Motherhood and the Well Meaning Comments of Strangers

We’ve all heard it before: Babies grow up so fast. Cherish every moment while you can!

It’s a favorite comment from veteran moms, of little old ladies in grocery store aisles. I’ve heard it more times than I can count, and it’s usually said with a nostalgic sigh. In their eyes I can almost see it: the recollection of their own days raising babies into toddlers into big boys and girls.

The problem is that when the comment is made, it’s usually the last thing I want to hear. I usually have to bite my tongue before saying, Yes, but my laundry pile is 10 feet high, or Cherish this? The 8 poopy diapers I’ve changed already today?

Once I passed a woman in our local park who regarded my children and made a similar well-meaning comment. It goes so fast. Before you know it they’ll be grown ups like mine.

My daughter was a newborn and I was still in a postpartum haze. What the woman couldn’t have known was the effort it took to get the 4 of us out of the house that morning, the pressure I was putting on myself to simply go on that walk. The shoes I’d tied. The trips to the potty. The sunscreen I’d applied and the pacifier I’d spent 20 minutes searching for under the furniture.

It didn’t go so fast this morning! I’d wanted to say. I’ve been awake since 5 am!

Now that I’m officially out of the baby stage, though, I’m finding myself guilty of making those kinds of comments to the mothers I see pushing babies in strollers or nursing at the playground. I’m able to see now what I couldn’t see then, in the thick of baby parenting: The newborn period really is over in the blink of an eye.

It only lasts a matter of weeks, really. When you’re sleep deprived and stressed, though, it can be difficult to see through to the end.

It’s hard to imagine a time when they’ll sleep through the night or not need to be carried. When you’re not so tired that your whole body aches, and when you won’t swear that your baby wakes on cue the minute you sit down to relax.

The rhythm of life with a newborn is a slow march. The path you walk in a day is likely a triangle from the sofa to the kitchen sink to the rocking chair and back again. Your pace may be slow and you might not cover much ground, but it’s sacred work you’re doing.

It’s work you’ll reflect on for the rest of your life. It’s hard to imagine just how precious those memories will become in later years, but for me, at least, I long for them now.

Parenting a newborn is hard work, and in my experience, its rewards often come later in life. The next time a well-meaning stranger tells you to cherish this time, give her more credit. She might just know what she’s talking about.

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