You know what’s super unenjoyable? Being told to enjoy something. It’s a bit like being told to calm down. If I’m having a brain popping rage attack and you tell me to calm down, you might as well whisper “and then set fire to my car” because the end result will be much the same.
So when some sweet, well-meaning older lady looks at me and my children as they prepare to engage in the 76th Hunger Games on the floor of the fruit and veg section and titters, “cherish every moment”, it’s touch-and-go to see if I can muster a non-committal, doesn’t-reach-the-eyes smile or if I just grab her round the neck and throw her into the arena with the kids.
“It goes so fast,” she breathes. Misty eyes. Head tilted to the side. Hands across the heart. It’s always the same.
I know people mean well. They’ve been there, they know how fast it goes and how much I’ll miss it when my kids grow up. I know it too. I know I’ll sob when I think about how precious these days were. But when you’re past the stage of poo and tears and screaming, you tend to forget that some of it was actual bullshit.
It’s too much pressure
Like mums need one more thing to fail at, now we’re adding ‘not happy enough’ to the list? All day long, I’m looking at my kids, thinking, am I cherishing this enough? No? Fuck, why can’t I be more #blessed and #inthemoment? What’s wrong with me??
Mothers are under pressure to spend all day providing educational, uplifting, sensory rich, nutrient dense, character building experiences for our children and we have to enjoy it all too. There’s no question we enjoy our kids; we love them. But there are moments – lots and lots and lots of moments – where it feels like tedious, repetitive grunt work. It’s not as complicated as raising older kids, but I think older mothers forget: it’s exhausting.
It’s stupidly unrealistic
I’ve literally been told to “even enjoy their tantrums”. What psychopath enjoys tantrums? Is there something I’m missing? The child’s obviously upset and the mum’s frustrated and doubting herself for not knowing how to keep her child happy and calm.
Some aspects of raising small children are decidedly unenjoyable. Sleepless nights, sick babies, dinnertime, FAECES… Yes, in hindsight you can look back and think how wonderful it was when they needed you so much, but when you’re in the moment and your child is screeching at a pitch that would deafen dachshunds, it’s completely normal to wish you were sipping Mai Tais in Maui. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your children, just that you’re capable of recognising the difference between a trip to Disneyland and the screaming, biting, kicking shit storm on the floor of aisle 9 at Coles.
It’s bad advice
Human emotions don’t work without the ups and the downs; there’s no good without the bad. If you spent all day cherishing every moment, nothing would be special. And I’d question your sanity. Like, how fat’s your baby scrapbook ffs? Because we all know you’ve got one #makingmemories.
Sometimes you need to have a whole day of fuuuucccccckkk to really appreciate those little arms around your neck at bedtime, so you can say, “yep, it’s worth it. Despite everything that has gone wrong today, you are spectacular and I love you.
It’s unfairly critical
Thanks for the guilt trip, kindly old lady! The underlying message is: you obviously don’t love your children enough. Every mother knows you can be consumed with love for your children and yet, well…not like them very much because, let’s be honest, children can be demons from the pit of hell. If an adult called us a poo-fart-poo face, threw the food we just made on the floor and then screamed nonsensically for ten minutes straight, we’d probably unfriend them immediately. We forgive our children because they’re children and we expect different things from them but it doesn’t make their behaviour any more pleasant.
It’s also a kick in the guts for anyone who has to work and put their kids in daycare because we already know we don’t have enough time with our kids so it’s just one more reminder of how we’re failing our kids and squandering their childhood while we put food on the table.
When you’re telling mums to cherish every moment, what you’re really saying is, “don’t complain”. Which means we’re not allowed to admit when we’re struggling or need help. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed but when we’re told we should be cherishing every second, it feels like there’s something wrong with us and that’s where the spiral of self-doubt begins.
Trust me when I say I’m cherishing the moments that deserve to be cherished. The sweet cuddles, the funny things they say, the tiny arms around my neck. I squeeze my eyes shut and compel my brain to remember them like this. I know how fast they’re growing; it’s agony at times, knowing how much I’ll miss it all and I wouldn’t wish a single moment away.
But I’m not going to cherish every moment. Sometimes kids suck and we need to be able to say that out loud or we might implode under the pressure of being so goddamn grateful all the time.
Do you cherish every moment?