I was looking at flowerpots yesterday and met a woman doing the same thing. We agreed that some of the pots were too heavy to even consider. We ended up talking for an hour. She was a lot of fun and very interesting. We agreed, not only on the weight of the flowerpots but on everything else. When I asked if she had any kids she said, “Oh no. I did that all my life. I grew up changing diapers and taking care of my siblings. I’ve had enough of that.”
She’s not the first woman I know who has had her childhood stolen by parents who use their kids as servants. When I was growing up, the girl who lived kitty-corner from me could never do anything because she always had to take care of her sister. We finally stopped asking her to join us. She grew up being a servant, baby sitter and housecleaner. She didn’t have any friends because she was never able to go out. That was her childhood. No fun, no friends, no anything, other than being a mini mom and housecleaner…and not by choice. Kids are not servants. Kids didn’t ask to be born and they aren’t there to do the job of adults. So many children are forced to do things that take away their childhoods. What kind of life is that for a child? Those will be my friend’s childhood memories for the rest of her life, dirty diapers, cleaning, and being old before her time.
The woman I was talking with had to give up her young life to do the job her mother, or father, should have been doing. Some of these abused child caretakers never have children because they are sick of taking care of kids. Their lives are altered by being forced to grow up and be mothers to kids that weren’t theirs. It’s wrong for parents to steal young lives and use them for their own purposes. I know so many cases like that. Those years of growing up can never be replaced. My memories are of fun things, great friends, swimming, playing and having a wonderful time. Those things are unavailable to children who have to stand in for their parents. Those of us who were allowed to be children felt sorry for the girl across the street and then we just forgot about her because she was invisible…locked into a life she didn’t choose but was forced to live. Her memories were small and I know she wanted to be let out. When I did see her she would ask what we were all doing. As an adult I can understand that her mom needed help but that doesn’t take away the fact that she stole her daughter’s childhood and used her for her own purposes. At least she only had to care for one sib. Some children are in charge of multiple sibs. Lots of responsibility for a child.
When you meet women who have been abused in this way, the second someone asks if they have kids, their faces get a certain look and they never hesitate…they just say, “NO. I never wanted them. Had them already.” Lost childhoods. Stolen by those who are supposed to care about the wellbeing of their children. And yes, not all children who raise their siblings feel that way but I’ve met enough women who do. They know what’s been taken from them. They know they can never get it back.