Friday, 23 November 2012

Other people's kids

Yesterday I spent the day babysitting my two adorable nephews. Just me and five boys - an eight-year-old, a six-year-old, an almost-three-year-old and two one year olds. Insanity.

The boys play so well together. They adore each other. And they're all such good kids. But - my God - five kids are a lot of kids!

I have had dozens of people suggest to me over the years that I look into starting a home daycare as an income option while I'm at home with my kids - I already have a bunch of my own here, what's two or three more? I've always laughed the idea off because I know my limitations. I have several girlfriends who run home daycares, and I don't know how they do it - spending the day with my nephews didn't do anything to change my opinion. I worship my own children. I love my nephews. I like my friends' kids, neighbours' kids, my kids' friends. Specific kids, kids that I know. But I could not picture spending all my time with children who weren't my own - kids whose parents I didn't know, kids I'd just met and suddenly had to spend my whole day with. I love spending all my time with my own children. But there's a big difference between hanging out with your own children and looking after other's people's kids.

A day at home with my own kids is a treat - a day for lazy, late breakfasting while we lounge around in jammies playing board games and doing crafts or kicking around the soccer ball in the backyard or playing at the park or maybe planning a last-minute field trip to the community pool or skating rink or indoor playplace. It's a loose, flowy, stress-free day and doesn't feel in any way like work - no more work than it ever feels like to take care of your own children.

A day at home with other kids - kids other than my own, relatives or otherwise - definitely does feel like work. I love my nephews and cherished the opportunity to spend more quality time with them than I can at big family birthday or holiday celebrations with a half-dozen children underfoot and a dozen adults conversing over one another. But it was definitely significantly more tiring than hanging out with my own boys who know our routines and rules, who still think of Mommy as their best friend, with whom I share a more intuitive form of communication than just asking what they want or what they need or trying to interpret what will make them happy.

Even playdates with friends, when for a few hours I have to be an interim caregiver for my kids' schoolmates, requires a lot more mental alertness and energy than when it's just me and my boys. I'm not even sure why - maybe it's all in my head and a matter of perspective - but that's how it feels. I enjoy seeing how my kids interact with their friends, how they play together and how they are with other people and all the little ways they show themselves becoming their own people independent from Mommy and the family. But it does seem to take more effort to supervise a playdate with a couple of extra kids than just to hang out with my little loves.

I had a blast babysitting my nephews. I loved spending time with them. I loved watching my boys playing with their cousins and seeing how much they care about each other. And I'd love to get to do that again. The odd day babysitting an extra child or two is fun for all of us. A playdate once a week with a couple of the boys' best friends is a treat. But I maintain, as I always have, that loving to spend time with your own kids does not necessarily translate into wanting to make a career out of spending time with other people's kids.

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