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The Case Against Cherishing Every Moment

Photograph by Getty Images

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.

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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 nose.

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.

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I love my children completely. I'd die for each of them. Taking care of them and knowing them enriches my life and brings me joy. But please don't ask that I enjoy every minute. I don't. I won't.

And when I feel like I should, I feel like I'm failing. Which, most certainly, I'm not.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Hamilton

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