April 7, 2011 at 6:00 am (Uncategorized)

I am home alone. Master J is with a prospective babysitter, the lady who owns the corner-store at the end of our street. It wasn’t quite love at first sight, so before I knew what was happening, he was in the pram and out the door and now they’re Out There Somewhere. Instead of working on my fiction – the whole idea of getting someone in for a couple of hours, a couple of times a week – I am sitting here obsessing about his safety. Plus, I only realise now that she smokes… I didn’t cotton on to this when she was behind the counter at the shop, but here in my smoke-free home, the smell was obvious. And he cried when she held him. And she was gone before I could say, “Please don’t smoke near him.” I feel like howling. I feel like racing down the street after them, although who knows where they’ve gone. I hear skateboards and scooters and cars and removal vans outside with a clarity that feels supernatural, engineered; all my senses are twitching. I had imagined this as an indoor arrangement, I had imagined he’d be here, being played with and talked to at one end of the apartment while I worked at the other for an hour or two at the most. Now he’s not here and I don’t know what’s happening and I wonder what I’ve done.

I keep forgetting to exhale.

Wow. I have rarely known anxiety like this. And I know it’s largely irrational – I take him outside for walks in the pram myself, after all, on a daily basis – but I can’t help it. I am completely clenched and expect I’ll remain so until they have returned. Okay. Breathe. Try and breathe. Breathe, breathe, breathe…

Please bring him home now.

My eyes just pricked with tears and I know I need to stop writing this and start working on something unrelated to Master J’s presently unknown whereabouts…

Okay, okay. I’m going. I’ll report back. The time is 3.40 and this little experiment isn’t even an hour old. What if she doesn’t bring him back until five? Oh, this is TORTURE. This isn’t what I had in mind at all.

Now it’s 3.52. I’ve made a sobbing phone call to Llew. I’ve called A’s mobile but her son picked up at the shop. Now I’m going to swallow this dreadful, sick-making panic, upload this post, and try to work on the short story idea that’s going to atrophy if I don’t do something soon.

One last thing. I am sitting at what used to be my desk, you know. It’s now his change table, but it’s big enough that I can be at one end without troubling any of the baby-related stuff at all. But I can smell him. The room is now full of his things, full of stuffed toys, nappies, wipes, muslin wraps, tiny little pairs of socks… I have never wanted anything – not ever – as much as I want my baby safely home.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s 4.43. They’re home.



  1. litlove said,

    Poor Di. Anxiety is so debilitating. I’m hoping your baby is home with you now and perfectly safe. I remember how hard it was to let go in those early days. But everything, just everything, does get better with time.

  2. Pete said,

    I’ve just read the postscript and happy to see that they’re home. Very good description of anxiety – I was tensing up just reading about the smoking babysitter and your having to try and write while all around you are baby smells. I’m sure that as LL says, it will get easier over time. Just pitching up and writing is half the battle maybe?

  3. Grad said,

    My anxiety level would have been over the moon – especially with a smoking babysitter. I was so paranoid that I never had a babysitter who was not a relative (and then only my mother and my brother) until my youngest was 4. But I would never recommend that anyone be a crazed as I was – it was soooo exhausting – and the next time should be a lot easier, and the time after that even more so, and so on and so on and so on. When my husband tried to argue with me about getting some babysitter I hardly knew so we could go out to a party, I’d say to him, “Would you trust that person to hold $1 million for you while you went out to dinner? Himmm?” I was totally irrational.

  4. Woo said,

    I worked as a nanny for nearly 10 years, mainly while I was a student and then again when I quit full-time work to paint a while ago. And I loved it. But, it is well-nigh impossible to babysit a child when their parent is in the same house, let alone the same room. That child – no matter how much you care about them and how much they may like you – is never going to be content to be played with and talked to when their own mother is visible. They’re going to want mummy. The fact that she’s sitting still, apparently doing nothing, but is unavailable just completely flummoxes them. They don’t understand “Mummy’s busy right now, so I’ll have to do”. They need to be out of sight of the better alternative, even though its undoubtedly more painful for you it will be less painful and confusing for them, I promise.

    But a smoker? Yeuch.

  5. Jodie said,

    Oh bless you, it sounds like it was a very hard experience made worse by having no time to explain exactly what you expected.

  6. Lilian Nattel said,

    Even now I feel better when my kids are back with me under my roof. I feel like I have a magic invisible umbrella that protects them as long as they’re with me. I don’t think you’re over-reacting at all. It’s hard, and it’s completely up to you when you feel ready/need for separation. There’s no set timeline. I’m sure you won’t be sitting beside his desk at school.

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