“Don’t tell me to enjoy every moment!” exclaims blog post after blog post. And I get it. As a new parent, or a parent in the throes of diaper changing, toddler tantrum-ing, minivan driving, potty training yoga pant wearing chaos that is those first few years, the LAST thing you want to hear is someone tell you that you’ll miss this. “The hell I will,” you want to shoot back. You are not going to miss the diaper explosions, the incessant crying, the sleepless nights and the not remembering the last time you showered days. Not you. And yes, you know it goes fast. You’ve heard this all before. “Stop telling me I’m going to miss this and it goes by so fast!,” you lament.
I get it, but I’m telling you anyway.
A dear friend of mine had her first child years before children were on my radar. As her son grew, she would dole out unsolicited parenting advice. Well, more like she would tell me her experiences, and I was more than willing to listen. After all, I had no children of my own. She was giving me my first glimpse into the exclusive club called motherhood.
Two years later, when her daughter was born, she said something which has stuck with me all these years. She told me she wished she had never rushed her son to the next stage. When he began to sit up, she wanted him to would crawl; when he crawled, she couldn’t wait for him to walk, and so on. She was committed to soaking in every moment with her baby daughter and not wish for time to move faster. She planned to enjoy more. Perhaps because I had not yet felt the sting of mom shaming, I did not resent her words. I took what she said to heart.
Over 10 years later, my daughter burst onto the scene. I made it my mission to enjoy the little moments and soak in as much as I could. Though it was at the dawn of the iPhone, I still managed to capture countless photos and videos. I also have journals which chronicled my pregnancy and first few years of her life. When navigating motherhood was especially tough, I would remind myself that these days will go by in the blink of an eye. Did it make me love washing cloth diapers or look forward to hearing the wails of a tired baby? No. You don’t have to enjoy every moment, just hold the moments close to your heart. My friend’s honest words about her experience helped me not wish any of the time away, not even the hard stuff.
I hope to pass along some wisdom to those of you who are struggling to enjoy the good times because of the sheer magnitude of difficulties which accompany the first years.
My beautiful baby, born at 37 weeks with a head full of hair and giant blue eyes is now a nine-year-old little lady with her own friends, interests, fashion sense and mood swings. She is a completely different creature than she was almost 10 years ago. My daughter no longer has her high-pitched voice, her round face or her adorable pout. I haven’t rocked her to sleep in years, and she certainly doesn’t need me the way she used to.
While I wouldn’t go back, because I love who my children are becoming, I miss it. Some days, I miss the baby years so much it pains me.
I recently stumbled upon a photo of her when she was nearly a year old, and I cried. I didn’t cry because I want her to be a baby still, but because there is no tangible way to revisit those moments aside from photos and memories. We cannot go back. That’s why we encourage you to enjoy it, mamas. Because even if you treasure this time, you will still miss it so much. And if you spend the first few years wishing it all away, you will regret it. No, you won’t regret wishing away the terrible days; I wouldn’t want to relive those either. However, if you aren’t being intentional and trying to enjoy these days and soak them in, you will have an even harder time when your Facebook memories pop up and your teeny tiny baby is now old enough to make you breakfast.
Not only do I know what it’s like to miss the moments I enjoyed, I also know the regret of not enjoying as many moments. Having had three children in just over three years meant for a while I was too tired and too “in the trenches” to be intentional about enjoying motherhood.
You may think you know how much you’ll miss this, just as did I. However, it isn’t until you struggle to remember the new baby smell, the nights you rocked them to sleep or their adorable toddler voice that you realize just how fast the time goes. It isn’t until the memories of early motherhood all but fade, only to rush back when you least expect, that you can fully grasp how fleeting the days are. Just like you can’t know what motherhood is going to be like until you experience it, you can’t know how much you’ll miss it until you miss it more than you ever thought possible.
Though I wish I had done more to cherish the moments with my boys, I know I tried my best, and my best was enough.
Along with intentionally enjoying the moments remind yourself that your child will leave you one day – and that they are supposed to leave you. My little girl is now 26. I have seen countless moms collapse when their child goes off to college because they never thought that their child would actually leave. Remembering that she was mine for only a little while made it easier when she left and made it easier for us to have an adult relationship.