Before you even have your little one(s) the comments start: “Cherish every moment,” they say. “They’ll be grown before you know it!”
“The laundry can wait!”
“The empty nest comes soon!”
Sometimes they are less preachy and more reflective. “Oh, I can’t believe mine used to be that little,” someone softly speaks. “Oh what I’d give to have mine a baby again for just a day…”
Then, there is the really painful moment when someone says “If my baby were still here…” That’s just painful for everyone. Painful for the mama who doesn’t have her babe here to hold and piercing for the mama whose feelings are being silenced as she’s expected to trudge through reality and enjoy it all. There are .jpegs and Pinterest pages galore to inspire and remind and help you. Cherish 24/7. And, of course, there is the push-back from other parents. Some of them are harsh, some far more eloquent than me today.
But here’s what I know.
Take heart. I think that cherishing after-the-fact, when the dust has settled and the house has quieted, is practically the same--even better.
The pressure loomed in the back of my mind many days--especially those hard days of which there were many--take it all in; be thankful; be happy; remember it all; take pictures, but be present; be everything to everyone for the sake of the memory! Oh, yeah. And don’t forget to be happy the whole time. That “cherish every moment” line just put additional pressure on me. It was one more thing on my already too-long to-do list. And it’s not a simple “run to the store” sort of task.
I wasn’t grateful or present for every moment. I was just surviving, sometimes for minutes and even hours and days. At some point, two kids deep with another on the way, I started looking back and wondered if I lost out. That, because I couldn’t do everything I was “supposed” to, I somehow was missing out on motherhood. But I wasn’t willing to think, “I’m not good enough,” so I thought something else had to give.
At some point anxiety set in, and I said enough! I will take each day for what it is: Glorious and awful and special and delicate and exhausting and smelly and sweet.
But then something funny happened, you see. My third started toddling and talking and is now almost out of diapers. I get “enough” sleep many nights of the week; I have sort-of independent children (enough to turn on PBSKids and clean up small messes, at least!)
Now I have some distance from the challenges of that first year after having a baby, that first year when I had three babes ages four and under. I can look back now and cherish those days-- from afar. And it’s every bit as glorious to do so now. Maybe even better, as I gaze over my mug of tea at my children playing both together and independently. I cherish all that they are, and what I recall from once upon a time.
So mamas (and dads!)--I know there are friends and your parents and strangers in the check-out line all telling you to cherish. You’ll cherish it soon enough, just get through the day. Take the little moments when you can find them. Tuck them away in your heart. Soldier on, mama. The glory days will be cherished in your heart soon enough.
Lynette is a mom of three children from 22 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.