Not insignificant amongst recent events in our household has been the return of an adult offspring to reside with us. During the intervening ten years that has been child free we have, as one does, fallen into what we had considered to be our default, retirement, do-as-we-wish lifestyle, involving eating when and what we like, coming and going when we please, becoming pernickety about some habits and lackadaisical about others and considering that we have despatched our duty towards our progeny. In other words we have been gradually evolving into ancient, dotty creatures like our parents used to be.
Now we’ve all had to make adjustments, and although I must add that this is not the first time it has happened, or even with the same child, I find I am regressing to a former self; one who was a parent, with all the accompanying, irritating, overbearing, suffocating tendencies that such a role carries.
I say, ‘You can’t be warm enough like that’, or ‘Aren’t you going to eat before you go out?’, or ‘How are you getting home?’ or ‘Oh dear’. Being aware of this foible and its annoyance factor does nothing to prevent these pseudo-maternal utterances. They are out of my mouth before you can say ‘empty nest’, just as if I’m running on an automatic mummy circuit.
All this would be much more understandable if I’d been a natural, a homely ‘earth mother’ type when they were small. But motherly I was not. Oh, I loved them of course! But I’d been unprepared for the relentless clamour that babies and toddlers create; unaware that no minute of any day belonged to me, not to sit down and have a coffee, read a newspaper, browse in a shop, weed a garden border, have a bath or even to sit on a lavatory alone and uninterrupted.
Looking after babies and toddlers can be fun and rewarding. They are sweet and funny. It can also be exhausting, frustrating, lonely and boring. They demand all your time. They are messy and not always happy. I took a number of years off to tend to mine. I enjoyed seeing them grow and develop, but the loss of salary led to a Spartan quality of life. Whilst there were probably benefits to my being their sole carer I don’t think they’d have been worse off if I’d worked part-time.
Quality child care is essential to families these days. I fail to see how anyone is going to be able to look after 6 toddlers on their own. Two was hard enough for me [and they were my own children!]. Where is the connection between a less advantageous ratio of child to adult and it costing less? Or staff getting paid more? It is a demanding and a skilled job and the people doing it should receive the pay and status they deserve without compromising their conditions.
And as for grown up children? I shall probably continue in my bumbling attempts to be a mother until I croak. Do we have a term for them, an acronym [like SKIers or DINKies?]? Some call them Boomerang kids, but I thought GUKAPs might do. [Grown Up Kids At Parents].