As a brand new Mommy, I have been given my share of advice, requested or otherwise. My beautiful daughter is four-and-a-half months old now, and I’m cherishing this time, I promise! And that’s what I feel I need to talk to you about actually. Well meaning parents who are at a different time of life with their kids, sometimes feel the need to remind you to cherish this most precious time.
Let me set the scene for you, OK? My bestest friend, my husband, is a submarine officer in the Navy and he was unable to be with me for a good portion of my pregnancy, and in fact, he returned to my side only the day before I went into labor. My doctors didn’t decide to induce my labor for the express purpose of having my husband by my side, but I am still glad that is the way it worked out. My husband was with me for a day, my daughter was born, my husband left two days later for two months. I dropped him off at his boat and I was a ridiculous emotional mess, not having slept for three full days, and we had trouble breastfeeding and we’ll just say things were not looking their rosy best. (Who can sleep when one has a new baby and one has to check to make sure they’re still breathing?) My mother was staying with me because I knew ahead of time that my Sir would be leaving so soon after our child’s birth, but nothing about this was “easy.” I don’t complain about this but I would never say this was an easy time in our lives.
One day, I was my own person. Yes, I had nine months of preparing for the birth of our daughter. I’m a planner. I read articles and blogs and asked advice of family and friends and my doctors. Yes, I told myself that my whole life would be totally different. But knowing that it would be totally different and living through that change are incomparable. One day, I may have been uncomfortable, but if I wanted to, I could take myself to the store or to a restaurant or to the bathroom at any time I wanted. As soon as my daughter was born, however, all of those things came to be dictated by her and her screams. Suddenly, I had to learn to do things slowly. I feel the need to reiterate that this is not a complaint. My daughter means more to me than almost anyone in the world! What I’m saying is that it was a total shift of my life that I thought I had prepared myself for, but in reality, I was terribly undisciplined for.
Now, fast forward just a few months. My baby girl is interacting with the world more and showing more and more personality every week. We’ve tried a couple of “real” foods and my husband is home each evening and most weekends to be my partner caring for and raising her. I am a stay-at-home-mommy, and I have no idea what it would be like to go through putting her in daycare so I could work full time. (And for the record, I think moms that make that decision–whether because they want to or have to–are rock stars!) I get to see all of my daughter’s milestones and developments. And I learned early on how to take her in public–to the grocery store, to the post office, to restaurants, etc…
But am I struggling? You betcha. Pre-baby, I would have said, “OK, today I’ll get groceries, go to the post office, get gas, and go wander through such-and-such store to look for gifts for so-and-so’s birthday.” I’d probably throw getting coffee or lunch in there somewhere and get all sorts of chores done at home. I used to pride myself on getting errands and chores done during the day so that I’d have evenings to spend with my Sir. Nowadays, post-baby, what do I get done on that list? I might be able to get both groceries and gas, but it depends on which store I’m headed to. I plan my life around feeding her so that she doesn’t get too fussy when we’re in public, but sometimes I miss her hungry window. If she cries in public, I do my best to calm her down, not because I feel guilty for having a screaming child in public (kids cry, get over it!), but because her cries seem to sear my very soul and they could probably wake the dead if I let her carry on. But I can’t always calm her down–some days, the line at the checkout is longer than I anticipated, or I throw in an impromptu trip to the store right next door and unwittingly push my daughter past her limit. What I’m saying is, I rarely have the SUPER productive days that I used to have, as far as errands and chores go. My house is a mess. I’m often able to start laundry but not finish it until hours later. I’m usually able to vacuum the downstairs but not the upstairs. But not in the same day that groceries are needed. But I’ve kept my daughter alive for nearly five months though, and that counts for something.
What I hate the most is when very well meaning people tell me that I should be cherishing these moments in her life. Trust me. I’m cherishing. My daughter was born in 2017 and is heavily photographed. We don’t post photos of her on social media, but we do have a photo sharing platform so we can share these images with our close family and friends. We live in Hawaii so most of our family and friends are in other time zones so this is a fantastic way to keep everyone updated. (Shout out to TinyBeans!)
Do you know how many people describe this age in a baby’s life? “Oh. All they do is eat, sleep, and poop.” First of all, they do a bit more than that. And second of all, if that was all they did, why is that something to be cherished? But thankfully, that is not all they do and there is more to be cherished.
Trust me. I remember her first smiles and her first cuddles with me. I remember how she couldn’t cry tears the first few days she was born and how she used to hate having her diaper changed. She hardly had eyelashes at first and now they’re quite long. I also happen to have a daughter who has very light, very fine hair on her head and she looks bald so after getting tired of everyone asked me if she was a boy, I bought bows and headbands in every color of the rainbow so no one would doubt she’s my little girl! Trust me. I’m cherishing. You don’t have to come to me in the grocery store while I’m obviously trying to calm my fussy child down and tell me to “Cherish these moments because you’ll want them back some day.” You know what? That is unhelpful. What would be helpful is if you picked up the dropped pacifier. What would be helpful is if you said something like, “This too shall pass and you’re doing a great job as a mommy.” Or if you said, “Can I hold that door for you? I see that you’re struggling and let me help you out in this small capacity.”
When they say that you should be cherishing these moments because you’ll wish for their return one day, what they mean is that they are at a different stage with their own kids. I firmly believe that once you are over one developmental hump, you’re onto the next. They say “it’s always something.” Well maybe this parent telling you to cherish your screaming baby is going through potty training, a terrible episode where all they want to do is bite their teachers, or a particularly sassy teenage phase. They maybe wish that they only had to deal with “a bit of crying here and there.”
But maybe let’s take a minute to realize that you really don’t need to tell a mommy that she should cherish her kid. Because, I’ll say it again. Trust me. She’s cherishing. And then let’s take the next minute to state that sometimes there are moments that you want to forget. Like the times where it seems like the kid has been crying for hours and you’ve done everything you can think of to ease her distress but nothing seem to work. Like the times where you’ve done the same thing day in and day out and you forget that you used to have hobbies and interests outside of motherhood. Like the times where you can’t remember if you showered that day or not because you totally wanted to shower but it just so happened that your daughter cried and you tended to her needs first and now it may have been two days and [sniff sniff] ooooh yeah, you definitely need a shower.
Do you know what? It is OK to not cherish every. single. moment. There is a reason that most humans don’t remember every single moment of every single day. We remember the big things, the important things. I remember the exact moment that my daughter was placed on my chest after I gave birth to her and I remember the words I spoke to her and the feelings that rushed over me. That time she first rolled over? Her first foods? The look on her face when I come into her room after she wakes up every morning? Her laugh? The little cooing sounds she makes when I sing to her? I cherish those. Trust me. I’m cherishing the crap out of my daughter. Let’s give mommies a break OK? Stop telling mommies to cherish their kids and let’s offer them our support a little more. Hold doors open for them when you seem them struggling to get their stroller into the family bathroom at Target. Help them put groceries onto the belt when you see that they’re baby-wearing and they struggle to bend over to get the items at the very bottom back of the cart. Give them a small pat on the back and help them put stuff in their trunk when you see babies crying in their arms in the parking lot. They don’t need the reminder to cherish their babies.