Young moms are offered a great deal of advice. None is offered more commonly than the following pieces of parenting wisdom:
“Cherish these moments!”
“It goes by so fast!”
“You’re going to miss this so much!”
It’s good advice. It’s well-meaning, and it’s true. At times, these comments have reminded me to slow down, focus on what is important, and appreciate the wonderful moments with my young children. But there are also times when these comments can set an impossibly high bar. I was left feeling guilty for those moments when I feel bored or tired or frustrated.
When my sister-in-law, an amazing and dedicated mother, brought home her first daughter, they went through a very difficult phase. She was dealing with a colicky newborn. They were struggling to solve the gastrointestinal/feeding issues that were creating extreme fussiness in her child. With bloodshot eyes and un-brushed hair, she pushed her baby girl (who was finally sleeping!) like a zombie through the grocery store. She was approached by several women who commented, “Isn’t this such a magical time? Enjoy every moment because she’ll be grown before you know it!”
On top of her physical and mental exhaustion from dealing with her new baby, she now felt guilty. Guilty that she wasn’t enjoying every waking moment with her new baby as much as she should be. I have had many similar experiences.
In some particularly challenging phases of motherhood, someone reminded me to cherish every moment and I was left wondering: should I be enjoying this more than I am?
I desperately want to enjoy and appreciate my three sons. They are absolute gifts. I’ve had complicated pregnancies and truly feel that each of them is a miracle. These days are filled with magical moments, with baby giggles, and first steps, and sweet toddler faces that light up when you arrive to pick them up from school. But there are also many not-so-beautiful moments that might be filled with worry, or exhaustion, or frustration.
Sometimes we as moms expect ourselves to be so perfect that we enjoy every single moment with our kids. But we are also human. Let’s be honest, does any sane human actually enjoy being woken up five times a night or cleaning vomit out of the carpet? Is anyone actually riveted by the 12th rendition of Goodnight Moon?
For now, my goal is to enjoy as much as I can about my three young boys, but not feel guilty about the moments that are, frankly, not enjoyable. One moment, I may be cherishing the feeling of a sleepy, messy-haired toddler climbing into the bed. The next moment, I might be taking deep breaths to maintain composure while that toddler sobs uncontrollably because I won’t let him each brown sugar for a snack.
Motherhood can be very extreme. The highs are high and the lows are low. Some moments you cherish, and some moments you survive.
As my sons grow so rapidly I can barely believe it, my goal is not to enjoy every moment, but to enjoy a lot of moments.
Originally published December 2018.