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The stress of being a 'mum'
MY FRIEND Sarah is a born-to-be mum. She loves children. In contrast, when I hear a child crying in the supermarket, part of me wants to bury it in the tinned goods aisle, between the Jubilee chutney and the Spam.
Even if I learned to cope with the screaming, I worry that I would drop the kid, lose it or accidentally kill it. This week did nothing to allay my fears.
I was asked to babysit my landlord’s two ancient housecats, Darcy and ‘The Other One’ whose name I can’t remember, as well as next door’s three chickens and a variety of greenhouse plants.
“No problem,” I said.
It was only when they left for a holiday that I realised with a shudder I had become the mother of five. The stress began.
First, I couldn’t quite figure out how to shut the chicken coop. My brood clucked at me curiously while I stood in the half light trying to match the hut’s pulley system with various doors. The brown chicken went to sit by the water tray, eyeing me sceptically.
Eventually I figured it out, but after that one of the cats disappeared, and my real worries began.
The pair live in the house, and they always appear in the kitchen when you rattle their food. However, on Saturday, Darcy was nowhere to be seen.
I lay awake worrying what had happened to him. The next day I confessed my fears to Glen, our photographer.
“What if it’s dead? What if somehow, through mere ownership, I have killed their 20-year-old cat?”
He wasn’t helpful.
“Well, I won’t lie Helen, it doesn’t look good. You need to find it. You need to find it before I starts to smell. Get it in a binliner, put it outside but make sure the foxes don’t get it. Maybe best to stick it in the bin.”
The family would never forgive me, I thought. I went back into their kitchen. Darcy was still nowhere to be seen.
It was only the following morning, when I scoured the house, that I found him looking serene and unmistakably alive in a bedroom. Thank God.
Then I remembered I had forgotten to water the plants.