“Those were the days, weren’t they?” said an old man to his wife as he watched Popsugar writer Lauren Turner scramble off a beach in bad weather. Turner was wrestling with two young children covered in sand and sunscreen and an arm full of wet towels and toys.
According to Turner, the comment sparked an epiphany and changed the way she parents.
“In the weeks since, I’ve made a conscious effort to replay those words and that scene at the beach in my mind,” writes Turner in her article. “We were sticky with sunscreen, hair tangled from the wind, hands full of stuff, dragging our babies through the sand, and instead of seeing chaos, that man saw us as a beautiful memory of his own young family.’
I’m all for looking for the joy in situations, and as someone who battled with infertility I know what a gift it is to have children, but do we have to cherish every moment of parenting?
The thing about parenting is that it doesn’t stop. Every day, every night, every week, every month for YEARS.
I can’t think of anything that I would want to do continuously without having the choice to stop and take a break – not sex, not eating chocolate, not even watching Pride & Prejudice.
Why would we think that parenting is the one thing we would love to do all the time?
Even when everything is peachy and your kids are healthy and happy, being responsible and needed 24-7 can grind you down.
There have been many times in the last seven years since I became a mother that, far from loving and cherishing, I have absolutely loathed.
I hated when my daughter woke every hour for 11 months and I was so sleep-deprived that I started hallucinating rats everywhere and wanted to jump off my balcony.
When my daughter got burned from a cup of tea it was one of the worst moments of my life.
Another low point was all those occasions when I spent hours researching and preparing a meal with hidden vegetables only to have my daughter throw it against the wall.
And I found no joy in all the times my kids have vomited over me – in my hair, into my bra. And then there’s the smell of poo that you just can’t get off your hands.
Turner says that the challenge is “remembering that the next time your toddler intentionally throws a plastic fire truck at your infant’s head after they both refused to nap all day and you just realised there’s no food in the house for dinner. Man, these are the days.”
I have the opposite challenge. My challenge is to give myself a break and remember that it’s okay not to love every moment of parenting. I’d prefer to happily forget the particular details of every frustration and monotony, regarding them as a general blur rather than savouring them as precious memories.
I have wasted too much time feeling guilty for not loving every moment of parenting. I felt perverse and unworthy because I couldn’t find joy and satisfaction in the day-to-day grind of motherhood the way I thought I was supposed to. Many times I wondered what the hell was wrong with me.
I remember rocking in the corner of my kitchen floor one night, sobbing to my husband, “Why can’t I feel fulfilled by cleaning up poo and snot and smeared banana like all the other mothers?”.
The pressure to pretend that mothering is 100 per cent pure joy 100 per cent of the time is cruel and oppressive.
The truth about raising kids is there are moments of absolute delight and wonder. The highlights of my life have come from my kids. But there are also long stretches of domestic drudgery with peaks of acute frustration and despair.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t love or value our kids. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve them. It’s just the reality of parenting.
Raising kids is hard enough without the added pressure of having to enjoy and cherish every damn moment of it.