11: Substitute Mom
11: Substitute Mom
Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.
I missed teaching, but my husband and I had agreed when I became pregnant with our first child that I should be a stay-at-home mom. It was an adjustment, alone in the apartment with a new infant, away from the chatter of my students and teaching colleagues. There were very few young families, mostly elderly retirees, in our apartment complex and I often found myself feeling lonely, wishing for the camaraderie of my teaching days.
I was thrilled to learn of another new mother in a different wing of the apartment building, with a son a few months younger than my daughter. We were introduced and were soon walking our babies in their carriages together, or arranging to put them down to nap in the same crib so we could bake cookies together or just enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation while they slept.
As we compared notes, we discovered that we both missed our working days and although we were both often asked if we could come in to substitute for an absent employee at our old places of work, we had to say no because we couldn’t leave our babies. Doris had been a lab technician in a local doctor’s clinic; I had taught in our local middle school and high school.
Over time, we came up with a plan. Since our kids loved being together, and were comfortable with either one of us, we decided that whoever received a call to fill in at their old place of employment for a day or two should accept the offer and immediately alert the other that she would be babysitting. That way, if Doris got the first call, I’d know not to accept an assignment the same day and I would take care of her son, Keith. Conversely, if I had a call from the school district, she would agree to take my Alice.
By the time our second children, my son Eric and her daughter Karen, came along, we were both moving into our first homes and away from the apartment complex. Even though the houses we bought were in different towns, they were close enough to continue the arrangement. Although my children always protested when left with an adult babysitter, they were delighted to be left with my friend Doris. They didn’t feel I was leaving them. They felt they were going on a play date with their friends Keith and Karen.
Although we had put some miles between us by moving from the apartment complex to different towns, there was no way Doris and I were going to give up our arrangement. Far more valuable to us than the extra money from our substituting stints was the joy of seeing our old friends at work again and keeping our skills fresh. It was glorious to be able to spend an occasional day back in the adult world, where people were your own size and expressed ideas in full sentences.
Years went by and as our kids started school in different towns, our arrangement became too complicated to continue. But by then, the children had neighborhood friends. If Doris or I received a call to substitute, we could send our kids off to school with the knowledge that they would go home with a particular friend. Neighbors’ children filled my house as often as mine filled theirs. It was a great arrangement for us stay-at-home moms, a chance to have it all: the extra income and occasional change of routine, spending a day back at work while being a full-time homemaker.
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