My career as a serial debtor started when my first child was born. I had her in February 2005 and after my 12 weeks of maternity leave were up, there were still roughly three weeks left of teaching at the high school where I taught English and journalism. My mom and mother-in-law drove one hour (each way) to help fill in the gaps when my husband couldn't be home with her. Their payment came in the form of baby smiles.
The next year, I didn't go back to teaching, but I kept my cross country and track coaching positions. That was the year I became completely indebted to my sister-in-law. She watched Kenzie for about three hours every day. I think I paid her some paltry sum (Can you ever pay a babysitter enough? Seriously. That should be the highest paid position in the world) and watched her little one once.
Now that I'm five years and two more children into this mothering gig, it's not like I'm decreasing my debts. I'm increasing them. I'm now permanently in debt to my two sisters, four of my sister-in-laws, my mother and mother-in-law, my father and father-in-law, and a posse of neighbors and friends who have all watched my children at various times for various reasons.
Not only do my relatives and friends watch my children for me, but they pick up slack for me in so many other areas. I am useless when I have an eighteen-month-old until they are about four. I'm so busy following my child around making unreasonable demands of them (Drop that bug! No don't eat the Vaseline!) that I often don't put chairs away, help set the table, or get the food ready to eat at gatherings.
I wish some labeled envelopes and a strict no-spending policy would help me cut into this debt. But despite children, and in fact because of them, life goes on, and inevitably I need a sitter. Occasionally I watch other people's children, and sometimes, if my children are otherwise occupied I can help clear a table or two.
Photo by Alan Cleaver