Photo credit, Pixabay.
As an avid member of the MTV generation, I saw this sort of image every night.
It was somewhere between 1983 and 1984. I was fifteen and landed a steady, or, quite regular, babysitting job. I mean, it was every night and sometimes on the weekends, too. This couple lived in our apartment complex and had two or three kids. Yeah, I’m hazy on whether or not there were two brothers, because the one or two of them presented very little problem except once, however, there was also a little girl who still wet the bed and had a pile of dirty clothes in her closet. These two parents were very busy.
The mother was pretty with dyed blonde hair, and she dressed well. She worked in retail, you see. That meant working several nights and weekends. Her only issue was not being in shape. The little girl told me someone compared her mom to Santa Claus. She was also a cheery woman; I liked that. But the pile of smelly laundry in her daughter’s room bothered me. Mind you, many of us in that neighborhood had to go to the laundromat to do laundry. Her daughter was no trouble and very sweet, she just wanted a lot of attention. Mom worked a lot.
The father was some sort of adjunct professor at night and may have also had a day job; I am not sure. He also was sometimes gone on weekends; I don’t know why. I did not find him attractive at all, and he was fairly quiet, and, in my opinion, seemed a little lecherous. Though that could have been my teenage imagination. I remember one time I had an out of town relative visiting and had to babysit that Saturday morning. Expecting to go home at noon and have lunch out with my family made me quite miffed when the dad got back around 3:00 p.m. He stopped at a store after work to buy a stereo. I felt like this baby-sitting assignment was taking over my life, but I stuck around for the money. After all, I just had to be there, the kids went to bed at their assigned time, and I’d get to watch MTV for a couple of hours.
Once, a friend was hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood and brought them by. I told the kids these guys were my cousins, and I let them come in. One of them was acting funny. That’s what the boy said, and he told his parents later. I don’t know why, and I didn’t suspect foul play; I didn’t really like these guys but thought I’d earn some popularity from letting them ‘hang out.’ It was wrong. I got a talking to by the parents, but I still had my baby-sitting job. They were very busy and needed someone to watch their kids, you know.
I hated not having fun on my weekends. I can’t tell you how many hours I worked for them, but I recall an $80 week and buying a good amount of clothes and shoes. Some of my friends would want to go and do things on the weekend, but I’d be baby-sitting most of the time. Well, it got to the point where I wanted a weekend off and asked a week ahead of time. I was told I needed to find a replacement for that weekend. I had no idea where to turn and did not think that was my responsibility. So I told them I could not find a replacement, but I was going to take that weekend off. They found someone else, and she became my permanent replacement. I wasn’t too upset. It was too bad I lost the job, and it was 6 to 12 months before I found a real job, but I got to hang out with friends a little more. I also stopped falling asleep in my first Mod class. Still, I couldn’t use this job as a reference after the way we parted. It didn’t seem to me they’d give a glowing recommendation since I felt like I left them in the lurch. For a while though, I had been feeling trapped in that little apartment with those kids who really needed their parents, not a distracted teenager warming up frozen dinners for them.
Maybe those parents, in time, got where they needed to be and finally were able to be at home more. I felt sad for their kids; my parents were divorced and Mom had to work odd hours at first, so I understood that. What I didn’t get was why they were living like that. Did they really have to? Two parents in the home; I thought they were being selfish, but maybe that is also my naivete. Looking back, I know I was more judgmental with the dad, especially when he could have been home to have lunch with his kids but instead went shopping. My own dad was pretty absent from my life, phoning it all in from long distance and forgetting my birthday more than once. I still love him, though.
All in all, I learned from the experience. I suppose the parting needed to happen when it did, and I was the catalyst for that. Still, I should have quit a good while before that. I should have given two weeks notice to give them time to replace me. I wouldn’t have felt so irresponsible. When I started driving, I worked a few other babysitting jobs but nothing as regular. That lasted until I got my first real job, that of a fast food cashier and burger slinger. By then, I had learned the right way to resign from a job.
Maybe I wasn’t so stupid in this situation. Perhaps I was just an average fifteen year-old, reacting to way too much responsibility put on me too quickly. I should have been studying more, participating in clubs, and enjoying myself. Instead, I had a learning experience. Go figure…