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Being mindful, living in the now, cherishing every moment,
being present—all because it will go so fast. It's something moms with little kids hear all the time, especially from
mothers of older children. I appreciate it. I understand where it comes from.
But it's really bad advice.
I adore each of my children. They are marvelous people. But
I don't always love "it"—the day-to-day process of just getting through the day. It's hard to enjoy every moment, because many
moments are frankly not that great. I spend, for example, a lot of time in
toilet stalls, or pushing a stroller through town while carrying the bike of a
toddler who has decided biking is no longer a thing of interest.
I know I'm going to miss these years. I know, on
reflection, they will have been among my happiest. But trying to savor each
moment won't impact the inevitability of my children's growing older and
needing me less, or of my pining for the days when they were little.
That inevitability is part of the process—they are supposed
to get bigger, be more independent. I know the day will come when my daughters
no longer want to sleep in my arms when they are not feeling well, and my son
won't cry on my lap when he's frustrated.
[P]lease don't ask that I enjoy every minute. I don't. I won't.
It will make me sad, but sadness and loss are parts of all
relationships. What's important is that when I reminisce on these years, even
though I might ache for them at times, it will reinforce how happy they have made me. Sometimes a little distance reveals more overall joy than forcing yourself to feel it in every
moment of your life, in real time.
Because many moments are not ones you want to live in, but
rather get out of, quickly. Like playing peek-a-boo when you're stressed about a
deadline or standing in a playground with a stomach flu. The existential crises
that can arise from explaining, again, to another human being how to blow one's
Some aspects of parenting that I expected to be hard have turned out not to be, while some of the excruciating ones I never even saw coming. Before having children, I dreaded diapers and thought they
were gross. They're not. But here's what is: wiping a child's feces off the side of a
public toilet bowl. In 90-degree heat. While 7 months' pregnant with your third baby.
But if I pull back from those moments and look at the big picture, I do know that I am enjoying these years.
And because of this, I know I will look back on them wishing I could
live them again, even as I wake up some mornings staring into the abyss of
10 hours alone with three children and I think, "I can't." Because at the ends of those days,
when my children are back in their beds for the night, I still look back on the day
and feel tired but content.