There is something about the “chin up, Mama - they’re only young for a short time!” online culture that doesn’t sit well with me.
It’s true that this hardest time with our small children is, indeed, only a season.
And yet, I found the newborn stage extremely challenging — especially the first time around. I look back now and realize that I was experiencing some postpartum depression with my daughter (an especially good reason not to make assumptions about anyone’s life!).
With my first I was always looking forward to the next milestone. When she can eat real food. When she can walk. When she sleeps. Then it will get easier. Right? (Okay, the sleep one does change things!)
So I would compare myself and feel unworthy. I really leaned into this previously undiscovered way to feel guilty!
Even with my son, I was in a much better place… and the newborn months were still difficult! I felt like the resilience and capability I pride as part of my identity weren’t there.
I was struggling to even keep my eyes open when other moms may have been getting back into meet ups with friends or other evening activities. Strangers would tell me I’d miss these days.
Look, I understand the sentiment: “The days are long but the years are short.”
In many ways it’s true, of course. But when you’re in it, and it doesn’t feel like that, this sentiment just feels... kind of bad. That’s why I will never frame it this way.
I now have a two-year-old and a seven-month-old and there are times where I feel so good and so lucky and so full of love that I can’t believe it. In between the frustration, impatience, fatigue & monotony, I actually think to myself: this is as good as it gets. These little people are getting bigger every day, soak it in. But I’ll never forget when it didn’t feel like that.
When I burst into tears on the street simply meeting a friend for coffee.
When I thought I’d never be able to keep my small daughter alive.
When I didn’t think I was a good enough parent to manage two kids at once.
It genuinely makes me emotional to even recall how dark it felt at times. And I’m sure I’m not done feeling all those feelings, either. None of us is. And we certainly never know what struggle another parent is going through at any given times.
I saw it put perfectly in, what other, than an meme: “They’re only young once” is the “Smile, girl” of the parenting world.
Instead, let’s honour the full range of emotions that early motherhood evokes. Euphoria, love, completeness, happiness, purpose… Doubt, pain, shame, guilt, uncertainty — and myriad feelings in between.
Don’t tell a Mom that she should ‘enjoy it while it lasts.’ Instead, tell her she’s doing a great job.