To the lady who spoke to me in aisle 5 today,
As you parked your shopping cart beside mine in order to get a better look at the many choices of toilet paper, you were also able to witness my four-year-old using a toilet brush like a lightsaber to protect herself from her teething sister who has recently been trying to use any and all nearby ARMS as a personal chew toy. I appreciate that you rolled with it and offered me a warm smile. “Wow, you sure have your hands full,” you commented, before adding, “Enjoy every moment, while they last.”
I politely nodded back.
I know your words were offered as a gentle token of encouragement and solidarity to help me get through a tough moment. What wasn’t said is that at one point in your life, you were probably standing right where I was — in the middle of a supermarket with your children in tow, trying to hurry them out before another tantrum ensued. But still, instead of feeling supported by your words, I felt an inner twinge of guilt, like I always do when I hear this advice. I hear this sentiment so often that I have to wonder: Are other moms enjoying every moment? Maybe I’m flawed and out-of-step with my fellow mothers, but I sure am not making an effort to slow down and enjoy it all.
I do not enjoy every moment as a mother. I don’t even enjoy nearly every moment. Sure, there are some crap moments in parenting, those moments that no one enjoys. (For example, potty training a stubborn toddler, or having to fish poop out of a bathtub with your bare hands while your kids scream about how it’s floating right towards them.)
But, even the regular old moments, the perfectly peaceful ones… much of the time I wouldn’t use the word “cherish” to describe them. I love my kids deeply, but this season of parenting feels marked by so much repetition and tedium that rather than cherishing moments, I often find myself just trying to get through the day. Like so many other moms out there, I spend my days cooking meals, wiping butts, and reading brightly illustrated books. My nights are spent getting caught up on laundry, cleaning dishes, and falling asleep to that same rerun of Friends I’ve tried getting through for the past week.
I adore my kids, that is an unquestionable truth, but the reminders to hold onto these fleeting moments (moments that, to me, sometimes feel less fleeting and more like time is standing still) send me rolling on waves of shame and guilt. I’m deeply aware that I’m really not “cherishing the moment” when I want to distract my kids with an episode of Paw Patrol just so that I can sink into the couch for a brief moment and do nothing but stare at a wall.
People always comment that in the blink of an eye my girls will be all grown up and walking across a graduation stage, but every time I blink, something seems to break in another room. Some days I look in the mirror confused as to who is staring back at me. That woman with dark circles under her eyes and grey hairs peeking through couldn’t be me. Could it? At what point did I trade in my makeup bag for a diaper bag and completely lose myself to motherhood?
I know that in a few more years I’m going to look back at this stage in my life and remember only the good times, the ones that people tell me to cherish. I also know that at some point my kids will no longer look up at me like I am their entire world, and my kisses won’t be able to solve all their problems. There will come a point in time where ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ won’t sound as sweet, and my daughters will no longer request my heart shaped blueberry pancakes every morning. Nighttime Dr. Suess stories won’t be there for me to rush through, and someday I will find myself standing in aisle five, next to a mother who seems to have her own hands full. In that moment I won’t be thinking about all those sleepless nights and early mornings, and I will look at that woman, envious of the joy and chaos that surround her.
When that day comes, I’m sure I will be just like you, wanting to reach out to that mother, knowing how stressed and utterly exhausted she probably feels in that moment. I will likely give her a little smile, or a look of recognition, and offer up the same piece of advice that you freely shared with me today, and I will say to her “enjoy these moments, they go by so fast.”
The mom who has her hands full