Ask most moms what piece of advice they hear most often and I bet the answer is some version of “Appreciate these days! They go by so quickly!”
I’ve tried really hard not to be that mom because I remember being at the grocery store, covered in spit-up, running on three hours of sleep with a screaming baby in my cart, trying to pick up the one thing I forgot (for the second time that week…on a Tuesday…) and feeling absolutely DONE and defeated and having a (well-meaning) older woman tell me to “appreciate the moment”. In that particular moment, telling me to “enjoy this time! They grow up so quickly” simply added another layer of guilt and shame, and if I’m perfectly honest, anger to the tapestry of emotions I was experiencing at the time.
“Great. One more thing I’m not doing correctly,” I would think to myself as I tried to grin and nod at whatever well-meaning person. I would then be flooded with doubts.
“Am I the only one failing so hard at this? Was I even meant to be a mom?” and sarcastic quips like
“Well that’s real nice, Nancy, but right now my hormones are making my body leak all kinds of fluid and flooding my brain with ‘kill or be killed’ type messages when my baby screams so maybe you should just like back off or offer to help a sister out, OKAY?”
And yet, here I am, five (almost six!) years have FLOWN by since my first days of appearing in public as “Crazy Spit Up Covered Lady”. I’ve added two more babies to the mix and my youngest is more toddler than baby. And much to my chagrin, it takes everything in me to not say to every mom I see “Appreciate these days!! They fly by so quickly!!” (Insert facepalm here)
I caught myself a few times almost saying this to someone (okay, okay, I DID say it, please don’t hate me, Past Self) and reflecting on that later, it gave me pause. I started to question if I was following my own advice. Was I appreciating my CURRENT days?
So often, I found myself counting down the hours, the MINUTES, until bed time; feeling annoyed when I had to interact with my kids or break up their fights; getting frustrated that they wouldn’t just play quietly by themselves so I could get some “adult” things done like call the dentist or read a book. I found myself feeling like I was “wasting” time or being “inefficient” when I sat down to play with them on the floor and questioning if there wasn’t something “more important” I should be doing, like making dinner or cleaning the bathrooms.
I started to ask myself, “What was the point of parenthood? What was my goal?” To survive until bed time? To make it to the end of another day? That can’t be right.
One of the Bible verses my children and I sought to memorize lately was Philippians 4:4-7 which, in the New Living Translation says:
” 4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[a] 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Was I rejoicing in the Lord and all that He has done for me when I begrudged my children for wanting to be the focus of my attention? Was I remembering that the Lord God is near, when I failed to show my children the grace that I had been given by God? Was I allowing His peace to guard my heart and mind when I lost my temper at my children for interrupting me with arguments and needing to be disciplined or taught? What had I expected parenthood would be like? (That is a whole other topic I could/should write about.)
This is not to say that anyone should strive to (nor could possibly) cherish every single moment of parenthood. There are times when I just need some time alone to remember who I am and recharge my batteries. There are times when I feel like if I have to clean up one more pair of poopy undies I will lose my ever-loving mind. I get frustrated and angry when things don’t go my way because I am human.
But I am also redeemed.
I am someone who has made a lot of mistakes and whose mistakes have been seen, but forgiven and washed away. I am someone who has been provided for. Who has been given three beautiful and relatively healthy children for at least a time and I can do better to remember the joy they bring me. I can do better to remember that I prayed for these children with all my heart and that the Lord heard that prayer and responded with a “Yes.”
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1 tells us that
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
My current season is filled with a lot of tears, a lot of bodily fluids, and a lot of temper tantrums. It’s filled with a lot of messes, and car seat buckling (and unbuckling and buckling and unbuckling and…). It’s a season of self-sacrifice. Of daily dying to myself and my agenda and allowing a very tiny human to dictate how our day will unfold, while also trying to maintain some semblance of a schedule.
This season is also filled with lots of kisses and cuddles. Of soft baby skin and fluffy hair. Of the sweet scents of babies and toddlers. It’s filled with “Mama I wuv voo”s and tiny toes. Tiny shoes and sweaters. Baby giggles. Lots of firsts (steps, words, experiences.) It’s filled with the joy of watching your children grow and develop and feeling the weight of responsibility you have to teach them how to be in this world.
This season is fleeting. And I truly do not want to just survive it. I want to deeply experience and enjoy every moment I possibly can.
That’s the funny thing about seasons. When I begin a new one, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to embrace everything about it, but then about mid-way through it, I’m done with it and I can’t help but start dreaming about the next season and longing for change. That’s the tricky part: fully embracing the season you’re in, for the entire duration of that season. Sure, there will be days when you feel like you can’t take another day of the status quo, but hopefully when we’re armed with the knowledge that a new day is coming (and bringing change with it), we can be encouraged to enjoy the season we are currently in before it passes.
These are the days.