My five-year-old daughter Syona has a caregiver who visits our home most during the week. Laura* helps out with everything, from daily activities like prepping meals to carrying out Syona’s at-home theraputic exercise routines. (Syona has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or walker to get around.) We treat Laura like a member of our family, and there's no way I'd ever be able to work outside the home if she wasn't around. We're incredibly grateful to have her.
Last week, Laura was off for a couple of evenings, so Syona and I got some one-on-one time together until my husband Dilip got home from work. Over dinner we had a very interesting conversation:
Syona: “Mommy, where’s Laura? Why are you taking care of me?” Me: “She’s off this evening and at home.” Syona: “You don’t like taking care of me?” Me: “I really love taking care of you, Syona. It’s my favourite thing to do. We have so much fun. Do you think I like taking care of you?” Syona: “No. I don’t think you like it.”
And there it was: the mom guilt. It was entirely unexpected. Here I was, spending quality time with my little girl and then that one comment suddenly brought up a range of emotions. I paused, trying to find the right words.I reiterated that I loved taking care of her and that I would have the chance to do it again the following night.
Syona is always my priority. When I'm with her, she has my full attention. However, like with any parent, there are times when my focus is elsewhere—whether I'm finishing something for work or prepping lunches for the next day. But Syona's comment made me wonder: did she really think I didn't like taking care of her?
When Dilip got home after Syona had gone to bed, I told him what she'd said. We discussed the benefits of having a caregiver visit Syona at home. She's always going to need extra care and hiring outside help takes some of the pressure off me and Dilip. Our thinking in hiring a caregiver was that someone else could handle the brunt of her physical therapy tasks while Dilip and I could focus on being her parents. But, ever since we hired Laura, I've also come to realize that she makes us feel secure—and how having her in the house goes back to the "it takes a village" mentality. This is something I want Syona to understand, and appreciate, when she's older.
Therefore, like any conversation with a five-year-old, I will take my parenting cues from her and look for opportunities to discuss how the people who visit to help her also allow for us to have more time together and be a family.
*Name has been changed