“Enjoy it while they’re young. You’ll miss this stage.” These are the words we constantly hear from the elderly women at the grocery stores in the checkout lines. It’s easy for them to say. They haven’t woken up with a baby in the middle of the night or breastfed in decades. But somehow, they expect these words to remind us to relax and soak it all in. Maybe these words hold some truth, but for mothers really struggling in the thick of it with their children, these words make us feel like bad moms for not always enjoying every moment of our child’s infancy. Some of us seriously aren’t going to miss this stage. Some of us have postpartum depression right now and want nothing more than to get out of this stage. You see, this stage isn’t just about your baby, it’s about both your baby and you. This stage could be a lot easier if maybe you didn’t have to coach yourself out of bed every morning or find the will to take a shower. For some of us, this stage provokes the demons in our heads caused by our mental illness. The constant tantrums, crying, and diaper blowouts don’t exactly help postpartum depression go away. For some of us, we find solace in the thought of moving onto the next stage where our children are more independent and have better social skills. We look forward to the days where we can take our child out to a nice lunch without the constant glares of “paying customers” who just want to enjoy a peaceful lunch outing. For some of us, the thought of the next stage is all that is getting us through this stage.
While having brunch a few weeks ago at a diner with my sister, my son inevitably started to get riled up when he couldn’t reach the red crayon on the ground that he purposely threw to the ground in the first place. Then, his hunger started to kick in and it wasn’t held off very well with the blueberry muffins they brought out to us as an appetizer. Once the food arrived, he settled down for a hot minute and then became irritated again and started to slouch out of his booster seat into the abyss below the table. I’m sure the waiter could tell by my face that I was struggling, so in an effort to make me feel better, she told me to “Enjoy it while they’re young.” She said I was going to miss this phase. But deep down, I felt like I really wasn’t going to. I will not miss having to clean up the mess my son throws under the table. I will not miss the embarrassing tantrums at the grocery store. And I will definitely not miss when my son spazzes out when I try to put him in his car seat or try to change his diaper.
When a stranger tells you to enjoy these moments, it makes you feel like a bad mom for truly not enjoying these moments. It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong. But honestly, this whole infant/ toddler stage is not easy. Sure there are moments of blissful outings to the nature trail or local trampoline park, but I’d say a lot of my time is spent chasing my little one and making sure they are kept out of harm’s way. It’s exhausting and some of us mothers are just ready to move on. We’re ready to see the days where we can finally sleep in on a Saturday morning, rather than being woken up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast and watch, yet again, more of those obnoxious kids shows on YouTube. We’re ready for the days when our child can buckle themselves up in the car and walk themselves efficiently from point A to point B, without trying to run into the street. Some of us just aren’t meant to enjoy the toddler/ infant stage. We all have preferences with everything in life, so why can’t we be allowed to have preferences with our children’s childhood. Some of us are going to love the teenager years more than the newborn stage. Some of us are going to love the tween stage more than the toddler stage. It all varies by mom, so just be respectful of that.
So if you’re one of those elderly women who likes to hand out unsolicited advice all the time, take a step back for once, and maybe just offer a compliment this time. Tell a mother she’s doing great and that you understand the struggles of motherhood. Offer to help a mother carry her groceries to her car, but please… Stop telling us we need to enjoy this phase of life. You couldn’t possibly know exactly what every mother is going through, so keep your two cents to yourself. You all make it sound like we can slow down time and prolong the growth of our child by simply enjoying this moment. But at the end of the day, our children are still going to grow up whether we enjoy it or not. So to all you struggling mothers out there, it’s okay to not enjoy waking up every 2-3 hours at night (if you’re enjoying that, you should probably get yourself checked out). In the end, all that truly matters is that you love yourself and love your beautiful baby.