One of the silliest questions to ever ask a woman with children is..do you work?
There is a big difference between a woman working for a paycheque and one staying home with children, however both of them work.
I was a very lucky parent and was able to stay home with my very young children. We had no money and an extra paycheque would have made life so much easier but, that was the time that being a mom meant staying home with the kids. There was no thought of me going to work, my job was to look after my children and, mostly, I enjoyed it.
We lived in a neighbourhood of mixed age groups, lots of young people with pre-schoolers, mixed in with long married couples and several elderly people that everyone looked out for. If you were going to the store, you would ask the older people if they needed anything bringing back for them, most times the answer was yes and you knew which store they preferred to get their bread from. It was not thought of as a kindness but as a way of life.
It really was a simpler time when babies were bathed, fed and put out in the garden for their morning nap while mom got on with the household chores. We lived in a row house with a tiny front garden, three scruffy rose bushes two geraniums and the baby carriage filled the entire space. No thought was given to abductions as there was always one or two of the elderly ladies sitting outside, enjoying the fresh air. They knew everyone in the neighbourhood and didn’t think twice about asking a stranger what they were doing in their territory. If the baby fussed they would come over and jiggle the pram handle to lull the infant back to sleep.
This was the time of large English prams that were like rolling boats, they held the baby and so much other stuff. There was a large wire tray built underneath the body of the pram to hold groceries etc. The pram body was rounded underneath and the bed could be lifted to reveal a huge storage area under the sleeping child. When morning chores were done, there was usually a short trip to the nearby stores, the infant would usually sleep while bread, eggs and other supplies were tucked in the carriage.
On Fridays our town had a big market, it was THE place to shop. Fresh fruit and veggies in abundance, fresh eggs and home cheeses, even a cobbler to do a quick repair on your shoes. There were always one or two roguish individuals who would be selling cheap china or clothing but it was mainly food. The place would be packed with middle aged women with shopping baskets and young mums with baby carriages. I would get my supplies, stuff them in and around the pram, hang the remainder from the handle and walk the mile and a half home.
As the child grew the grocery items had to be arranged elsewhere or it was possible that items would be tossed out of the pram, on the way home. When baby number two arrived, the new baby would claim the bed of the carriage while the toddler was sat on a seat that attached across the body of the pram. This was handy for tired little legs to be transported but not terribly convenient for mom.
My eldest daughter was twelve months old when her sister was born and her favourite pastime was to stick her hand between her knees and pull the blanket off the sleeping infant below her. Next would come booties and anything else tucked under the blanket. Groceries were stored in a tray, under the pram and also hung off the handle on specially designed hooks. The trouble with this arrangement was the pram was now unstable and likely to tip over, especially if the toddler decided to wriggle and bounce. To avoid this, I had to hold the handle of the pram up, to counterweight the unsteady load. By the time I got home, I was tired, the toddler was cranky and the baby would be screaming to be fed.
What to do first? Put away groceries, feed the toddler or feed the baby?
Groceries had to be abandoned for a while, toddler given a cookie to shut her up and baby snuggled down for a feed. For a few minutes, silence was king.
Two years later we were surprised with twin girls, that meant four children under the age of three and a half. Going out with all four was certainly a challenge. The new arrivals shared a twin pram but this had a hood on either end, leaving nowhere to anchor a toddler seat. The only answer was to walk everywhere, not an easy task! My three year old was an adventurer, she did not want to hold on to me or the pram, she wanted to be free to explore every dandelion, worm, stone and leaf that we passed, making for a very slow journey. The two year old, completely different, was terrified of getting left behind so she would grasp my leg and slide along.
Surprisingly, that was the year I learned to drive! Dave worked a lot of night shifts which meant that our van sat outside all day, while I struggled with transporting four kids on foot. I drove for eighteen months before I took my test. I was such a careful driver as I really didn’t want to get caught but the freedom of the car was like a new lease on life.
One day I had a tooth removed, it was a terribly painful experience and turned out to be abcessed. After a night without any sleep and a swollen jaw, I begged Dave not to go to work, so I could stay in bed. His answer, “just take it easy and don’t do anything.” Anyone who has had to watch four preschoolers knows what a joke that is. I lay on the couch with my face on a hot water bottle while four little kids sat on me and played horsie. I managed to feed them breakfast and lunch, and keep them from killing one another then handed them over to Dave, while I took to the peace and quiet of my wonderful bed.
As I stated at the beginning of this narrative……never ask a mother if she works, she may hit you!