New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - KERRE McIVOR

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.

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