kids

'I was a 'mum' for 10 days and now I want to apologise to parents everywhere.'

I like kids for the most part. When my nieces and nephews do something cute, I blast it all over my social media like I’m running a popular kids' YouTube channel.

I like when they say words for the first time and pout in that really adorable way that only cute kids and really attractive people can get away with. 

It’s funny when they say naughty words and there’s nothing better than the scent of a baby. (Seriously, it’s unmatched). 

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But I have never really wanted to be a mum. I simply just don't believe being a parent will ever be on the cards for me. Especially after what I just experienced when I babysat for 10 days.

Here is my diary of what it was like looking after my niece for 10 days. 

Day 1. 

This is the best day of my life. I’m meeting my god daughter who was born in 2020 and lives overseas with her mum (who is more importantly my little sister and my bestest friend in the world). 

I was the second person to find out she was pregnant at 19. We cried in each other’s arms and imagined what the colour of her eyes would be and how she’d smell and estimated the cost of nappies for a newborn. (Ahem. Much more than I guessed.) 

I was going to be in the room when she gave birth, holding her hand and probably sobbing harder than the mother herself (I’m willing to admit how obnoxious that is). 

As it always does, the COVID pandemic thing happened and squashed our plans, so instead I got a two-minute video of my sister birthing that 4.5 kilo lump of sweetness and sobbed over multiple FaceTime calls instead. 

So this reunion, this meeting, was supposed to be the greatest day of my life. 

Except when I meet her, she isn’t that over the moon to see me. She kind of rolls her eyes and nuzzles into her mum’s chest. No biggie, she just doesn’t realise that we are destined to love each other forever. 

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We got her one of those leash backpacks, because she likes to run away. As you can see. Image: Supplied. 

I cry, I coo, I (delicately) squeeze her little rolls and I present her with one potato chip after another. 

She doesn’t give a flying f**k. Also, my cat is terrified of her. (A major red flag on my niece’s part, if you ask me).

"I’m on holiday now, Shannen," my sister tells me. "You’re officially on mum duty."

"That won’t be too bad," I respond. I’ve planned a billion activities, and it’s likely she won’t want to leave me once this is all over. 

"You’re going to be waking up with her by the way, and making her bottles, and changing her nappies," my sister says, while eyeing off the sharp corners of my bedroom furniture.

I don’t falter. I’ve got this. I think. 

Day 2. 

It's a 5.30am wake up today. She wriggles beside me and cries lightly and I’m a bit annoyed because I was sleeping, but it’s okay because it’s not that hard to fall back asleep. Next thing I know, she’s full blown screaming for her mum.

"Potara. Potara," she belts over and over again. It means 'bottle' in Te Reo Maori. 

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FFS. 

I stumble downstairs, and throw a formula-filled bottle in the microwave (my sister kindly made one up for me last night) and somehow make it back in time to her before she wakes up my housemates. 

What happens next actually brings me to tears. She cuddles with me. She sighs happily in my lap on the bed and falls back asleep. This is heaven. I could be a mum if I wanted to. I will be a mum. God, these parents have it so eas-

I can’t remember what I was saying because she is awake again, and this time, she has no patience for my annoying attempts to tickle her. 

"What do you need, baby?" I ask. Repeatedly.

She wants anyone but me. Her mum rolls over, sleepy-eyed. In one swoop, she has my niece in her lap. It's so natural and I'm jealous being a mum doesn't come naturally to me after over two decades of babysitting.

When she finally settles, my sister instructs me to put on 'Blippy' for the baby and stay awake with her to change her nappy. 

She is really happy with her phone of colour. I am thoroughly uncomfortable, because I have to do the nappy change in my bed so as not to disturb her. Somehow I manage so kudos to me. 

Later in the day, we travel to the park. It’s the biggest reaction I’ve gotten from her all day. She wants to climb and run (it’s a waddle in her case) and play with everything. And she wants us to watch it all. 

Which I do, with a half-hearted interest. But still, I watched!

Day 3. 

I might not have mentioned, but my niece snores. Like a lot. I’ve Googled every possible reason for this, and despite my sister assuring me that it’s actually none of my business and they have seen a doctor, I’m still convinced I can fix her.

By cuddling.

No one appreciates this kindness except for me.

My niece doesn’t like me as much today and my cat is really beginning to resent her. I’m torn between my two children. Is this what being a mum to 'kids' instead of 'a kid' is like? 

I change her nappy again. This time while she is lying on my starch white dress. (I don't know why... I really don't). What I discover is a colossal-sized poo that runs all the way up her back. I use about nine baby wipes, to no avail, before my sister shoves me out of the way and gets it all in one clean swoop. 

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When she gets up, there's poop. All over my dress. 

I want to say this is completely my fault, but it's not my poop, so I'm going to be honest and say it felt a bit unjustified when my sister called me an idiot. 

Day 4. 

It’s pissing down and my plans to take my niece to see the Opera House are ruined. She likes my housemate better than me and it hurts. A lot. 

Babies are loyal to no one. 

I make her pasta and she devours it like I didn’t just feed her sweet potato 45 minutes ago. 

