I’m going to preface this post by saying a few things:
1) I’ve not been the most diligent about blogging since I opened an account on WordPress. I used to blog all the time, but for some reason or another, suddenly became self-conscious about sharing my writing publicly. It was a weird feeling, because on top of my blogging habit, I’d been publishing poetry for years. My work appears in many journals, both in print and online. I still write a lot, but privately. I keep a diary, and exchange emails with friends. But ever since I stopped sharing my work publicly, I’ve noticed that I harbor a weird sense of shame about a lot of the things that I think and feel.
2) And I don’t fucking need that right now because I recently experienced something traumatic. I’m not comfortable saying much more about it at this point in time, but suffice it to say that it has me thinking about a lot of things. I need my writing as an outlet now more than ever, and, because of the nature of what I went through, think it’s important to speak out and be as honest as I can.
3) But that will take time, energy, and practice. So my plan is to blog more, about topics that may or may not be related to this traumatic experience. I’ve started this already: I blogged about my grandmother last weekend, for example. Today’s post will be a little more closely related to what happened to me.
Self care. It’s really effing important. Here goes:
Despite my adamant childfree status, I’m very popular among children, and have spent a great deal of time caring for them. This goes far beyond your typical Saturday night babysitting. I’ve been nannying for years. I just don’t like the word “nanny” because it rhymes with “granny” and that makes me feel old.
Right now, I currently care for a 22-month-old girl. It’s just once per week, but it’s all day, 9 am.-7 p.m. And that is a lot of toddler.
Also, she’s potty training right now.
This week, I’m also pet sitting for my neighbors. The local school district is closed for midwinter break, so they’re out of town, leaving me with their dog and two cats.
I figured, “No problem. It’s a normal workweek for me, but I can just have Mom check up on the dog during my busier days, and maybe the day I babysit I can bring the kid over there to meet him.”
Except, no. I tried to introduce the dog to my parents, but that did not go over well. Because they hadn’t shown up at his house while his family was home, he was really not okay with it.
This made me feel uncomfortable bringing the toddler over, of course. So I decided against that.
Which sucked. For both me and the dog. It sucked for me because I couldn’t do both jobs simultaneously, and it sucked for the dog because he wound up stuck inside the house for most of the day.
I tried, by the way, to bring the kid over to my house. My plan was to leave her with my dad for a few minutes while I ran across the street to let the dog out for a pee. He gets home from work a few hours earlier than the girls’ parents do, so I turned on some cartoons for her and tried to run across the street to let the dog out.
But she was terrified of my dad, because she didn’t know him well (that’s fair), and refused to let me go.
It was 4 p.m. at that point, and it’d been a long day. I mentioned that she’s potty training. I’ve never seen so much poop (not all of which made it to a toilet) in my life. She also wet the bed while napping, which, besides creating a whole lot of laundry for me, sucked also because it woke her up earlier than she would have if she’d stayed dry, which means she morphed into CRABBY MCMONSTER.
She did that weird thing kids do where they’re obviously really tired, but instead of acting tired, they just get hyperactive. This led to a lot of fall-downs and sob fests. She also just randomly peed her pants while standing in the middle of the kitchen, laughing at something. Which means that I had to change her clothes once again.
She also wiped her poopy butt with paper towel instead of toilet paper. Luckily, I noticed, but that means that in order to prevent the bathroom from flooding, I had to reach my hand into poopy toilet water to get the paper towel out before she flushed it.
My little environmentalist heart was just breaking because she was fucking obsessed with flushing the toilet, over and over and over again. This is reason #827 why I’m never having children of my own.
Also, I never, ever want to be forced to listen to “Elmo: The Musical,” which she insisted on watching yesterday.
As if this wasn’t enough: The family I babysit for happens to also be pet sitting this week. They’ve got a friend’s kitten staying with them. The kitten is pretty sweet, actually. But she’s a fucking kitten. Which means that she does kitten things, like try to climb into the oven and the fridge. And she was all over the counter tops. And of course, I had to protect the kitten from the toddler because the toddler thought she was just playing, but was, in fact, being abusive.
About 20 minutes before the kid’s dad (finally!) arrived home, I found the kitten in the fireplace. The fireplace was on, mind you. I guess the kitten was drawn to the heat.
Luckily, I caught her before she lit herself on fire. But she did manage to get herself covered in soot. I picked her up and hugged her. My hands, face, and sweater all turned black.
As soon as the kid’s dad got home, I had to run straight to my other neighbors’ house to let their dog out. I felt guilty about leaving him all day, so I stayed for an hour or so and pet him. I could tell that all three of the pets were lonely, because they were all fighting for my affection.
I just felt pulled in all directions. The dog needed me, the cats wanted some love too, the toddler needed to be cared for all day. And I’m only one person who can’t be in two places at once. Everyone’s got their issues: The kid refused to be left with anyone but me. The dog wouldn’t let anyone into his house but me. And everyone had to suffer a little bit because I am just one person who can’t do everything for everyone.
I finally arrived home just before 9 p.m. I took a quick shower to get the toddler poop and chimney soot off me, and collapsed into bed, too tired to eat dinner.
Luckily, not all days are like this. And I am more than capable of handling a long, stressful day here and there. But this happened not long after this previously mentioned Traumatic Thing I Experienced. And since then, I’ve been grappling with my need for alone time and my desire for my life to just go back to normal so I can get back to my routine and forget.
What I’m realizing is that I”m gong to have to give in and take care of myself, or else others are going to suffer for it. And a toddler and dog are the last creatures on this planet who should have to suffer the wrath of my crankyness. It just spreads even more pain.
I’m sort of wary of my newfound deep need for alone time and self care. I’ve been warned, by those who know about what happened to me, against retreating too much, lest I fall into a depression that keeps me from functioning. And, as a homebody, I already need a lot of alone time under normal circumstances. So needing more just feels dangerous and weird.
But I’m going to need to have to not ignore it, because it’s very real, and thus, has very real consequences, for people other than me.
And if the only way I can convince myself to take care of myself is by feeling guilty over how it’s hurting other people, then I guess that’s what’ll have to make it work.
My plan, then, because I missed dinner last night, is to cook myself an epic meal this weekend. I don’t eat very well a lot of the time because my parents love red meat and I don’t, which means I’m left to my own devices most of the time, but am lazy, so just eat a lot of cereal and tuna sandwiches.
I do own quite a few vegetarian cookbooks, though. I’m going to look through them, find a recipe, go shopping for the ingredients, cook myself dinner, drink some wine, take a bath, bond with my cat, and fall asleep.
And babysit myself for once.