A little girl is left in the care of a babysitter by her hard-working mom who doesn’t even imagine what goes on behind the scenes until she comes home early one day.
What is the most important thing in your life? Is it being successful? Respected? Loved? For Marla, the question became a lot more complicated when she became a single mom.
Yes, she loved her daughter, but she wanted recognition for her talent, and for that, she had to work long hours. Marla enrolled little Fiona in the best daycare, and for those long hours, she hired a highly recommended babysitter.
Little Fiona was in good hands, or so Marla thought. Every day, Marla would drop Fiona off at daycare, then at five in the afternoon, Patricia, the babysitter, would fetch her, and take her home.
By the time Marla arrived, Fiona would have had her bath and her dinner. Marla would go upstairs, tell Fiona a bedtime story, and kiss her goodnight. Patricia made Marla’s life so much easier!
She didn’t have to worry if a meeting ran late, Patricia was there to care for Fiona. But after a few months, Fiona started to become quieter and sadder.
Listen to your children and believe them when they tell you something is wrong.
On the weekends, she clung to Marla constantly with quiet desperation. “What’s wrong, Fiona?” she asked, but her daughter just looked at her with enormous sad eyes.
“Do you love me, mommy?” Fiona would ask.
“Of course I do, precious girl!” Marla said. “What a silly question!” Strangely, Marla’s reassurance seemed to make things worse, not better. What could be wrong with Fiona?
Marla spent more time with Fiona on the weekends, organizing little ‘mommy-and-me’ excursions. Fiona responded to the extra attention. She smiled and giggled, but on Sunday night, she became morose.
“Please, mommy,” she said. “Do you have to go to work?”
Fiona’s plea pricked Marla’s conscience and she reacted harshly. “Yes, I do!” she cried. “I have to earn money for everything: food and rent and toys!”
“I don’t have to have toys,” Fiona said desperately. “If only you’d come home after daycare…I don’t even want presents for Christmas!”
“That’s enough of this nonsense, Fiona,” Marla said sharply. “It’s time to go to sleep.” She kissed her daughter goodnight and turned out the light.
She wanted to dismiss her daughter’s words, but something wouldn’t let her. The next day, Marla found herself leaving work an hour early, rather than several hours later.
She was going to surprise Fiona, maybe take her out to her favorite restaurant! Marla opened the front door very quietly and tip-toed in to surprise Fiona, but she was the one who was surprised.
“Why do you think your mommy works all the time? So she won’t have to see you, that’s why!” she heard the babysitter say. “That’s why she pays me. She even wants me to work weekends!”
Marla walked into the kitchen and Patricia, who was holding a bowl of soup, dropped it in fright. “Mrs. Mallow!” she gasped. “What a surprise…Look Fiona, what a nice surprise! Mommy’s home!”
“What were you saying to my daughter?” Marla demanded.
A dark flush suffused the babysitter’s features. “Mrs. Ma- Ma-llow,” Patricia stammered. “I-I…I was only…”
“I know what you were doing,” Marla said coldly. “You’re fired.”
“Please,” Patricia whined. “It was a misunderstanding…”
“I think not,” Marla said. “I understood everything perfectly well. Get out right now, and don’t expect a reference. You are a cruel, vicious woman taking your problems out on a four-year-old! OUT!”
Fiona ran to her mom and threw her arms around her. “It’s OK, my sweet girl,” Marla said tenderly. “Mommy loves you, and from now on, I’m going to be here for you.”
Marla stopped working late and started picking Fiona up from daycare herself. Between her daughter’s safety and well-being and promotion there really was no contest: her daughter won every time.
What can we learn from this story?
Listen to your children and believe them when they tell you something is wrong. Marla was so wrapped up in her work she didn’t see the warning signs that Fiona was being mistreated.
No one can care for our children as well as we do. Like so many working moms, Marla had no choice but to resort to daycare, but the woman she chose as a babysitter was not what she appeared to be.
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