You Don't Have to Enjoy EVERY Minute, and other Cliches I'm Sick Of
My journey through motherhood is still relatively new as my oldest is just now peeking into her pre-school years. Up to this point, believe it or not, I haven't been subjected to the constant barrage of unsolicited advice that so often bestows new and seasoned parents alike.
Why not, you may ask. Maybe it's my face. Yeah, it’s probably my face. It likely screams says: I'm not interested, turn around now!
However, there are still a few persistent little phrases that keep popping up over and over again. Though their actual words may differ, the message remains that same: Enjoy it while you can.
Overall these phrases are pretty benign, but it’s the repetitiveness that will probably cause me to one day implode on an unsuspecting participant. (For the record, I would like to apologize for that in advance. Most likely, I’ve not received a sufficient dosage of life-sustaining caffeine…or I’m just hangry. That one’s a bit of a toss-up.)
"Enjoy every minute of it."
While I understand (I think) the reasoning and meaning behind the message, I still find myself becoming annoyed whenever it’s offered up to me (#whatsnew).
Perhaps it's the context. Let’s play out a typical scenario, shall we?
Fellow Human: How's it going with the kids?
Me (replying honestly, as I'm too exhausted to pretend most days): I'm pretty tired. The baby isn't sleeping much, and the toddler seems to be more clingy and emotional than usual.
Fellow Human: Oh you'll be okay. It will all be over one day, so enjoy every minute of it now.
Me (trying to suppress the urge to roll my eyes so hard that I pass out): Mmm-hmmm, sure.
Judging from that exchange, they probably didn't REALLY want me to get all honest on them, which, fine. People do that. But it's not even strangers who ask. It's people I know. I can't tell if it's cliché or cop-out or something else entirely. Nobody can literally live that way.
Sometimes it can certainly feel like a slight dig. Almost like we should continuously celebrate and appreciate every aspect of motherhood, even the less enjoyable moments. But that’s incredibly unrealistic. Just because you're kind of over dealing with a continually waking child or a rebellious teen, doesn't mean you love your child any less.
Everyone is entitled to deal with stressful stuff because life is hard sometimes. Raising children is inherently challenging. Between lack of sleep, having to figure out your work situation and remaining emotionally available to your children, your partner and yourself, you are 100% allowed to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Motherhood is not all sunshine and rainbows (although I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir here).
"You'll Miss it One Day."
Yeah, I'm sure I'll miss my kids being little and innocent and cuddly. However, I HIGHLY doubt I will miss being treated like a human tissue. Or going days on end off of a couple hours of sleep.
But here is where these phases start to become a little less about the person being advised and more about the person providing the “advice.” What the heck does that mean? PROJECTING! It means they are projecting.
That parent (and dear Lord I hope it’s at least another parent that’s providing their insight) of a no-longer-little-kid, they miss the good times: the snuggles and hugs and "kiss my boo-boos." I like to think it’s them missing those times as they are telling you that you will miss those times. I know, I’m super deep like that.
This seems almost biological. Surely we all know now that memory is fallible. Our brains trick us, especially when it comes to kids, by only remembering certain kinds of events. That's the only way the species would continue to reproduce!
"They grow up so fast you know."
Of course, all parents know that babies and children age at the speed of light. We see it happening before our very eyes and many of us panic because every moment feels fleeting. Guilt can start to creep in, “What if I’m not enjoying their childhood enough?”
While I want to be present with my children, dinner needs to be made, the dog needs to be fed, and the baby needs a bath since he decided to play “finger paints” with his sweet potatoes. So I will continue to tackle the logistical necessities.
But when I do get a chance to breathe in the good times, I BREATHE DEEPLY. For example, every now and then I’ll lay down with my toddler daughter, ask her about her day and she gradually drifts off to sleep. I can't stress how RARE this occurs, but when it does, I commit it to memory. I hold her. I breathe her hair in. I bask I the glory that is the unconditional love for this little human. All of this to say, I soak it all up and actually do enjoy every moment of it.
Do you remember the episode of The Office when Pam and Jim get married? Remember they took "mental pictures" when the moment felt perfect? That's what I mean. You recognize the moment as being what you need and appreciate the joy of it. That's part of what keeps us going.
"These are the best years of your life."
Well, that's a tad bit presumptuous.
I might fight you (with words, because hands are not for hitting) on the idea that these are the best years of my life. Why? Because that would mean that our years together as they grow older are somehow “less good.”
Not all of us (and by us, I mean mothers, due to societal expectations) WANT to be depended upon constantly. Sure, we like feeling appreciated by our children, but being able to participate with them is a lot different than totally taking care of all their needs.
Personally, I like to think that as my children grow, those years will be good (or possibly even great) in their own regard. I look forward to meaningful conversations and dissecting their problems. I get to watch them be amazing adults and explore the world. How could that be less good?
So, no, I don't subscribe to the idea that this current phase of "being in the thick of it" should default to my best years. These are good years, but I know there are some surprising and terrific (as well as complicated and tumultuous) years ahead too.
Let it roll off your shoulder.
In the grand scheme of "things people say to parents" these phrases are pretty small potatoes (do people even say that anymore? What’s a big potato?)
Can it get annoying when we are just trying to live? Yes. But it’s easy to forget that others can see our kiddos and instantly be transported back to the good times with their babies (that aren’t babies anymore.) And reluctantly I will agree that I do need an occasional reminder to soak in the moments that count.
But if the next time someone tells you to “Enjoy every minute of it” you feel the urge to clap back, you can tell them to go “Live every day like it’s their last.” Two can play the cliché game.
Katie is a former scientist turned stay at home(ish) mom and freelance writer. She enjoys the good, deals with the less good, but mainly just laughs at the ridiculousness that often accompanies motherhood. Her husband, strong-willed toddler, velcro baby and their yappy but loveable Chorkie reside in the paradise that is the Pacific Northwest.