While it feels like only yesterday that the faceless heir to the Crawley dynasty unceremoniously sank to the bottom of the ocean along with the Titanic, we are soon to bid adieu to the beloved characters of Downton Abbey forever. I will dearly miss Earl and Lady Grantham, the irascible Dowager Countess, the undeterred Isobel, indomitable Mary, beleaguered Edith and cute-as-a-four-leaf-clover Tom, but the characters I’ll miss most of all are the servants.
It’s not that I don’t love the upper crust with their clipped accents, slap-in-the-face directness and glamorous if tedious lives. It’s just that as a parent of a young child, I tend to identify more closely with the downstairs crew. There are days I am as curmudgeonly as Mr. Carson, as no-nonsense as Mrs. Hughes, slaving in the kitchen from dawn until dusk like Daisy and Mrs. Patmore, scheming for my big break like Mr. Barrow, or dreaming of a life beyond service like Mr. Molesley. As a mom of three, my life more resembles that of the nameless housemaid scurrying down the hall with a bucket and mop in hand. Here are a few ways parenting young kids is a lot like working at Downton Abbey:
1. You Have to Dress Them
Until the little tikes figure out how to put on their leggings the right way around, you’re constantly on your knees holding open waistbands for them to step into while they hold on to you with the Vulcan death grip. Thank goodness you’re there; otherwise, they’d try to cram their head into an armhole! Then there’s the buttoning, zipping and tying that goes along with most dresses, sweaters and shoes. There you go milady. All set for music class!
2. You Brush Their Hair for Them
If only brushing a child’s hair went as smoothly as when Anna strokes Lady Mary’s shiny, chic bob. Unfortunately, it’s more like wrestling a rabid dog with your bare hands. When you finally contain the wild beast, she screams bloody murder before you’ve even touched her hair! The requested French braid devolves into a hastily tied ponytail that looks more like a stringy mop. Maybe you should go to beauty school when you get the sack.
3. You’re Always Cleaning Their Shoes
Sand, wood chips, mud, dog poo—you name it, it’s either in or on their shoes, and it’s your job to get rid of it. Either that, or deal with insufferable dirt tracks throughout the house that you will inevitably have to sweep up. And what else do you have to do at 10 p.m. anyway? Nothing, of course! You’re here to serve.
4. You Don’t Tell Them Everything You Know
The servants at Downton know more about the Crawley’s affairs, secrets, history and family tree than the family itself. I mean, come on, everyone downstairs knew that Marigold was Edith’s daughter, but they didn’t breathe a word to their upstairs counterparts. The same holds true for us parents: Of course we know there’s a 24-hour Krispy Kreme 10 minutes from the house, but we won’t be telling the 4-year-old that!
5. They Demand Your Presence at All Hours
It’s 11:02 p.m. and little Caden needs a sip of water. It’s 2:27 a.m. and now he needs help going potty. It’s 6:13 a.m. and can you please pour the milk for his cereal right now?! At Downton, there’s a tiny silver bell that rings downstairs whenever a servant is needed. At your house, it’s the shrill whining of your kids that sends you running. As Cora once said: “You are being tested. And you know what they say my darling, being tested only makes you stronger.” In that case, you’re ready to join the Olympic power lifting team.
6. They Change The Plan Without Notice and Expect You to Go Along With It
You don’t want to go to the zoo with Zara? Okay, fine, let me just call her mom. What’s that? You hate all green things even though you just told me you love all green things so I steamed an entire bunch of organic broccoli for dinner? Fine, eat cereal. Like poor Mr. Barrow who thought he had a butlership ahead of him, don’t expect the master of the house to stick with the plan.
7. They Require Your Undying Devotion
Maybe this is just part and parcel of being a parent, but kids, especially little ones, require serious commitment. You’ve got to hop to in the middle of the night, wipe poopy butts, mop up vomit, drive to and fro, and shower them with unconditional love, sparkly praise, and endless encouragement. Maybe it’s not as drastic as having to keep mum about milady losing her virginity to a Turk as you secretly haul his dead body out of her bedroom in the middle of the night, but it’s pretty damn close.
8. They Have No Idea How Lucky They Are
You’ve washed his favorite superhero T-shirt for the third time this week because you know he loves to wear it everyday. You bought Trader Joe’s Cheddar Rockets because she loves to eat those and only those for snack. You will endure the stress and mess that is a preschool playdate because that is what moms do. Do these kids have any clue how good they’ve got it? Doubtful. Like the Crawleys, they’re simply born into it—at least until they’re old enough to do their own laundry.
Just as Downton Abbey has come to an end, the little kid phase of parenting will one day be done as well. Our children will grow up and be able to wipe their own behinds, brush their own hair, and drive themselves to the Krispy Kreme. Like the cherished servants of Downton, we too will one day be released from servitude. Until then, keep calm and carry on because, as the Dowager says, being defeatist is so middle class.