Confessions Of A Governess: The Kid Wants To Know Why I’m Not Married And Don’t Have A Baby

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Confessions of a Governess is a Mommyish series from the perspective of someone who gets paid to watch other people’s children. Moms, take a deep breath.

All children generally have questions about their nanny or babysitter. Inquiries about about your own childhood, what your parents are like, where you went for the holidays are considered standard when working closely with small children. Occasionally questions can be a bit more erratic, like the eight year old boy I once watched who asked me why my skirt was so short or the five year old girl who asked me why I had cut my hair short like a boy. Often times, children don’t have the same filters that older people learn to cultivate, and so legitimate curiosity is expressed without the framing of adult politeness.

Among all the inquiries I’ve sustained however, about everything from why I don’t eat meat to why my nail beds having a funny shape, the most direct came from a six-year-old who was confused as to why I was spending my days and occasional evenings with her and not my own family.

“Why aren’t you married?” she asked me one day after I collected her from her school. She was holding my hand and peering up at me from the street corner. “Why aren’t you married and have your own baby?”

It’s been my experience that children a lot of times don’t assess age well. An 18-year-old could pass as a 34-year-old in their eyes and a grown up with grown up capabilities and authority is all the same no matter if they’re 16, 24, or 45.

I was quite young when the little girl posed this question to me, and although I explained to her that I was actually closer to her in age than to her mother, I could tell that she didn’t really understand. Regardless of whether I was a “young” grownup or an older grownup, I should have a baby and be married — as was her understanding.

As the babysitter, I was  a bit unsure of how to tackle this one as I was hesitant to encroach on whatever her parents, particularly her mother, had in mind for this subject. My impulse was to, of course, point out to her that not all adult women chose to have children or get married, and that she would encounter many women in her life who had decided on a different trajectory for a multitude of reasons. I wanted to tell her that women should not be held to hitting certain milestones like children and marriage simply because they’re women. Wary of leaving my footprints in parental sand, I chose to keep my answer personal. I told her that I wasn’t ready to have a child yet, which was more than true, and that when I did want one I would certainly have one.

“But you should have one,” she insisted as we neared her home. “You should have one now.”

Her opinion continued over dinner and by the time her mother came home, the little girl had moved on to marriage, asking me when I thought I would have the ceremony and who I would invite. I told her honestly that I didn’t know if I would get married, which coupled with the earlier admittance of eventually wanting a baby, threw her.

I heard her mother throw her work bag down in the bedroom and she eventually came out, picking at her daughter’s vegetables and asking what tonight’s dinner topic was. I explained that I was being interrogated about when I would be getting married and having a family.

“She should have a baby!” the little girl persisted. “Shouldn’t she, Mommy?”

The mother, single and divorced herself, rolled her eyes a bit and said that that wasn’t really for her  — or anyone else — to say.

“Not everyone gets married,” she explained as she took the opposite seat at the table. “And not everyone has babies. Some people choose to do those things. Others do not.”

Thankful that the mother had taken on the larger component of her daughter’s questions about my life, I found that the little girl didn’t protest her mother’s logic but seemed to nod before continuing with her dinner. Like most children, she eventually moved onto a different topic, which she hammered away at for the next hour or so.