KERRE REDISCOVERS HOW HOME LIFE CAN BE THE MOST REWARDING TYPE OF WORK
Ihad forgotten. I had totally forgotten just how much hard work is involved in looking after small children. Maybe it’s because I’m a couple of years older and so is Bart – who’s not a baby anymore, but a beautiful, strong, kind and clever nearly two-year-old. Maybe, too, it’s the fact that my son-in-law broke his leg a couple of weeks before the second baby was due to be born, rendering him completely incapable of performing household or child-wrangling duties.
Also at the same time, my daughter was diagnosed with a back injury common in tiny women who have two babies in relatively quick succession. Basically, I hit the ground running when I landed in London nearly two months ago, and life since then has been a constant whirl of playgroups, park visits, meal preparation, household chores and navigating London city.
Breakfast and lunch is a haphazard affair – I don’t think I’ve drunk a cup of coffee without reheating it twice since I arrived. And lunch quite often consists of the leftover eggy toast or sliced cucumber and hummus on Bart’s plate once he’s gone down for his afternoon nap. Every night, I have collapsed onto my fold-out sofa in the lounge, utterly exhausted. And yet I have never been happier or more fulfilled.
I have so enjoyed being useful and the relationship I’ve been able to build with Bart is a joy beyond compare. But as I say, it is jolly hard work. I am in awe of my daughter’s abilities as a wife and mother. Thanks to her clever husband, she’s had the opportunity to stay home with Bart – and despite graduating law school and being an award-winning PR consultant, she has chosen to invest her talents and her formidable energy into her family. Probably not forever, but long enough to give her best to her babies.
It helps that she’s a systems and processes kind of girl. She dresses and puts her make-up on when she wakes up, she completes household chores as she goes and she preps the night before. I don’t know how she does it all. Neither does her husband. We both agree that going to a paid job is so much easier than running a home.
When I was left in sole charge of Bart and the house while his mum and dad went to the hospital to have his sister, I surveyed the carnage after I’d put Bart to bed and wondered where on earth to begin. It looked like the house had been bombed with a missile packed with mixed vegetables. Every toy in Bart’s collection was scattered throughout the house and every item of clothing he possessed was trailed from his room to the kitchen.
Dishes and laundry were backed up and I had no idea where to begin. When I confessed to Kate later, she told me it didn’t matter a bit. She would far rather Bart was happy than the floor being mopped. Basically, she was saying we are different people. And that’s a very generous interpretation.
But I would like to end this column by saying just how aware I am of the incredible job that stay-at-home parents and grandparents raising grandchildren do. It has irregular, brutal hours and it’s a job that isn’t really appreciated by society at large.
I’ve only been playing at the role of caregiver. Those who are “it” for little ones know that their responsibilities extend for years, not weeks. But even though I’m only a part-timer, I’m sure we can agree that having a beautiful little human put their faith and trust in you; that storytime with a freshly bathed toddler snuggling into you; that sitting doing nothing other than holding a brand-new baby in your arms, settling her with your heartbeat, brings far more rewards than any paid employment could ever do.