There is something called the “sweet spot” of parenting, and I am inching closer to it every day. The sweet spot happens when all your kids leave the baby and toddler stage, but haven’t yet reached the tumultuous teen years.
And while I am still mourning those true baby-filled years, I am also simultaneously finding a piece of myself that I seemed to have lost over the many years that devoted entirely to child rearing.
I am working again and therefore need some help from the other members of my household. One way we have been making things work is by having the older boys watch their younger brother for short periods of time — and it is working out beautifully.
As a mom of three boys, I have at times been subjected to pity from others because I don’t have a daughter, also known as a “built in babysitter.”
Many have simply scoffed at the idea that my sons could actually be nurturing towards their baby brother. “If you had a girl first, you would have a babysitter!” they lament.
I recognize this pattern of thinking because I came across it many times while growing up with two older sisters and two younger brothers. Us girls were often responsible for babysitting and caring for our younger brothers. People would frequently remark to my parents how lucky they were to have girls first, so they could be the caretakers.
And let me tell you — I wasn’t thrilled about babysitting duty when I was young. I didn’t mind watching my brothers, but I disliked that it seemed almost expected of me to babysit kids around the neighborhood when I reached a certain age because I was a girl. Honestly, I had other interests and would have been happier mowing the neighbor’s lawn than watching their kids.
What I have come to learn while raising three boys is that it is not gender that makes a good babysitter, but personality and temperament. My oldest son is very tender-hearted and loves to be around little kids. He enjoys caring for them, and that has nothing to do with the fact he is a boy.
Babysitting can be an interest, the same as playing sports or music. Some are interested, some are not. My oldest son would rather babysit his brother to earn money then do chores — and that’s OK. It’s important to me to give my boys the same opportunity to be nurturing that we would give to a daughter.
Just yesterday, my 3-year-old son was playing at church with a group of kids his age. There was an assortment of toys available for them to play with, including dolls. My son loves dinosaurs, and spent most of his time making roaring noises and banging them together (as one does). Then, at one point he picked up a doll. I told him that the doll had a blanket, just like he does, and he proceeded to wrap up the doll in the blanket. He then looked at me and asked, “Where is a rocking chair?” He wanted to rock the baby to sleep — which was admittedly the sweetest thing ever.
One day my boys will grow up and maybe have kids of their own. If they do, they will be fathers — not babysitters. My hope is that if they are given the opportunity to care for babies and young children while they are young, they may be more comfortable around their own children later on.
My husband has always been amazing with kids, better than I ever was. My sons seem to be following in his footsteps, and for that I am very grateful. So please don’t ever feel bad for me because I don’t have any daughters, and therefore no “babysitters.”
As it turns out, I have some of the best babysitters I could ever ask for in my baby’s two older brothers.