If you’re a woman with a few kids in a certain age range, you know that you can’t go anywhere in public (but specifically grocery stores, Target, or a library), without someone coming up to you and saying, “Enjoy every moment. It goes by too fast.” Depending on your mood, you may or may not want to throw some choice words their way, hand them your neediest child, and book it to the nearest Starbucks. Personally, I always try to be gracious to people who say this, because I know it’s true- these years with my children are precious, and I know that’s what they’re getting at.
But the admonition to “Enjoy. Every. Moment.” seems to be the all-consuming dictum of modern motherhood. I once saw someone on an online forum tell a young woman that if she wasn’t enjoying every second of motherhood, she was clearly doing something wrong. I laughed out loud, but then I realized that that poor woman who this comment was directed at probably wasn’t laughing. Because we’re simultaneously told we should be willing to give it all up for our kids, but also that we should be really enjoying it.
Listen. I’ll be the first to tell you that I find immense joy in motherhood. That raising my children is one of the most fulfilling, important things I think I will ever do. I have fun with my kids and I love being with them. But I don’t always enjoy motherhood. I enjoy warm cups of tea. I enjoy tropical vacations. I enjoy having lunch with my friends. But raising kids? It seems silly to act like it could be comparable to those things.
First of all, it’s… um… HARD. It’s physically a lot of work, yeah? Especially in the early years where these little people have such intense needs, both physical and emotional. Someone is quite literally always touching you, even when you’re going to the bathroom or attempting to cook them a meal. There is a lot of bending and lifting and running up and down the stairs to get fresh onesies. That stuff makes you tired at the end of the day.
Moms. It’s ok to be tired.
Second, it’s a lot of mental pressure, especially when this world is doing it’s darndest to derail what you’re trying to instill in them. Factor in the hoardes of people who have an opinion on how to best go about this and you have a whole other level of confusion and ambiguity. I’ve felt my brain stretched in a multitude of ways, just trying to figure out the best course of action for my kids. I like to think of myself as a smart person, but I still often feel overwhelmed.
Moms. It’s ok to be overwhelmed.
Third, it’s an enormous emotional and spiritual task to raise kids. We’ve been sent these little people because God thinks that we are uniquely suited to be their parents. Knowing this is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Sometimes I feel like yelling up to heaven, “Hey! Up there! I’m not feeling uniquely suited to these children today, God!” I do believe that I can give them what they need, but that doesn’t mean I can do it without discouragement creeping in now and then.
Moms. It’s ok to be a little discouraged sometimes.
Can I offer an alternative to enjoying every single moment of motherhood?
Enjoy most of it. And when you are enjoying it, enjoy it with all you’ve got. Revel in your kids’ laughter and their soft little hands enveloped in yours. Give them big toothy grins when they tell you about their day and sing the ABCs at the top of your lungs when they need accompaniment. Tickle their toes and spend time trying to memorize the way it feels to run your fingers through their hair. When those moments come along in your day, don’t waste them trying to make them picture perfect or wondering where your cell is or thinking about what you’ll make for dinner. Just enjoy those moments.
And let the hard times be hard. It’s ok. You don’t have to feel bad about not enjoying cleaning up puke from the bathroom floor at 3 am. I’m giving you permission. (Just in case having permission from a random person on the internet is the type of thing that matters to you.) When we stop feeling like we need to make every moment of our kids’ lives picture perfect and enjoyable, it leaves us some room to breathe and (get this!) really, truly enjoy more of their childhood. These year are precious, there’s no denying it; but more important than just enjoying them, we can actually be at peace in them (and not just in retrospect), knowing that we’re fully present and accepting of both the good and the hard.