Hi my name is Jen and I’m a mom to two beautiful boys (age 2, and 5 months). I love being a mom, which was partially surprising given I used to be the first to politely shake my head “umm, no that’s OK” when someone would bring their new baby to the office and pass them around the gaggle of women who couldn’t wait to have their turn. Now I’m that woman, currently on my second maternity leave, doing all the baby things and loving it.
Everyone always tells you, “it goes by so fast”. The idea of time flying by makes me feel sad, but also grateful for the many moments everyday with my kids. Weird, I have kids? Kids? Plural? Two in fact, and some days I emerge from the sleep-deprived fog of exhaustion caused by said kids, I still can’t believe I made two humans with my body, without even trying. Often when I’m out and about with them, another parent with grown kids or grandkids will give me a sweet smile and look at my little ones and say “cherish this time because before you know it, they are all grown up”. Ahhh enter stab to the heart as I stand there in the grocery store, gripping the handle of my stroller, imagining my sweet little boys as grown men with chest hair and retirement savings accounts.
The hard thing about it going by so fast is figuring out when to go fast and when to go slow as a parent. Take the nightly bedtime routine for my toddler, for example. Everything I’ve read about sleep for little ones stresses its importance for their development. You need a bedtime routine to help them establish good sleep habits so they’ll (a) become functioning young people and adults, and (b) go to sleep for long stretches so that you won’t go insane from prolonged sleep deprivation. This runs through my mind when I’m cuddling with my toddler in his bed and he wants one more story or says “mommy let’s talk.” Do I go fast or slow here?
When I write it here in a nostalgic way, of course I’ll choose one more story or to talk with my son, knowing someday he might not want to talk quite so easily. On the other hand, when a toddler learns to stall at bedtime night after night and I want to get him to sleep so that I can finally sleep, sometimes I rush the routine.
I don’t have any answers or advice for other parents and this is just my experience. I’m sure I’m not alone. This motherhood thing is the most emotionally rich experience of my life. Ever since my second son arrived, I have to split my attention between two and that is an adjustment. And because I’m breastfeeding I often have to leave in the middle of a game or story with my older son to feed the baby, which makes me feel guilty or like I’m missing out.
What this experience has taught me is to be as present as I can with each of them as often as I can. When my little baby is sleeping, I notice the fuzz of his baby hair and the sweet look of his little closed eyelids and pursed lips, and relish the feel of his warm little body snuggled up against me. When I’m playing with my toddler, I pay close attention to the inquisitive look in his bright eyes when he’s playing, I watch his imagination blossom, and try to bottle this feeling of being amazed at everything he is learning every day.
My parents always said that having kids was the hardest, yet most rewarding job on the planet. I get it now. The physical act of parenting is exhausting, and then you pile on the mental and emotional aspects too and it can be overwhelming and all consuming. Everyday I must make a hundred little decisions to care for another person and I never know if I’m doing the right thing, and that’s OK. It’s just plain hard. But, one thing I do know for sure is that someday when they are all grown up, I will have cherished every single sweet moment from when they were little because it really does go by so fast.