Caretaker vs Parent


A couple weeks ago, I had a caretaker moment. I was sitting on the floor, playing with Teddy (or rather, watching Teddy jump from one activity to the next) and suddenly felt like his caretaker or a nanny, not his parent. I have no idea why it came upon me right then, and it’s not the first time it’s happened. Despite having my “mom” moment soon after we brought Teddy home, I still have “caretaker” moments occasionally. I mentioned it to Mike and he said he felt it too. Right then. Which, on the one hand, validated my experience, but on the other hand, I found a bit discouraging. Only one of us is allowed to feel like a caretaker at a time!

These moments are not the same as those we had in the beginning, that were based on a niggling fear that, until the adoption was finalized, it could all end at any moment. The adoption is not going to end. We have Teddy forever (thank God!). I just have moments when I feel disconnected from my son.

Is it because he doesn’t look anything like me (despite some very lovely friends’ insistence to the contrary)? Maybe. I’m really not sure. Perhaps it’s because as Teddy gets older and starts to become his own person, we see more and more idiosyncrasies that are unfamiliar. He has a super cute way he scrunches up his face, smiles showing all his teeth, and sniffs. Adorable, but it’s not like our parents can exclaim, “Oh my word, you made a face just like that when you were a kid!” Or when he looks at one of us, and drops his head down, keeping his eyes on our face. Funniest thing. But totally foreign. Every time he does it, we just laugh and say to each other, “What is he doing?!”

I know we’ll encounter more of this kind of thing as Teddy grows older. Much more. Which means there are probably more caretaker moments in our future. Fortunately, the parent moments far outnumber the caretaker ones.

Like when the three of us are out walking and Mike and I each hold one of Teddy’s hands and, freed from the responsibility of maintaining balance, he leans forward in a runner’s stance, and barges forward. Or when Mike swings Teddy up to his shoulders and Teddy starts pointing at everything now at eye level, asking what it is (in Teddy-speak of course), “Da?” Or when we leave Teddy with babysitters and we hear him crying behind the closed door. I hate hearing him cry, of course, but I like that he is sad to see us go. (I also know he won’t cry for long; we have awesome babysitters and he’s easily distracted.) Or when I watch Mike chase him around the coffee table on hands and knees and he looks back to ensure Mike really is still crawling after him before shrieking and taking off again.

It also helps that he’s starting to say words, and his first words obviously reflect what he hears most often. His latest is” Yeah,” and we know we’re to blame for that one. We say that word all the time.

So I learn to appreciate the parent moments all the more and simply endure the caretaker moments, know they are few and fleeting.


About savoringeverymoment

I'm a grammar geek (I'm firmly on the side of the serial comma), the wife of a baseball fanatic, and the mama of two delightful, rambunctious children. I live in the nation's capital and attend a church where all are welcome and encouraged to use their gifts and talents.

5 responses »

  1. Oh, Sara! All parents have those moments, no matter how we got our children. We all disconnect at times. Sometimes the disconnecting can lead to fascinating insights on your children and your parenting. 🙂

  2. hi Sara,
    I also have caretaker moments with my girls. It’s like I’m just getting through the day, instead of savouring (I’m British!) the moment. Sometimes it seems like being with our kids can be a series of “tasks of the day” and not building a relationship, especially when they are young. And, many people I speak to have had the same experience. But, I appreciate your honesty here.
    And, by the way, you are an excellent writer!! Did you know that?
    love, Lucy xoxo

    • Thank you for the compliment! And thank you for confirming that this is a more universal experience than I thought. I guess since I don’t have bio kids, I assume a lot of things are unique to my adoptive parent experience. I’m learning that’s wrong–and I’m glad! I’ll have plenty of unique experiences in the future. It’s nice to know some things are universal.

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