I will never forget the first time I heard someone say “enjoy every second with her” about my time with my daughter, who was a few weeks old. My first thought was ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, I’m too knackered to enjoy her’ and then I felt this huge wave if guilt because I wasn’t enjoying my gorgeous, healthy, tiny, precious baby.
I loved her, I felt incredibly protective of her and I did everything within my power to keep her healthy, safe, alive – I kept breastfeeding when I didn’t have a clue and when I cried with every latch (thankfully the bad latch was sorted and feeding was a dream after that); I got up every hour in the night; I tried to listen to my instincts and I cuddled her and I gazed at her when she slept, although that was more relief that she wasn’t crying than of enjoyment.
My first baby – who didn’t do sleep – nearly broke me. And of course I did enjoy time with her – when she started to interact and her smiles and giggles were infectious. When she started playing and enjoying her surroundings, I did enjoy her and I loved spending time with her. I enjoyed the snuggles and cuddles, the playing and watching her learn and grow. I didn’t enjoy feeling lost, knackered and frustrated with lack of sleep as well as the monotony and isolation of parenthood.
When I trained to run postnatal classes there was an important discussion about the idea of ‘enjoy every second’ and how this affects the expectations of parents – it was the first time I had spoken about it and it was a relief to know I was not on my own. I love my children but I don’t always enjoy them. I will defend them and if anyone was to hurt them, my lioness would be unleashed but children press buttons, they test boundaries and they can causes us tired parents some concern and stress.
And we are only human, we can spend often spend so much time with our children that it is impossible not to want a break at some point.
But, amongst the juggling, we also need to make time for being focused on being with our children, when work doesn’t come first and when we have to stop looking at our phones or laptops and engage with them. I have been so guilty of this – being self employed means work is never done so I am always snatching time on the laptop. I have had to have serious words with myself when I found myself saying ‘in a minute’ to my daughters who wanted my attention and I was getting annoyed. She was not at fault, I was. So I stepped away from my desk and gave her my full attention, which she only needed for a little while.
We all parent differently and we can’t always enjoy every second with our babies and children – to suggest we should diminishes the challenges and just how demanding it can be sometimes.
As our children get a bit older it can be easy to become focused on the responsibility and the juggling of life, work, family and appointments, which is why we need to make time to enjoy being with our children. We need to be silly, to laugh, to go to the park, to splash in the sea, to make a mess, to make memories because these moments get us through the frustrating and challenging times that come with the children we love.