Time with your children is very precious.
We love them to absolute pieces, and they grow up way too fast. That first year is a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of affair. Then when you add more children to the mix, time speeds up even more. It’s both exhilarating and heartbreaking to see them grow, to witness the baby years fading away before your very eyes. Now I have a big ‘but’ coming up.
BUT, this does not mean that we glide through the early years of motherhood radiating a warm glow of love and beaming at fellow mamas with a knowing smile that says “aren’t we so very, very lucky”.
In fact the only glow is probably brought on by sweat from wrestling a wriggling baby on to your boob in a crowded restaurant and far from being a knowing smile, when you lock eyes with a fellow mum you share a look that says “fuck me this is hard work”.
And yet we are told frequently to “cherish every minute”, to “enjoy these early years”, because “they grow up fast”. To complain is almost like blasphemy, as if we are acting like a spoiled brat who doesn’t get how very lucky we are.
We get it, we get that time is running out and that one day our kids will not need us any more. It’s a horrifying prospect and one that fills me with dread.
However, how on earth can you enjoy every minute when five minutes ago you were fishing poo out of the bath and now you are looking down in despair at your top which is covered in vomit – the fifth top your little angel has soiled today?
Does anyone seriously think “wow, I’m loving this” when their hungry baby snuffles angrily at their sore nipples before chomping down hard for their 10th feed of the night? No, they don’t. They think “FFS, when is this bloody night feeding going to get easier”.
We don’t wish time away, we want our kids to stay these cute little bundles of mostly joy forever. The trouble is, our babies make it so bloody hard to enjoy everything about parenthood.
There’s the sleepless nights, the endless worrying and all that crying to contend with. And what about the physical changes to you? It’s hardly “fun” waiting for stitches to heal and bleeding that goes on for weeks on end to stop.
And what about those hormones that surge through your veins in the early weeks? Those certainly aren’t helping you to enjoy every minute. Far from it. The so-called baby blues make you weep over the most minor tragedies, like forgetting to drink your cup of tea.
I recall being told to “enjoy these precious years” during the early weeks with my first child. It stands out in my memory because I had been coping with her constant screaming all evening the day before and then was up from about 3am to 4am feeding her before my day started at 6am.
How is that enjoyable, or precious? I was utterly knackered, covered in milk stains, had greasy hair and now was totally paranoid that I wasn’t getting this motherhood gig right because I wasn’t enjoying every moment.
Obviously there are moments in those middle-of-the-night feeds when all is peaceful, your baby is feeding with wide eyes and looking content. Those kind of snatches in time are what make being a parent worth it.
But that’s the thing, they are brief interludes between the daily grind of parenting.
And that’s what being a mother is. It’s feeling as though you are running through sand when all of a sudden something incredible happens that lifts you up so that you’re floating on air, and then it’s back to the sand again. It’s not that love isn’t always there, it’s just that no amount of love can make sleep deprivation magical or make breastfeeding easier, or less painful.
And it’s those lighter moments that keep us going during all the hard bits. Even when you are cursing under your breath as you rise from bed for the sixth time in a row, the next lighter moment is just around the corner.
So no, you will not enjoy every minute, and that does NOT make you a bad parent or mean that you do not love your baby. You won’t love every minute because:
Babies cry a lot.
Babies do not sleep when you want them to.
Babies keep you awake at uncivilised hours.
Babies frequently leave you guessing as to what is wrong with them.
Babies are messy and as a result make you messy too – think vomit, leaky boobs and spilt milk.
Babies cannot talk and therefore make you worry constantly about whether they are OK.
You need to know that it is absolutely normal to not enjoy every minute, and at times to hate it so bloody much you question what on earth you have done.
So please don’t believe the hype about precious early years. You don’t have to love everything about being a mum, you just have to love your baby.