Relying on the Kindness of Mothers


two women sitting with child

I’ve always been old for my age. When I was young, playing with my cousins, I’d tire of the silly play much earlier than them. I’d get serious. I’d get a little (or a lot) irritated with the laughing and joking and horsing around. Then I’d usually get called Ms. Meanie. I deserved it.

As a teenager, I babysat occasionally, but I wasn’t the “fun” sitter. I was there just to make sure the kids didn’t get into trouble. I wasn’t sought after. I was called when no one else was available (probably).

When I had my first child, my mom came over after a few weeks for a visit. The baby was fussy and I picked him up and calmed him. My mom, visibly and audibly surprised, said “Wow! You are good at that!” I asked her if she thought I wouldn’t be a good mom. She said “Well…no, but….”

I can’t really blame her for that. I am not a fun mom. I’m not one who plays. I take the kids on playdates and to fun events, but I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t do it if I can get someone else to do it. I’m NOT fun.

Instead, I rely on the kindness of other mothers. I have mom friends who are definitely fun. When I only had one child, I’d get together with a mom friend of twins. We’d meet up. Both of us would pack extra changes of clothes and snacks. I mean, I love food, so I’d pack good snacks. Inevitably and invariably, my son would ask for her snacks. He did it so often, even after I’d offer our identical snacks, that I stopped packing snacks, knowing he’d just want Gigi’s snacks.

I have another friend who loves my boys so much and is so fun that at my 4-year-old’s birthday party this past summer, he avoided me and climbed up into her lap to unwrap his presents. There are actually pictures of her with him, and none with me. He loves her. He laughs with her. He asks for her.

I often work temp jobs in Boston. It takes me out of the house for most of the day. I leave in the dark and come home in the dark (no matter the time of year). I have been fortunate to get awesome sitters. These sitters so love my boys and are so loved back that, despite our missing each other when I’m working these long hours and long stints, when I pick them up from school/daycare I often get asked: “When is Tina/Taylor/Christine coming back?”

You may be thinking “OMG! You must be a horrible mother!” or “Doesn’t it make you feel badly that your kids ask for other women over you?” Those are fair statements, I guess. But I’m not a horrible mother. I’m just not a silly, fun-loving mom. I’m an introvert with extremely extroverted, silly, normal kids. Being child-like, even when I was a child, wasn’t part of my personality. I could beat myself up over it, but there isn’t much point. As for the second statement, the answer is a big “NOPE!” My kids get the love from me, but they also get the “silly mom”, the “fun mom” that they may want from my friends. I love that I still can give it to them…via a surrogate. I know they won’t take my place. It’s like the “takes a village” thing. They also get the “doting mom” from their grandmothers. They get the “confidante mom” and “teacher mom” from my sister and one of my aunts. They get their “can-do-no-wrong-in-my eyes mom” from a paternal aunt. They get the “endless patience mom” from my godmother.

Having all these moms gives me relief, quite honestly. I can be the mom I actually am without (as much) guilt. I still have stuff to work on—like being more patient—but I don’t have to beat myself up because I don’t want to play video games with them. So, if you have a mom friend who is a different kind of mom than you are, I say, use it to your advantage. Let her give your kids what she can offer. And you can offer her kids something she cannot. It’s not a competition. It’s a collaboration. I smile when the kids want to hang with the sitter because they are giving me room to be more than “just mom.” Sometimes, I can be “Amanda” and enjoy some time to myself while they have fun too.