Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The haves and have nots

One resolution I have made for this year is to work on being more assertive. Assertive not just with people in my life, but also assertive with what I do with my life.

For so long, there were always people taking advantage of me. People using me and hurting me. There was a lot of hurt. And if I learned ANYTHING from my experiences from my marriage, it's that the only person who will stand up for myself and my life is ME. As one friend put it: "It's time to look out for A#1: Yourself."

Now things will change. I've been so used to just "making do" with what life throws at me. Just "dealing with it" and trying to see people in any other way than in the true light they were in while they were doing these deeds. Perhaps some people think it's okay to do things to others which is unfair or even exploitative. But as far as I am concerned, I have to draw the line.

I mean, really. There just has to be a limit on what's okay and what is not okay. And it's not just me who gets hurt, either. My daughter gets affected by the hurts. If it's an emotional hurt, she picks up on that emotionally. If it's a financial hurt, she gets the short end of the stick with that situation. And there's just so much that she has had to do without because her mommy isn't bringing in a better income.

That is the bigger picture I am seeing. I have been struggling with the fact that I cannot afford to put her into preschool. Her education suffers for that. She is a smart and creative kid; that's not fair to her. I also can't afford to keep the kitchen well-stocked or to get her the winter clothes she needs. Here again, she goes without.

But I won't let her go without anymore. Admittedly, I have gone without, too. But it is my child's needs that are more important than my own. Give me a book to read or pen and paper to write with, and I'm happy. On one hand, though, I haven't been able to afford receiving vocational training. So, yes, I suppose we both suffer the financial hurt when there is that financial crunch.

Now this is where my being more assertive comes into the picture. For about a month now, I have been babysitting a 2 1/2-year-old boy. The pay for this babysitting hasn't been great. I babysat him for 9 hours 4 days a week (typically 4 days -- sometimes it was 3 or even 5) and I was paid $1 an hour. Yup, you read that right. One buck per hour for babysitting. Sometimes they paid me $10 for the day or even $12. But the rate was set at $1 per hour.

And for a while, I just accepted this. I figured it was better than nothing, right?

How wrong I was to think so. And naive.

It's not about "getting what I can" from this kind of thing. It's about being paid WHAT IT IS WORTH THE TIME FOR. I am helping him to potty train. I started out changing his diapers. Most daycare centers charge more if they have children they have to change diapers for. And we're talking 9 hours here! That is half a day! Not one single person I told this to thought it was a good idea. Not one, and I told MANY people. Among them my sisters, who reminded me most babysitters these days charged $5/hour.

I also came to realize that agreeing to this situation showed a profound disrespect for myself -- AND my time. I was shortchanging myself in agreeing to a job with so little pay. I know, it's just BABYSITTING. But any way you look at it, that kind of rate is pretty darn ridiculous.

I have a friend who saw the "timid, obeisant" side of me and called me on it. He pointed out many times how I was always saying "I'm sorry" and cowering away and not standing up for myself. And a great many of our conversations were spent on how that needs to change. I can't be that person any more. Even my ex saw that side of me and often pointed out that I was on a dangerous path if I kept being that kind of person. But it was this friend who has had the biggest impact with me as far as that sort of thing is concerned. Maybe because this friend is no longer around to hang out with. But whatever the reason, his words still linger in my mind. Especially when he asked me, "Do you recognize your own worth?" I did not have an answer for that. But now I have seen what exactly this friend was talking about.

And now I know that I NEED to stand up for myself. Not just for me, but for my daughter as well. We've been on our own for 6 months and things aren't really that much different for us!

So I talked to the parents I was babysitting for. We went over how I felt about the rate. They pointed out how the old babysitter only charged $1.80 per hour and took the child to his dr. appointments. I pointed out she was MARRIED and I have NOBODY ELSE here in the home to help me out financially. I am a divorced mother who is unemployed. The writing work I had going on isn't panning out anymore. My ex-husband is going slack on child support. I REALLY don't have the luxury to charge pennies for babysitting that takes up half my freaking day!

Their final offer was $1.50 per hour.

My final offer was that I won't be babysitting for them much longer anymore.

I am taking whatever work that I can, YES, but I am NOT going to let it interfere with my attempts to better my financial situation anymore. And I won't ever shortchange myself like this again. If I have to cancel babysitting because I have a job interview or because I have to meet with my vocational rehab counselor, or even because I am moving away to where I CAN get some work, BETTER work, I will do it. But I won't be available to babysit for them as much as before. I am going to spend MUCH more time trying to get a job somewhere, ANYWHERE. I will not be some doormat for them to trample over any longer. They will get what they are paying for.

