“Enjoy every moment.”
My neighbors recently became grandparents, and their daughter was visiting with her baby. When they saw me outside, they called me over to show off their little princess—she was just as adorable as you can imagine.
After ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the new baby, they asked how my twins were doing. They couldn’t believe it when I said they were 5 years old and in kindergarten. (Heck, I can barely believe they’re 5 years old and in kindergarten!) My neighbor turned to her daughter and said, “See? It goes so quickly. Enjoy every moment!”
“Enjoy every moment.”
I then looked at my neighbor’s daughter and spoke from my heart.
“Enjoy every moment,” I said. “That’s a lot of pressure. It’s not possible to really enjoy every moment. Plus, while there are certainly many extremely enjoyable moments, there are also many totally-not-enjoyable ones. And it’s OK if you don’t enjoy those moments. I promise. You’re still a good mommy, even if you don’t enjoy every moment.”
I wish I could describe the look of relief that came over this new mother’s face. It looked as though the weight of the world had been lifted off of her shoulders. She said, “You are the first person who ever said something like that to me. THANK YOU!!!!!”
This brought me back to when my twins were infants. My husband and I had wanted children very badly, but struggled to conceive—our twins are IVF miracles. After a complicated pregnancy, they were born premature and spent their first few weeks of life in the NICU.
When they were finally able to come home, I was so happy to have the family I’d dreamed of, but I was also totally overwhelmed. For several weeks I couldn’t get them to sleep at the same time—ever. At any minute, day or night, somebody was awake. I was beyond exhausted. I distinctly remember collapsing on the couch and screaming, “I can’t do this!” one night about 3 a.m.
But every time I became frustrated or overwhelmed, I felt incredibly guilty for feeling this way. I had dreamed of having a family for so long. We struggled to conceive for so long. My husband and family supported me through a complicated and scary pregnancy. We WANTED these babies so badly. So I thought I must be a terrible person if I felt frustrated about these babies who we had worked so hard to create.
It took me a long time to realize that even if I found my babies frustrating and overwhelming sometimes, it didn’t mean I loved them any less. I could love cuddles and baby babbles and still get frustrated by projectile vomit or poop explosions. I could resent that my baby would ONLY sleep on me at 2 a.m. and still love the feeling of her sound asleep on my chest at 2 p.m.
As my children grow, the joys change and the frustrations change. I love watching them communicate with each other without the need for adult intervention, yet I get frustrated when those conversations turn into screaming matches over who gets to be the green person in Candy Land. I love watching them get physically stronger and better coordinated, yet I get frustrated and scared when they use those new skills in unsafe ways. I love joining with them in their imaginary play, yet I get frustrated when they tantrum because we have to stop playing and get ready for bed.
So, I ask people to please stop telling new parents to “enjoy every moment.” And to any parent faced with this impossible command, know that you can be grateful for your amazing, wonderful, miracle children, yet find them totally frustrating at the same time. I promise—that’s OK.