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The Myth of Enjoying Every Moment of Motherhood

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Last week a friend of mine posted to Facebook disappointed in all the updates by moms eager for their children to get back to school.

Enjoy every moment! was the message.
It doesn’t last! was the subtext.
You’re not doing it right! was the implication.

Anna’s been in school all summer. I’ve loved the lazy, long mornings when I bring her in later than usual, and the afternoons when I pick her up earlier than I normally would. I enjoy sneaking out for breakfast at cafés where I shouldn’t be spending money. I’ve been amazed by how much she’s grown and that I’m buying her clothes for kindergarten when the first glimpse I ever had of her is still drawn on her face.

But today, when I was talking to my sister and Anna dug her fingernails into my nipples as she tried to climb me — I didn’t appreciate that moment. This morning, when I was cleaning up four heads’ worth of cut Barbie hair from her bedroom rug — I didn’t pause to bask in the glow of that memory. I didn’t stop to be present in the moment as I watched her empty the sand from her sneakers in the middle of the kitchen floor I’d just finished sweeping for company, or when she slapped me and shouted, “No! YOU do it!” after I’d asked her to pick up her pajamas for the fifth time.

There was no sentimentality when I watched her trip and fall repeatedly in the flip flops I told her not to wear because she’d trip and fall. I didn’t take a mental snapshot when she cried in the car for forty minutes straight because we had to leave the playground, and I didn’t will myself to freeze all the moments when, after a day spent in the idyllic scenarios the articles and blog posts say we should be having, she’d fall completely apart because her ice cream dripped.

So no, I don’t enjoy every moment. No one enjoys every moment, and my guess is that once their kids have grown, no one feels like they had enough time.

But I love her in every second of the day. I’m thinking of her in every minuscule decision. I am grateful that she is there for me to hug for too long before bed and kiss too much in public. I’m proud when I overhear her playing alone while I work and I have the best seats in the house during her improvised living room productions. I know that I am lucky, and I am very aware that it is all so fleeting.

What I’ll remember from this summer is how much exploring we’ve done, how the humidity makes two perfect curls appear at her temples, how she cried when she realized that not all of her preschool friends will be with her in kindergarten. I’ll remember how well she did in swimming lessons and how much calmer I was with her at the beach. I’ll remember how kind she’s been to her friends, how her empathy is growing as much as she is. I’ll remember that this will be the summer when she loses one of the big, top teeth that make up so much of my impression of her beautiful face.

And yes, years from now when she’s grown and I’m thinking about her smaller days, I’ll laugh over the cut Barbie hair and the piles of sand in front of my kitchen sink. I’ll tell stories about her penchant for abusing my breasts in all her clumsy, enthusiastic affection. The stories of her frowning all the way home from a day at the beach or crying over the color of her ice pop will be told over dinners or maybe recounted to her own children. The gift of passing time is perspective and its ability to create so many moments from just one.

So to those who insist we parents bask in every precious second, that we understand now that the bad isn’t really bad, and that childhood is so very temporary: we do. We recognize it, we quietly appreciate these moments. We’ve just decided to save some for later.

Brenna Jennings is a mom and photographer who found the blogging spotlight after writing Why Having a Toddler is Like Being at a Frat Party for her blog Suburban Snapshots. She and her husband are currently raising one daughter and two spoiled dogs in beautiful coastal New England, where they relish all three weeks of summer. You can also find her Facebook.

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