One thing I was not prepared for when I became a parent was Mom guilt.
This warm & fuzzy emotion is gifted to you the moment you are handed your child and it is yours to keep for all of eternity. All wrapped up with a pretty bow.
Mom Guilt is constant, right from infancy. Was I present enough today? Are they happy? Am I doing this right? I’m totally screwing this up, aren’t I?
As Mothers, we do an exceptional job of finding things to feel guilty about all on our own. So, when I say what I’m about to, I do so delicately… because… guilt.
Please. Please. Stop telling us to enjoy our kids before they’re all grown up.
When you imagine yourself having children, when you’re young and starry-eyed and everything is about being round & pregnant and how sweet and chubby that baby will be, you can never fathom things being anything but wonderful.
You wrap yourself up in the warmth of those daydreams — being the perfect Mom that dotes on her baby, sings lullabies, bakes & goes to playgroups — always smiling.
And those moments are there.
But the moments you don’t daydream about, they’re there too.
Those moments where you’re just barely hanging on to your sanity. When that sweet, chubby little baby will not stop crying, despite the fact that you’ve done all the doting & sung all the lullabies. The times when you just need to lock yourself in the bathroom for a minute to regain a little composure because that cherub-faced toddler has pushed every one of your buttons, and you just can’t.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that wholeheartedly. A lot of thought goes into choosing that village – the people who will support my children and my family, help with our growth, be there for the shit.
So, I can honestly say, I know that when I hear, “Oh, but before you know it they’ll be grown & gone. Enjoy this time”, it’s not coming from a place of malice, but rather one of knowing how fleeting these trying moments are in the grand scheme of things.
But in these moments, it feels dismissive at best. In these moments, I’m likely already feeling the guilt and this is not what I needed.
I know this comment comes from a place of knowing — knowing and longing.
I believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder; you remember everything in a more golden light. I’m sure this is how we birth multiple children because no one really remembers the pain, you just remember the beautiful outcome.
That’s what I imagine it’s like to have grown children. But this serves to make me feel like I’m going wrong; like I’m not appreciating my children enough and I should be really taking pause to enjoy every single moment. Maybe I should be happier while I scream my throat raw or I should be smiling as my son rolls his eyes at me for the sixth time today.
And so the Mom guilt creeps in like a heavy fog.
The most helpful moment of validation I have ever had came from a complete stranger in a grocery store when my babe was 3 weeks old. It had taken me a full two days of timing to get there — between explosive poops and marathon feeding sessions — and he cried from the moment we walked through the door.
I’m sure I wore every ounce of my exhaustion & self-doubt right there on my face. Another mom, with a slightly older child in her cart, came up to me and simply said, “It gets better.”
She got it. She knew what I was feeling because she was me not all that long ago. That act, those words — they soothed my heart.
As a mature parent, in another stage of life, I still believe — I have to believe — that at one time or another, you were there. I know you were. So please, if you see another mom struggle, please don’t tell her to “enjoy it”. She is, but she’s having a moment. Let her.
Pour her a glass of wine. Tell her she looks pretty when that vein pops out in her forehead. Tell her about how your kids used to push your buttons in the same way, how you got through it and how worthwhile it was.
Because it is. It is SO worthwhile.
I don’t need a reminder that they’re growing up before my eyes — I know it, I see it, every moment.
It makes me sad, happy, terrified, guilty & excited, all at once. One night they go to bed with chubby little baby cheeks and the next morning, they wake up, inexplicably with the face of a boy; one day it will be the face of a man.
But to see them become their own people, it’s worth the guilt and the frustration and the moments where you just want to scream into a pillow. Because as much as one minute you’ll want to lock them in their room for eternity, your heart might explode the next as they come and envelope you in a whole body hug and tell you how wonderful you are. Or hold your hand in comfort.
Life is fleeting. All these moments are passing in the blink of an eye. I know I’ll miss them — all of them — I just don’t always need the reminder.
This post was originally published on the FLOAT AND STING BLOG.