I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “these are the days” as a new mom, but like a newborn’s screams or a toddler’s tantrums, it pounded my eardrums over and over.
“These are the days,” someone would say, brightly, spritely.
I sputtered, covered in poop, wondering what I was missing, muttering, “Is that so, Janet?”
Family members, co-workers, parenting guides, and, of course, the ubiquitous social media posts reminded me that my babies wouldn’t be little forever. And, as their collective wisdom asserted, the transitory nature of this time meant one day I would look back with nostalgia.
Every minute of every day would shine bright, maybe even twinkle . . . like a diamond in the sky. Like the song I sang for the thousandth time, trying to soothe my colicky daughter to sleep.
Never mind the difficulties, the world told me, because one day I would sigh and realize, “Yes, those were the days!”
Except as a working parent of a four-year-old and one-year-old, mopping up vomit, paying bills, testing for COVID, and ignoring laundry until I’m out of underwear, I’m realizing that the story doesn’t check out, at least not for me.
These days are not “the days.”
Sure, there are moments of pure joy. I love my children and I’ve done my fair share of watching them sleep with a lump in my throat.
But I’m not going to miss the fatigue. The stress. The tantrums. I’m not going to miss the hours counting down until bedtime. And I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Over the past few years, there have been ordinary challenges (scrubbing the sippy cups). There have been extraordinary challenges (a global pandemic). There have been some mornings when my children were angels.
But many more where they’ve been screaming in unison, creating sheer cacophony which I’m sure they coordinated in advance, and I consider screaming along.
Some older, well-meaning lady in the grocery store wearing a holiday vest and “fun” earrings spots your children being children — exhausting, noisy children — and she gives you a kindly smile, and says some variation of the words.
Or maybe they came from the mouth of a friend with slightly older kids, overwhelmed with pre-teen drama, forgetting what the toddler years are like.
“Oh, I’ve been there, and let me tell you, these are the days. Enjoy them while they last.”
I’m happy for anyone who enjoyed every minute and every moment of any stage of childhood. Truly, I am. Because in my opinion, this shit is hard.
Of course, a lot depends on your individual situation, your environment, your family, your support, and heck yes, your kids.
Some situations are harder than others. Some kids are harder than others, yes I said it, and no I’m not blaming them. I’m just trying to be honest.
For me, being honest means admitting that it isn’t easy to hear someone say that somehow “these days” that are pushing me to the limits of all of my resources — mental, emotional, physical, financial — are “the days.”
Am I doing it wrong? Am I a bad person, a bad mom? Should I feel guilty and inadequate, as well as overwhelmed?
Maybe it’s time to listen and understand that parents can love their children every day without loving every day.
Not all 365 days a year, in all their highs and their lows, their exhaustion and their exhilaration, and that’s okay.
We can love the good moments. And we can explode with joy when a child learns to say “mama” while rolling our eyes when they say it twenty times in a row.
We can snuggle our face in our baby’s neck folds at 2:00 o’clock in the morning while being sick of the nighttime nursing.
Yes, we can have all the feelings and still be decent parents.
I don’t think it’s just me. I asked my husband his thoughts on whether these days could be “the days.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked on a morning when he was making Funfetti Oreo pancakes at 6 a.m. on a weekend and the children were howling nonetheless, completely unappreciative of his offering.
He responded, and I quote, “I’m hoping to suppress all these memories. I don’t need this kind of negativity.”
Looking back, there’s another phrase I’ve heard a lot as a mom, and I hope this one is true: things get easier with time.
From my personal experience, I’ve been thrilled to leave behind the pain of childbirth, the agony of colic, and the bone-numbing fatigue of waking every two hours to feed the hungry beast.
I think the newborn days were harder than our current stage in life. But that doesn’t make these days all smiles and giggles. And I certainly don’t remember the infant phase with nostalgia.
Instead, I’m ready to continue on to the next chapter –- complete with its own challenges. But with a more realistic set of expectations and an ever-deepening connection with these infuriating, wonderful kids.
Let’s take a break from the myth that all of these days should be “the days.”
Some days are good. Some days are a mix. And some days your kid learns to remove their diaper and poops on the floor while your back is turned. There’s no coming back from that.
The faux-inspirational words of my neighbor are not going to help me clean my carpet. They’re just going to add more pressure — of which I already have plenty, thanks.