There is something about the “chin up, 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 will she eat real food? When will she walk? When will she sleep!? Because then it will get easier, right?
So I would compare myself and feel unworthy.
Even with later my son, when I was in a much better place, the newborn months were still difficult. I felt like the resilience and capability I used to take pride in as part of my identity weren’t there.
I was struggling to keep my eyes open when it looked like all the other moms were adjusting well. Yet 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.
There are times where I feel so good and lucky and full of love that I can’t believe it. In between the frustration, impatience, fatigue and 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 because I was so exhausted. When I thought I’d never be able to keep my small daughter alive and felt sheer terror. When I didn’t believe I could be a good enough parent to manage two kids.
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. We truly 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 and parenthood evoke: euphoria, love, completeness, happiness, purpose, doubt, pain, shame, guilt, grief and uncertainty — and everything in between.
Don’t tell a Mom that she should ‘enjoy it while it lasts.’ Instead, tell her she’s doing a great job.