, and while I’m there being all smug about getting a break while Gong gives her father hell, he calls me to let me know that she’s being such a sweetheart. She’s snacked, napped and they’re at home playing. For a second there I wonder whether he has another child, because the one I birthed is a handful – and probably a little sadist.
We spend the afternoon together and apart from refusing to eat her lunch, she’s the exact opposite of what she was the previous day. By now my nanny has called me three times to “check on Gong”. My ego will not allow me to confess how crazy she’s driving me, so I lie and say she’s being absolutely precious.
I suppress panic again as my Lover leaves for work. Because God’s mercies are new every morning (yes, I read my Bible), He puts her into a deep slumber (Adam-style) so I’m able to do some chores. By this time I’m so anxious that she’ll wake up that I don’t even bother attempting to work, but I also refuse to be the woman who does nothing around the house while the nanny is away. I don’t want her to find the house a mess, so I manage to do the laundry, clean up a little, prep Gong’s lunch and make her uji, which by some miracle turns out well despite me having a reputation for not knowing how to make good uji. I ignore the few lumps; a little texture is good for the soul.
She wakes up in a good mood, smiling and kissing me and everything. But I’m smart. I’m not going to fall for it. I know she wants to make me forget what she’s put me through the past couple of days. She’s really turning on the charm, even taking my uji without a fuss and playing with insects and stones while I hang the washing to dry. I’m feeling like a badass mom now. Look at me in my deera, taking care of her and not losing my shit.
The only office work I do is taking phone calls and responding to emails that don’t require much effort. I figure that even my boss should know by now that I lied when I said I could handle it, because I obviously cannot. I even forget to excuse myself from a meeting because my brain is a little frazzled, and when one of my Directors’ assistant calls me to ask what the meeting agenda is, I’m saved by a wailing Gong. I’m trying to calm her down and sound professional at the same time. I come off sounding like those overwhelmed moms I see on TV. I get a pass.
I wake up thanking God that today is the day my nanny will return. I’m literally counting hours to when she knocks on that door, because to be honest, I need a break from my child. Yet, when the nanny calls to tell me she can come a little earlier in the day than planned I still tell her to take her time. I cannot afford to sound like I can’t deal with my own child. But I’m secretly hoping she ignores me and comes early anyway. She doesn’t. Either she’s tone-deaf, or I’ve become so good at lying that I’ve somehow managed to smother the inner cry for help that was desperately signaling my nanny.
To be honest, the day is a blur. I don’t remember what we did. The only thing I remember is wanting so badly to take a nap by myself and spend time in bed (again, by myself) watching a series and eating. That’s all I wanted. I didn’t get it.
What I got though, was my nanny back. Now at the risk of being judged by some of you judgy-judgy types who’ve assigned yourselves the position of Assistant to God, let me just share a few things I learned: one – my nanny’s job is really, really hard. With the level of organisation and time management required to take care of the home and the child, she could be a CEO somewhere.
Two – I love my child, I really do, but I’d rather be slaving in the office all day than have to spend every single waking minute with her. I’m just not built for it. I love her, but she tests me to extremes that my body and mind just cannot handle. Getting to spend those five days with her, no breaks (apart from the two hours at the salon and a few short naps), was precious but draining, and I don’t think I could prosper as a stay-at-home mom. It’s hard! Which makes me think of the stay-at-home moms and single moms trying to run small businesses to make some extra money and do something for themselves – not just their babies – and I say power to them. I think it’s really important that moms get to do stuff for themselves; I don’t believe that being a mom should mean losing yourself to your baby. So I’m going to be supporting some of them at the Asenka Community Market this Saturday, 8th September. Come through!
Three – I know that many of us are raised to be strong, independent women who can handle every single thing thrown at them. I’m not. I’m a strong, dependant woman who cannot handle everything, which is why I’m extremely grateful to have a good nanny and a Lover who I can rely on. I am not ashamed to be so reliant on my nanny. She’s there for a reason, and I wish more working moms would quit being so hard on themselves for needing and relying on help because let’s face it: a lot of you are probably like me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Which is why I’m currently hiding in my room while Gong throws a tantrum. Let her father and the nanny deal with it.