Please Stop Telling Me to ‘Enjoy Every Moment’
By Alicia McAuley
PHOTO © GRAHAM OLIVER/123RF
Jan 31, 2018
If you've been a parent for more than five minutes, chances are you've already been told that the days are long but the years are short, that kids grow up way too fast and that you should enjoy every moment with your little ones, particularly because of those first two points. No pressure.
The thing is, most of these pearls of parenting wisdom are true. There are days that feel like they stretch forever, where you collapse into bed at night, bone tired, assuring yourself that tomorrow will be easier. Then, suddenly, your baby is heading off to his first day of school and you wonder how you got to this point so quickly. It turns out that Ferris Bueller was right — life does move pretty fast. But does that really mean you need to enjoy every moment of it?
No. It doesn't. And I believe we need to stop telling parents with young kids that they should.
When I think about this particular behaviour, it feels especially true for parents with older kids who, due to the passing of time and the softening of memory, can sometimes forget just how hard some of the earlier, child-rearing moments can be. What they're saying is not malicious, of course, but that doesn't mean it can't be harmful.
Think of it this way: if a parent shares that they're exhausted due to the challenges of a baby who is colicky, or teething or who doesn't sleep well, telling them to enjoy every moment because that colicky, sleepless baby will be a teenager in no time is not particularly helpful. While it may come with the best intentions, to a parent who's struggling and deprived of sleep, it can seem like a dismissal at best. At worst, it can feel silencing.
What they're saying is not malicious, of course, but that doesn't mean it can't be harmful.
These days — particularly on social media — it can feel like there is a certain amount of pressure to project an image of perfection. We share carefully curated snapshots of our lives, avoiding anything that might be construed as complaining about our parenting experiences, which could be due to a fear that we'll be judged, or that we'll be labelled bad parents.
But cultivating an Instagram-worthy version of our parenting lives has made it harder to be real with each other about the challenges of parenthood.
By "enjoying every moment" we are not talking about or sharing the lows, which can create an environment where it's less easy to lean on each other, ask for help or vent our frustrations. In fact, I'm not so worried about not enjoying every moment until I share something that isn't sunshine and rainbows, and someone jumps on it with a comment that suggests I'm not enjoying my kids enough. Then I wish I'd kept it to myself.
Social media can paint a picture that life with kids is this perfect, art directed existence, but it's not. Sometimes it's beautiful, but sometimes it's a total mess. The problem with "enjoy every moment" is that it only leaves room for the former, and makes the latter seem like something that needs to be hidden and not talked about.
You've probably heard the expression, "It takes a village," but what do you do when it really starts to feel like your village is turning on you because your life is getting a little messy and you aren't...enjoying it?
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When your child is a teenager, or even an adult with children of their own, it's easy to look back with rose-coloured glasses and forget how challenging and frustrating it was to parent. But here's a reminder: when you were waiting for an epic tantrum to pass, or cleaning up your baby's fourth diaper blowout of the day, it could be and probably was frustrating.
But that doesn't mean you have to grin and bear it through every challenge and frustration, because the truth is that not every moment in life is an enjoyable one.
You likely weren't enjoying those moments, either. And yes, those moments are all part of the gig. And yes, there are inevitably parents out there who will have it better or worse. But that doesn't mean you have to grin and bear it through every challenge and frustration, because the truth is that not every moment in life is an enjoyable one.
In fact, parenting is hard sometimes. Sometimes it's really hard. And pretending that it isn't for fear of being judged by other parents is only making it harder.
What's the alternative, then? I'm not suggesting that parents of older kids not weigh in — it really does take a village, after all, and parents who've been there and done that have valuable wisdom to share. But the key is support, not silence. Sometimes a simple "hang in there" or "you're doing a great job!" goes a long way.
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It may not be possible to enjoy every moment, but I'm going to enjoy as many as I can and cut myself some slack during the times I can't. And in those times, I hope I'll be able to lean on my fellow parents, and that together we can make those tough moments more bearable.
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