Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose, December 2018. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
Friday. 5:26 pm. I barely have time to take off my boots when it starts.
“What should we do for dinner?” Jason yells over the TV, the annoying beep of a battery-operated game, and the dog yelping and jumping up my thighs.
I’m less than 60 seconds into a babysitting gig and already my respect toward mothers and fathers hits a new level.
This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with kids. I nanny’d for two years. But this is the first time my partner and I agreed to be full-on responsible to two little lives over the next 48 hours, a favor to his dad and his girlfriend.
In other words, shit just got real.
My sweetheart looks at me across the room, somewhat frazzled but holding it together. He’s been with the kids all day and I’ve been at work since 10 a.m. – what now feels like a paid vacation.
In truth, we have it pretty easy.
Two kids. One seven, the other twelve.
The children are old enough to dress, bathe, and feed themselves. And they are actually pretty good all around.
But now that I’m looking through the lens of a 35-year-old woman – one who’s just scratched the surface of thinking of kids for herself – the thought of a future family life began to morph into the question: You sure about this?
We load the car with the 7-year-old and leave the older, more responsible child at home to tend to her studies.
(Later, we find out “studies” to the “more responsible” child means Face Timing with friends.)
Being the cool, not-your-parents people that we are, we decide Thai food would be a treat for us and a fun dinner for the kids.
As Braden, the spunky boy who loves an audience shares his 27th made-up knock-knock joke, we pull up to the curb just outside the restaurant and I jump out to grab our food to-go
So much so, I’m carrying a Costco-sized box of Thai delights back to the car and a receipt that’s over double what we normally pay.
“Eighty-five dollars!” Jason yells when he sees the receipt.
I bite my tongue to hold back a laugh, as I had the same reaction a mere seconds before.
“Eighty-five dollars and it’s not even worth it!” shouts Braden in the backseat.
“No,” I reply calmly. “It’s fine, Braden. We are just used to buying for two instead of four,” I say, speaking directly to Jason whose breaking a mild sweat in the driver’s seat.
“You’re right,” he says, calming down as he grasps the reality of the situation. “It’s fine, Braden.”
I turn to face the passenger-side window and bite my tongue again.
Once home, I place the box of food on the counter and grab plates.
“Y’all, wash up! Time for dinner!” I plate the food and set the table.
Everyone begins to eat while I’m running through the kitchen to grab napkins, glasses of water, and whatever else we may need.
They eat. I shuffle.
Realizing my absence, Jason stops mid-bite to recognize my efforts.
“Thank you, Love,” he says. “Come and join us.”
I give him a wink, grab the extra box of brown rice, and join in.
It was the first real moment we had to connect as a couple since I walked through the door. We were so busy making sure the kids were okay that our needs were hardly a priority.
(Another note for the you-sure-you-want-to-have-kids mental list.)
Chewing my last bite of yellow curry, it occurred to me how many times childless women are asked when they are having kids as if having kids is inevitable.
The bigger question should be, Why?
Why do people want to have kids at all?
I was curious for answers to a question many parents or soon-to-be parents may have never asked themselves.
Turns out, I was right.