It’s Downton season, mamas. PBS is suddenly in vogue. Evening tea is a weekly ritual. And everyone is taking those silly quizzes to find out Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?
Let me spare you 5 minutes. If you have young daughters, the answer is: Lady’s Maid.
True, you may think that you’re the lady of the house, with the master bedroom and a formal title (either Mama or Mommy or Mommeeee or Mmmamamama!), but the real lady of the house is probably your 2-year-old daughter.
At least she is in ours.
Her bedroom may be the tiniest, but it’s likely the most thoughtfully decorated, highly-curated and Pinterest-worthy room in your manor. There may even be a mini chandy.
She rings the “gong” each morning–actually just a cry for Mommy–to change and dress her. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m ready to start my shift, as Downton fans know, the gong waits for no one. Sending a substitute, such as the head butler (aka Daddy), simply won’t do.
The little lady needs her Lady’s Maid.
Downstairs, I temporarily morph into a downstairs cast member, and take on the dual role of head cook and kitchen maid. I make Cheerios like it’s nobody’s business and cut up fresh fruit for the lady of the house. When she devours the whole thing with enthusiastic mmmm’s, I feel like Mrs. Patmore. When she ceremoniously dumps it on the floor, I feel like Daisy the kitchen maid.
When mealtime is over, I’m back to being a Lady’s Maid. I’m at her beck and call around the clock, catering to her every whim and desire. I try to sneak in a cup or two of tea now and then, even the Downton servants, after all, are allotted proper tea breaks. But the lady always seems to need me to attend to a Very Important Matter–such as building a giant Mega Bloks tower– before I can finish a cup.
During her nap, I tend to her frocks. This little lady has a wardrobe that rivals any duchess of York–or my own. She has so many shoes, tops, dresses, leggings and coordinating hair bows that figuring out how to combine them all is a full-time job in itself. Fortunately, the lady has more than a few opinions on what she wants to wear-or more often, not wear–so this task does not fall solely on me.
I spend most of my efforts washing, de-staining (always with the de-staining!), mending (that’s a lie; I outsource that to Grandma because I’m a Lady’s Maid Who Can’t Sew), and matching tiny socks with their coordinating Disney Princesses.
Then, there are the dinner parties. We don’t sit down to a Downton-style dinner every night, but we do entertain regularly and the hostess with the mostess likes to be the belle of the ball. During a dress rehearsal for her birthday party–a multi-course Mad Hatter-style tea–I inquire whom she wants to invite. After thinking it over for a moment, she thoughtfully replies: Woof! Attention Doggies of Downton, you are more than welcome at (or under) the dinner table this year.
Anytime we set the table for more than our family of three, out come the stuffed toys. They occupy formally empty chairs nearly as fast as I can set the table. Multi-colored plastic bowls and toy measuring cups get mixed up with the Wedgewood china, and an old baby bottle is set out for the lady’s doll. The lady of the house greets each guest with toothy toddler smiles and ensures they’re thoroughly entertained throughout the evening–that is until it’s time for her to go to bed–at which time I, the Lady’s Maid, will draw our hostess a warm bath and tend to her nightly ritual of bath, story and bed.
If a day in the life of a Lady’s Maid seems daunting, fear not. The position of Lady’s Maid is an esteemed one on Downton Abbey; the women who hold the title work hard to achieve such status and have arrived, in a sense. Miss Baxter even waxes poetic about her good fortune in becoming a Lady’s Maid to a countess–and I think I know why.
It’s hard work, yes, but rewarding beyond comprehension. That’s why I’m proud to call myself a Lady’s Maid. It’s a badge of honor I wear on my daily mom uniform of Comfy Casual Chic–and I can’t help but beam with pride when I think about what it means to be a mom. I feel fulfilled, grateful and, most of all, happy in my work.
In other words, being a Lady’s Maid is like having a perma-pregnancy glow.
And on those days when being a Lady’s Maid feels especially taxing or overwhelming–and I just want to run away with the chauffeur (also Daddy) for a kid-free weekend–I have this thought:
Someday all too soon my little girl will grow up and leave the abbey–and I’ll be the lady of the house again.