It’s the hardest job I ever loved.
My kids were fed, watered, cleaned and clipped. Taught to read, write, compute and get along in polite society. Given direction, graduated independence, religious training, boundaries, love.
Meeting kids’ needs, supporting one’s co-parent/partner, maintaining a clean, safe home? It’s traditionally known as the Mom Job.
Of course, the Mom Job isn’t always Mom’s job. Sometimes Dad runs the house while Mom works. Unmarried teens and others get life done with help from extended family. Grandpa cooks, cleans and gardens while burping a coo-ing baby. Step-parents help raise a partner’s child. An army of nannies, maids, housekeepers, tutors, surrogates and wet nurses do for the 1% what one person does for the family in the real world.
And sometimes? When a parent hides behind her own insecurities and disengages from her children’s everyday, Grandma pitches in to help the parent-on-deck. With talker updates. Homework, tutors, meal planning, carpooling, grocery shopping, list making. After school buses, vacuuming, ironing, scrubbing toilets and the ever-present, never-done laundry, laundry, laundry.
I’ve been here before: teacher meetings, supply lists, sports events, birthday parties, play dates, homemade Halloween costumes, classroom Valentines, car repairs, doctor appointments.
Hubby and I argued then about money and who got to mow the grass (while the other watched the babies). I was frequently and irrationally mad at him for having a job where he conversed with grownups in the outside world. While I wiped pee off the bathroom wall, cleaned snot from headboards and scraped chairs free of crusted spaghetti sauce.
I wasn’t perfect. I was addicted to a soap opera called The Guiding Light. I told my kids Reese’s Cups and Diet Coke were grownup-only delicacies and if they partook hair would grow on their chests. Afternoons, my son sat in his bed for two hours until his sisters outgrew naptime. While I closed the blinds, unplugged the phone, ignored the doorbell, ate chocolate from a bag and watched tv.
One minute my babies played naked in the backyard pool. The next they were riding bikes through the neighborhood, going on dates, graduating high school, doing college, moving across country, getting married.
When my kids left home, I studied languages, ran 5k’s and a marathon. Got a job. Played piano. Joined a writer’s group, attended conferences and seminars. Wrote and sold articles and short stories. Travelled the world.
And then? The most amazing opportunity changed everything:
The Mom Job is different as a grandma. I need authorization to talk to teachers. I don’t sign permission slips or school notes. I have no responsibility, make no final decisions. I don’t attend IEP meetings or family therapy sessions.
I do meet buses. Oversee time tests and piano lessons, clean toilets, fold clothes. I’m the Mom-Behind-the-Curtain; a soft-lapped worker-bee.
I am the Nonnie-Nanny.
My refrigerator is stocked with mac’ncheese, popsicles, fish sticks, fruit. I know the names of the Thomas the Train trains. I own a copy of “Everybody Poops.”
It’s the hardest job I ever loved. Again.
Luckiest grandma ever.