And, eventually, I will get what I am fighting for.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's a boy

For some time now, I have been babysitting a 2 1/2-year-old boy named "Bobby." I took this babysitting job because my search for a REAL job has been painfully slow, and my finances are a little strained so it's not like I can turn down a chance to bring in a little extra money each week. It's not a lot, but it's SOMETHING! (We divorced/single parents do what we can when money is tight.) When I first started babysitting him, he was wearing diapers. The tasks involved in caring for him for 9 hours for 4 days a week pretty much involved the same tasks of a parent with a child so young, and I'd often sarcastically mumble to myself, "Congratulations. It's a boy!" (Incidentally, Bobby has started calling me "mommy.")

When I started on changing his diapers, I'll admit I was a little confused. I've changed MILLIONS of diapers so that's not the confusing part. I just wasn't very experienced in changing diapers for a boy. When I was pregnant, I'd read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on about parenting, and my readings on diaper-changing included "special information" on changing diapers for boys.

Apparently, baby boys must have their...ahem, "male appendages"...I think it was down to the left? Anyway, that's what I THOUGHT! I remember how one sister-in-law "rescued" me from my being all confused over how to change her son's diaper and showed me, just lightly putting the top of the diaper over his front. "See? This is how you do it," she had said. So, I tried that. I made sure his you-know-what was AT LEAST pointing down and VERY GENTLY put the top of the diaper on him. And, it worked out okay.


Recently, his parents started potty-training him. First they went the cold turkey route, then they started using Pull-Ups. Now they have told me that he is completely potty trained.


Except I have to help him with the aiming.


I asked his mom, "How do I do that?"

She then showed me herself, how I help him ... hold his... you-know-what while he goes to the bathroom. They have trained him to pee standing up and poop sitting down. So there was no more of that "all-purpose sitting down" technique I'd been using during the "cold turkey" stage.

OK So, I got THAT part. One thing, though: I have to...TOUCH him down there?

Before anybody starts calling names or flogging me for being "such an inexperienced mom, tsk! tsk!" let me JUST say that I am too sensitive to the traumas children have faced to even feel comfortable enough to put my hand ANYWHERE near a boy's...equipment. With wipes, I have NO PROBLEM. But now I have to actually...hold it? With my hand?


It's not that I'd even THINK that kinda thing would be a turn-on. On the contrary, I feel a little uncomfortable about it because my conscience keeps telling me that touching a little boy's you-know-what is BAD! BAD! BAD!!

And I KNOW this. Of course.

I keep telling myself, "It's not like you're touching him to get off on it! You're just trying to help him pee!"

On the other hand, I keep hearing horror stories of people who were JUST trying to help a little boy with his aiming when he went to the bathroom and they ended up being accused of molesting the child.

Ack! I CAN'T WIN!!

So I tried THIS approach: I told myself, "Well, you've seen a p**** before, haven't you??"

Well, yes, but that's on A GUY! A GROWN GUY! This is different. This is a CHILD. They're so innocent and the world is so cruel and misguided and people get accused of things they didn't even DO!

I mean, SERIOUSLY. I have no issue with touching an ADULT MALE'S you-know-what. (Uhh, but only IF that kinda thing was called for...DON'T HURT ME!) But with a child... I don't know. People get the wrong idea.

And HOW exactly do I help him even AIM, anyway??

I'm just the babysitter!

It's times like this I wish I had a husband. Then I could tell him, "YOU show him how to aim! You're a GUY!"

I DO want to have more children someday. And maybe later on down the road, I would have my ACTUAL son to help with the...aiming stuff. In that case, I wouldn't be feeling so uncomfortable about touching down there, because I am doing a parental duty in helping my child to learn how to use the bathroom. And NOBODY would even start to THINK I'd be entertaining bad thoughts in the process. This is different. It's just...different!

I stressed out over this, then came the moment of truth: He had to pee. I held my breath and headed into the bathroom with him. Lifted the seat. Pulled down his pants. I started to reach for it then noticed something: The child is quite small. And my toilet is...quite big. So I lifted him up and, eureka! That's it!! I don't need to put my hand ANYWHERE NEAR his private parts. Holding him up did the trick just fine.