there were two women who were walking their kindergarteners to school. One was pushing a stroller with an adorable 8 month old boy in it. They didn’t know one another but the one pushing the stroller asked about the other little boys’ Thomas the Train backpack.
Those two women were Judi and I, a few days after Allen and Austan started kindergarten. Judi mentioned she had to go back to work, and was looking for a caregiver. I told her that’s what I do..we just moved this summer so I don’t have any kids to look after yet. And that’s how we met. I started looking after Allen and Andrew in November. We became good friends as well.
The reason she was returning to work before her year was up was because she’d just found out she was pregnant. It wasn’t planned, at all. She’d been thinking seriously of leaving her husband. I didn’t know it then, but she was in a very bad marriage. After a while, I started to see signs..things that worried me. We joined a Mom’s group together just after Aaron was born in May. When we would go out, she often became very stressed if the good times lasted longer than she had planned..things of that nature. I will sum it up by saying there was a lot of abuse..not physical, but mental and verbal. He was an alcoholic, and an addict. There was a lot of drug abuse..both prescribed and illegal. He chainsmoked, and smoked marijuana with the children present. He was arrested for DUI more than once and did jail time. It was a very unhealthy environment for those kids, not to mention what he was doing to my best friend.
At first, I tried to help ( before I knew how very bad things were and that I’d bitten off more than I could chew). I tried to be his friend as well as hers. Um yes..that was a mistake. He had some psychological problems much better left to professionals. But I gave it my best shot, and tried to get him help. When that failed, and I became aware of other things, I tried to convince her leave. I was basically battling ‘battered woman’s syndrome’ in that she was convinced she had no one and nowhere to go. Her self-esteem was less than nothing. It took a couple years but things finally came to a head, and when it did, I was there. I took back ‘my kids’..he’d lost his job and so he’d been home with them..I won’t say he was looking after them, because he wasn’t. Both Andrew and Aaron were diagnosed with ‘failure to thrive’, mostly because he fed them nothing but milk in bottles all day long. Andrew was almost 4, and Aaron 2.5. Neither were toilet trained. Aaron was far behind where he should have been, verbally. In all honestly he did work wonders with Andrew, who’d had no speech at age 2. But it was all prompting from the floor time provider who visited every week and left a list of ‘exercises’ for him.
She and the kids spent more time at my house than they did their own, for obvious reasons. She’d separated from him but was still living there, until Christmas Day when he threatened her life. After that I wouldn’t let her go home. I made up the couch and the kids had sleepovers on Evan and Austan’s bedroom floor in sleeping bags and comforters. We lived like that for a month or so before talks of Judi getting her own apartment near us turned to discussions of renting a house big enough for all of us. Why not? we thought. She and the kids live with us now except for visits home to see their Dad. We liked having her and them around, as busy as it was. It would certainly save us both money, and let our kids live somewhere with a backyard to play in..something neither of us could afford otherwise. For both families it would add another income, for her it would mean no travelling to bring the kids to daycare. In February we moved here. It hasn’t been totally idyllic, we’ve had some difficulties but we’ve weathered them. Compared to what she lived with before..screaming obscenities, arguments that would go until the wee hours of the morning ( he wouldn’t let her sleep), it’s been heavenly. (Shane and I rarely argue, and when we do we generally fight fair.) We’re all on the same page with regards to the raising of OUR kids. We’re very compatible in general. We consider her family and vice versa..my girls call her ‘Mama J’. My boys know her word is as good as mine, and woe betide them if they don’t listen. Both Shane and I love her, she is our bestest best friend. It might seem weird to some, but it works for us.
written by Amy