Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 6-6-11
No one works harder than mothers. I know that seems like an out dated and sexist opinion in our politically correct culture. Traditional gender-specific roles – dads going to work and mothers staying home with children – are being tossed out. Instead of churches and community centers advertising “Mother’s Day Out” on their marquees, they now tout the more neutral phrase “Parent’s Day Out.”
There are many hard working fathers who do stay at home with their children nowadays. It’s certainly a viable though somewhat unconventional option – such as was portrayed in the movie “Mr. Mom.” Nevertheless, the majority of the day to day childcare responsibilities still fall on mothers. In general, mothers tend to be more gentle and nurturing than dads, who are sometimes a little gruff.
Tending to babies and toddlers full time is a daunting job. It requires the patience of Job, the mental fortitude of a drill sergeant and the all-forgiving love of God Himself. Full time mothering was wonderful role that I enjoyed for many years. Sometimes, when I was on my hands and knees on the sticky kitchen floor picking up soggy Cheerios, I’d ask myself rhetorically, “I earned two college degrees to do this?” Sometimes I offered to switch occupations with him for a few days. He never took me up on my offer. While I had a preschooler and two toddlers in diapers, there were very few weeks that I didn’t merrily drop them off at Mother’s Day Out. Those few quiet hours were a welcome relief from an endless routine of wiping butts and noses.
Even animal mamas need a break from their young ‘uns every now and then. My mother pointed this out to me when I was growing up on a ranch. “See that mama cow over there under that tree? She’s gotta take care of all those baby calves for the afternoon,” she’d say. “Their mamas need a break.” It never occurred to me that that was what was happening.
Our mama goats do the same thing with their kids, especially when the kids are too young to keep up with the wide ranging flock. I always wondered how the goats decided who got stuck with the kids for the day and for how long. Is it the youngest nanny or the oldest? Do the same ones babysit each week? Do all the nannies just run away from the babies, and the last one left gets the job?
My neighbor witnessed an unusual sight in her pasture the other day. When she first saw it, she did a double-take. Instead of a nanny goat surrounded by a dozen kids, it was her big billy goat. The little goats were about a month old – too little to be out all afternoon grazing, but big enough to be able to play with each other.
They skipped and scampered all around the billy goat. They swarmed around his feet like swirling goldfish in an aquarium. He was hemmed in on all sides. He couldn’t take more than two steps. Even when he lay down under a tree, the little goaties took turns climbing up on his back and head and sliding down to the ground. He could hardly find a peaceful respite in his usual afternoon nap. Even then, the white fuzzy babies seemed to be everywhere – nestling against his flanks and on top of his outstretched front legs. He looked miserable.
My friend had to laugh out loud at the comical sight. She wondered how on earth the lot had fallen to the billy to babysit the kids for the day. A few hours later, she looked out her kitchen window to check on the billy-goat. He was standing still and looking far away at what must have been a welcome sight. A long line of nanny goats was making their way down the hill towards him. If their need to relieve their bulging udders hadn’t been so urgent, they might not have come back until midnight.
As the babies saw their mothers, one by one, they trotted out to meet them. While the happy reunion was taking place, the billy goat seized the opportunity to slip away unnoticed. He wasn’t seen again for a week.
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