We walk through the grocery aisle or the Target checkout or through the library or down the street or pretty much anywhere and well meaning strangers look at us with those eyes full of love and we know exactly what is coming: “Enjoy this… it just goes so quickly.”
Here’s the thing: I do enjoy this. I do relish these moments. I was the mama rocking her newborn at 3:00am reminding myself to do that very thing: to memorize the ten tiny pounds on my chest, the entire hand that wrapped around my one finger, the way she stretched with her elbows out first.
I pay attention to moments, I am aware of the minutes that sail through the weeks with such lightening speed, and I cherish this unique season in our family.
But I wonder: What about those moments that are hard? What about those minutes you do not cherish and the days that are not precious? What do those well-meaning strangers say about those?
Like this morning when my 22-month-old had a two hour long meltdown and I responded with: I’m done with you, and promptly shut myself in our bedroom eating chocolate until I regained my sanity.
Or when we were at TJMaxx and the girls bickered so fiercely that they knocked our cart over which fell on top of them, their screams echoing throughout the store.
Or during a day that my 1st trimester pregnancy exhaustion reached capacity and I was confronted with two completely demanding toddlers and I exclaimed Can’t you just go take care of yourself for awhile?!
What about those moments that are just hard? What do we do then? Is it really even feasible to enjoy those?
Those moments when you feel like a failure of a mother. When you feel like you did not love them nearly as much or as actively as you should have. When your patience slipped, when your words were too harsh, your gaze too vicious.
But here’s the thing about moments: they have this way of moving. They tick and they flash and they creep by. Every single one of them. These moments are going to happen whether we want them to or not, whether we are ready for them or not. Some are going to be easier to enjoy than others, some are going to sting more than others, some will be more precious than others.
And really, well-meaning strangers, we are trying so very hard to not miss these moments because in our heart of hearts we know that the advice is true: time does fly, moments do pass, we should enjoy this unique and sacred and special time in our family. We know that time works on its own schedule, speeding up when we want it to slow down and crawling by when we need it to fly.
But here’s the thing: we’re not going to enjoy every moment. We’re just not. Because being a mama is hard. It just is.
So to the exhausted mamas and the new ones and the barely surviving ones and the sick ones and the obsessive ones and the ones at the end of her rope and the ones surviving on coffee: forget about trying to enjoy every moment. It will be one more thing you feel like you “should” be doing in order to be a good mother.
Here’s what you need to know instead: you already are a good mother. You love your kids fiercely, and that is what counts.
So what if we reframe the word enjoy? What if instead of trying to enjoy every single moment, we lean into them instead, even if it threatens to sabotage us. What if we dig in and embrace those moments because embracing those sharp moments is an act of defiance, really. It is declaring that the hard moments don’t win. It is an act of bravery in affirming that you are more than the sum of your terrible minutes. It is an act of courage to dig deep into each and every moment even if there are a few thorns.
And so now, when I am confronted with the whining and the bickering and the exhaustion and the worry and the fears threatening to take over, I will look for something new. I will look for what I can embrace within the moment: the chocolate staining her cheek from when she snuck a bite of cookie, new words like appetizer and ridiculous that she tries on for size even though they completely don’t fit, the other one’s new favorite skill of walking backwards, or even just maybe try to laugh instead of cry at how terribly awry the day has gone.
Because I want to know that I lived completely and audaciously… not only mostly. Even through these little years that can be so very exhausting. Even through moments that threaten my very sanity. Even then.
And so the next time someone tells you to enjoy this just as you are about ready to scream at somebody, simply smile and say “I will.” And then with every ounce of defiance within you: don’t let the hard day win, look for one teeny tiny moment you can grasp within it all and embrace it with everything you’ve got.
Related post: Dear Exhausted Mom In The Trenches