“Cherish every moment.”
That phrase sets unrealistic expectations and can isolate anyone who is having a tough parenting day. Which we all do.
There are many beautiful moments to cherish. First steps, giggles, hand written notes telling you you are the best Mummy. Sunny days with the paddling pool, Christmas magic. Cuddles and conversations.
But there is also tears, tantrums and a whole host of bodily fluids. There are tyrant toddlers and six year olds with the attitude of a moody sixteen year old. Not every moment is made to be cherished. Like the time my supposedly napping toddler removed his nappy and smeared shit all over his bedroom wall. There was nothing cherish-able about that moment.
Social media can often paint a picture showing parenting as all rainbows and butterflies.
It can be full of beautiful angelic children reciting their alphabet at 12 months old and sleeping through the night from day one.
But the danger of one sided picture perfect cherish every moment, is making the more mundane and difficult moments, not seem normal. And if those everyday experiences don’t seem normal we can feel like we are failing.
I loved the baby days but found the toddler years really hard. Other friends struggled early on but everything fell into place as the children got older. It’s ok to have a favourite stage of parenting. It’s also ok on any given day to prefer the child that isn’t hitting everything you own with a plastic sword.
We owe it to ourselves to be honest about parenting. To acknowledge that ‘cherish every moment’ is unrealistic. To admit that dinner is sometimes beige, and that’s ok.
Being a parent means flipping the bird behind your kids back when they have screamed at you because you asked them to put their clean pants and socks in the drawer. It’s snuggles on the sofa and sniffing their heads even when they are 9 years old.
Being a parent is wishing your partner would get home so you can escape the monumental meltdown your toddler just threw because his banana broke. It’s staring at them whilst they sleep and wishing time would slow down.
There are times when you simply can’t cherish every moment.
Sometimes that 2am feed can be peaceful and serene. Other times it can take you to dark places of isolation.
There are days when being a parent feels like all you will ever need. Then there are days when you find yourself longing to be more. There are days when being in the company of your kids fills your heart. There are days when being in the company of your kids feels so very lonely.
It’s ok to admit we don’t have all the answers. We are all winging it. And when you do have the answers, chances are they won’t be the right answers when it comes to your second child.
When someone asks how you are, you don’t have to plaster on a smile and say fine for fear of being judged. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those days where we could really do with a hug and a sympathetic ear.
If someone’s social media is filled with pretty picnics and immaculate homes, they are not showing you the whole picture. Because I bet beside that beautiful sofa and just out of shot, is a corner filled with broken Lego and Shopkins.
And that’s why I think it is so important to share all sides of parenting. The bits when your kids are more angelic than Gabrielle himself. But also the bits where they get possessed by the devil and make you question your own sanity.
I know when I am having a bad day, hearing from someone else who is having a bad day makes me feel less alone.
I stop questioning my parenting skills and realise that all this is normal.
And we should be able to share the bad and the ugly sides of parenting without fearing backlash because we are not cherishing every moment.
So yes, beam with pride when your kid is Mary in the nativity. Or a little old lady stops you in the street to tell you how beautiful your baby is. You have every right to share that feeling so strong it feels like your heart could burst.
Equally, it’s ok to say you are finding things tough. That not all of parenting is #blessed. There are nits and chickenpox and tantrums and not much sleep. And it is completely normal to have days when you want to escape. You should be able to say that without adding the caveat “But I love them to bits and wouldn’t change a thing.”
To all the new mum’s…
Find your mum group. Find the Mum’s that are not going to sugar coat everything. Look for the Mum with the coffee because her baby was up all night. Look for the Mum who is a hot mess because her toddler just had an epic tantrum. Be the Mum that when asked how breastfeeding is going, says “I’m struggling at the moment.”
Find the mums who recognise that you don’t have to cherish every moment.
Because the truth is, if it was all rainbows and butterflies, we wouldn’t need each other. And we do need each other to support us during the lows so we can really celebrate the highs.
The thing is, the person saying, you shouldn’t moan about your kids, you should cherish every moment, is the same person that’s rolling their eyes and moaning about #proudparent statuses come parents evening.
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