I’ve tried to slowly introduce some healthy habits like putting the couch cushion back after throwing it on the floor, or helping me with the dishes, but she isn’t so intent on that as she is on ignoring me. 

Listen to This Glorious Mess, Mamamia's parenting podcast. Post continues after audio. 


Day 5. 

I completely understand I’m a dramatic human. I’m selfish. Self-involved. Incredibly vain. I know how I’m about to sound by saying this. 

But today I just don’t want to be a mum.

I took two weeks off of work on some insane belief I would be the greatest parent this world has ever seen. I’d dress her up every single morning, I’d put her hair in the cutest styles, I’d feed her the nicest, most nutritious food. I’d be attentive at every moment of the day. She’d never want to watch TV or look at colourful things on my phone, because clearly, in hindsight, I thought I was better than every mother who has ever come before me. 

But nothing is working out, and this job isn’t so fun anymore. 

She kisses me on my nose, and I feel a bit better. We dance to my music and then her music, and then we nap. It’s like she sensed I needed this. 

I hope tomorrow is like this too. 

Day 6. 

So basically, today is nothing like yesterday. 

My niece keeps using me to avoid her nap time, and I personally am happy to stand by being exploited and taken advantage of if it means I get to hear her call my name. 

Her mother doesn't like this so much. 

I've also come to realise babies are deeply expensive. Formula is a lot, baby wipes are a lot, and my goodness toddlers go through nappies quickly. 

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She loves me. Clearly. Image: Supplied. 

Day 7. 

I’m beginning to realise just how selfish I am. I mean, I knew I was self-involved and had a tiny bit of an ego. But I miss work and I miss talking about me - I’m absolutely over discussing how bloody cute and beautiful she is all the time. 

Tonight, I’ve invited 10 to 15 friends to my house because I want to show off my beautiful new daughter (lol) and introduce them to what I’m most proud of in this life - my sisters. 

My niece falls asleep a little later than expected. She doesn't like my friends, but she loves the music. We drink wine and dance while listening to obnoxious music. She doesn’t wake up once. 

By the time everyone is obliterated (aside from me - mum duties!), they’re ready to go out on the town. I kiss them all one by one and send them on their merry way. My sisters join because they’ve never been clubbing in Sydney and I desperately want them to have fun, so I scuttle up to my room, shower and cuddle with my niece until I fall asleep. 

What a bloody good day.

Day 8. 

Exhausted. Grumpy. Irritable. 

Not the baby. Me. I’m the grumpy one. 

My sisters take my niece to visit family a few hours away for the day. Thank f**k. 

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I miss her, but it’s kind of fun to do... nothing. 

Except now I’m bored. I took two weeks off work to look after her and now I have a day off and I don’t know what to do with myself. 

I take myself out for brunch and I see a baby crying in a stroller. 

"I’ve been there," I laugh with the mum while I wait for my chocolate milkshake.

She sighs and asks how many I have. 

"Just one," I answer. "She is in her terrible twos!"

She’s not even terrible. I just thought it would be really fun to say that. 

Before I can explain that I’m kind of lying about being a mum, we’ve exchanged numbers for a play date. If she ends up texting me, I'll be sure to send her this article. 

Day 9. 

I've been left alone with the baby while my sister goes to an appointment. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but as soon as she leaves, I realise I desperately have to relieve myself. 

So of course, I take her with me. Because she is two years old and I don't even trust her to be left with me, let alone just by herself. 

Then disaster strikes. 

She opens my glass shower door and mumble-screams something about taking a shower. I tell her I will take her for a bath if she just gives me... a minute. 

In response, she slams the door shut. ON HER HAND. 

Somehow, while she's sobbing, I manage to pull her onto my lap. Yes, while I am relieving myself. And as soon as I see her finger, I start to wail, too. 

"I'm so sorry, I am so sorry," I yell back in between erratic sobs. 

The blood is hers. The poop is mine. And the tears? Well, that's both of us. 

Once we've both calmed down, I clean BOTH of us up and I settle her in for a nap. Her pain has made her completely reliant on me, which is not okay, but my god, I feel like such a loved woman right now. 

We nap. For the first and the last time together. And I cry because of guilt and because of sheer joy.

Our last nap together (not included in the picture is the bloody thumb). Image: Supplied. 

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Day 10. 

This is a very sad day. My niece is going back home, and I knew I would cry, but I don't while I'm holding her. Not while pulling out the suitcases and her little baby backpack. Not at all. Not until my sister grips me and says, "I miss you already". 

It wasn't the baby with her wide eyes and chubby cheeks that got me, but my little sister, who has become a better mother than I could have imagined. 

The last time I saw her, she was scared of her future and her life and the possibility of bringing a baby into a world she wasn't so sure how to navigate. 

But in the span of two weeks, I saw my little sister be the mother and the caregiver and an absolute world shaker. 

I watch as her daughter adoringly screamed, "I love you", while staring into her eyes and I sat in the corner while my sister soothed a crying baby with more ease and patience than I could ever possibly muster. I want to cry just at the thought, but I don't. 

So, I write this instead, and hope she manages to find the time to read it, so she knows how glorious I think she really is. 

As for me, maybe being a mum isn’t in my future. But one thing I know for sure is that I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be an aunty. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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