The Other Woman I am Sharing My Family With
The first time I heard my child laugh was one Saturday morning. It was April 2015. My son was barely three months old and after a long sleepless night, I was ready to hand him over come dawn to any other person.
So like clockwork, when the little boy woke up at 7:00a.m, I took him to his nanny, our housekeeper, to keep him entertained for an hour as I tried to salvage the remaining shreds of my sanity. A quick nap will do that for you.
Five minutes later, maybe two or perhaps an hour later, I was up again. Startled by a sound, not wailing this time but gurgles – it is like a giggle only with a hollow sound like someone swallowing a cold Fanta orange after a hot day. I walked to the nanny’s room and found T.J heaving with laughter, his belly bobbling up and down and his toothless grin wide with excitement. His eyes shone with joy and adoration at this other woman, his first happy moments were happening there and then, and they were not with me.
Well, I did what any rational woman will do- I snatched him from Sunje, our nanny. I was up, fresh as a cucumber and armed with antics to make him laugh, make him smile at me, for me.But T.J had moved on, now he was hungry and he demanded instant gratification.
I was disturbed, worried that perhaps I was losing my little man to someone else, to another woman who could not possibly love him as much as I did.
When the three months are done and you have to or choose to go back to work, you are heartbroken. Some babies cry terribly and you can barely walk out the door, while others hardly notice your absence. My kids were the latter. They smiled when I waved goodbye and were ecstatic when I came back. I learnt later that at a certain age, they have no sense of time. To them it is literally out of sight, out of mind. They eventually grow a sense of time, of belonging, of space. It is one of life’s miracles, for me it is God’s handiwork.
Back to the other woman. After the heartbreaking experience, I crowded my son’s space, wanting and needing to be his everything. I threatened resignation because I felt a good mother should always be there for her children, record their first gurgle, encourage their first step and do all things for them- bathe, change, put to bed, feed, sterilise the bottles, read to them, play with them and on and on and on…
Too soon, the twins came and it hit me, a jolting realisation that I am not a superwoman. I am not a supermom; I am not even the best mom. I can only be a good mom. It was time to embrace the other woman.
Today I watched her play with the girls, they laughed from the depths of their little hearts. Tia the younger one does not laugh, she grins widely without a sound. I can already tell she will be a Boss Lady from the way she commands attention, scrunches her chubby face as if she is wondering how milk is all of a sudden 65 bob! No matter how many silly faces you make, she will not laugh aloud, she is a lady after all. Well, tonight she did. As I fed her sister, Sunje made her laugh and it melted my heart.
I have come to accept there is another woman in my kids’ life. She may not love them as I do, but she loves them nonetheless. She feeds them when am away and plays with them when they are awake. When I leave in the morning, I trust I have left themin safe hands and when am back in the evening, she hands me happy healthy children. During the holidays when she is away and everyone is screaming, the dishes are piling up in the sink, the kids simply will not eat and you look like you sorely lost a food fight, you remember her.
You want to pick up the phone and just let her know that you miss her. But you don’t, “My mother raised four boys, I can nduthis!”
I realise I am among the fortunate few who have been lucky to find great house-helps. We rarely appreciate them, there is no ‘International Nanny Day’ or ‘Best Nanny Coffee mug’, some of us do not even pay them the minimum wage, leave alone offer them a raise. I choose to respect and honor Sunje and after some years, I have even come to care deeply for her. She wholeheartedly takes care of what I treasure the most.