“Enjoy every moment.”
It’s a phrase most parents have heard. Whether it’s by a total stranger touching your pregnant belly at Target, a well-meaning friend or family member over the holidays, or a meme doing the rounds on social media… it’s often unavoidable. And it seems to be everywhere.
The goal of this phrase is to remind you that life is short and your kids will only be small for so long. But do parents really need to be reminded of this? It’s an ever-present thought in our heads. What good does this phrase really do?
Here’s a common scenario: you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store. Your toddler is throwing a tantrum at your feet because you won’t buy yet another Frozen toy. The older lady in front of you smiles as she grabs her bags and says “Enjoy every moment. They grow up so fast.” When you leave the store you will have to fight to get your flailing, screaming toddler into their car seat because they just wanted an Elsa doll. You came to get groceries yesterday, but your child dumped a whole container of eggs on the ground so you left. Your cart with the weekly necessities was abandoned in the freezer aisle. You feel embarrassed and like a bad parent.
Or you are adding cream to your coffee at the local coffee shop, because you’re out of coffee and forgot to add it to the list when your partner went to the store on their way home. You have a screaming baby in your arms, bags under your eyes, and spit-up down your back. The barista tells you “Babies are so precious. Enjoy this time while they’re small.” You haven’t slept for more than 3 hours straight since the baby was born. You don’t have support at home while your partner works 60 hour weeks. You feel exhausted and barely human.
What about when you’re enjoying a walk with your family around the lake and a stranger comes up to you, puts their hand on your belly, and tells you to “Enjoy your pregnancy, not everyone is so lucky.” What they don’t know is that you’ve been throwing up since you found out you were pregnant and can’t wait to be done. You can count the number of foods that stay down on one hand. This pregnancy was so wanted after two losses but now you almost wish it hadn’t happened. You feel like you don’t deserve to have this baby.
So while this simple phrase may seem innocent enough, how does it really make people feel when they hear it? Some words that come to mind: guilty. selfish. hopeless. invisible.
Those three little words can have such a huge impact. And here’s the truth: you don’t have to enjoy every moment of pregnancy or parenthood. That is a ridiculous and impossible expectation. Some moments – or days, weeks, even years – just straight up suck. They challenge us, push us to our limits, make us miserable, and sometimes break us. And that is okay. It’s normal. It can’t be rainbows all unicorns all the time. It’s just not realistic.
So what can you say instead of “enjoy every moment?”
Why not try:
“We’ve all been there.”
“You’re doing a great job.”
“Do you need a hand?”
“Let me help you…”
“Can I stop by with a meal?”