When I first became a mother, thirteen years ago, I didn’t fully understand the saying I frequently heard, mostly from women, “enjoy this time, it won’t last forever.” Those words felt like a beacon warning an upcoming storm, a sea of regret I’d feel someday for not appreciating the little moments with my children.
But there is some truth to the statement, mothering our babies to toddlers, children to tweens and teens to adults, goes fast and each developmental stage has a discreet amount of time.
Enjoying the small moments of mothering can be challenging when there is so much to do. Our children create a structure, pace, rhythm and routine that is demanding in and of itself and at times seems never-ending. We spend a vast amount of time everyday in the supporting roles of childrearing; shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, driving and planning to name few.
But one day, before we even realize it, change has happened.
Our children grow up and need us in different ways.
While it’s been years now, I still recall the familiar pattern of rushing home after errands or an outing, to be home in time for my twin girls naptime. I’d climb the stairs with a toddler on each hip, change diapers, read a story, most often, The Hungry Little Caterpillar, before laying the girls down in matching white toddler beds with cream and rose patterned quilts. I can still see them sleeping, flushed cheeks, tousled hair, breathing in and out, soothing sounds like ocean waves, a sweet, rare moment of stillness in toddlerhood. In contrast, I don’t remember the last time I was able to carry them up the stairs, nor the final nap or when baths were replaced by showers. One day, these activities ended, shifting into something else, and now it all feels like a fading dream.
The early days of mothering seem so far away, especially now as I have been a mother to four daughters for almost five years. I am parenting through different developmental stages; twin tweens, a seven-year-old and a preschooler and it is exhausting some days. But one thing I am certain about, my daughters have taught me how fast time goes and to practice, look for and create small moments of joy.
Just recently, I savored the spontaneous exclamation of love from my four-year-old as I was driving, my seven-year-old gaining confidence in reading a book she had been struggling with the month before, and my tweens cuddling on the couch in a moment free of conflict, all small moments of joy.
The wisdom of motherhood reminds me to enjoy the little things and spend quality time with my children every day, even if only for a short amount of time. I’ve often wished I could go back to my new mom self and say the following:
- Limit multitasking-it only takes away from being present in the moment.
- Chores can wait, and there will always be more.
- Take a cue from dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents-create moments where the only goal is to be engaged spending time with your child.
- Put away distractions, such as smartphones, e-readers, tablets and television, all modern luxuries that detract from being in the moment and connecting with our children.
- Schedule quality time with your child. Every relationship in your life, especially with your children, require quality time, bonding and shared experiences.
- Be realistic-let go of the pressure to enjoy every minute, instead, aim to enjoy highlights from the day or the week. It’s not realistic to enjoy or remember every moment.
- Document what you can. Pictures, video, and writing down special moments all can help you recall events years from now you may not be able to.
- And finally, your child will have their personal memory and recall of childhood events that will add to and create a narrative of their childhood.
Perhaps the paradox of motherhood is working to master the balance of enjoying the little things and doing the have-tos of raising a family. Maybe it isn’t about holding onto and enjoying every single moment, just the ones most meaningful. And while we are never quite done parenting our children, as we move along the journey of motherhood, we collect a personalized, highly selective archive of everyday moments loving our children.
And maybe that is what makes for enjoying the little things in motherhood.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2015