If you have young children, you have likely heard some iteration of the phrase, “Enjoy every moment,” repeatedly. They are the words uttered to you with a smile by the store cashier as she sees your toddler yanking at your hand. It is the comment on your Facebook post about finally getting the kids to bed.
Being a new parent is tough, but not tough enough to ever be sad, angry or even just a tiny bit annoyed by the situation.
That is what you are telling a new parent when you say, “Enjoy every moment.”
Take the time to think about why this phrase is problematic.
1. It is a command
You are ordering us to feel joyous. This dismisses whatever emotions we are actually having, and puts us in a situation where we have to defend our true feelings or surrender to your command in order to be happy.
2. It is intrusive
Would you ever approach a young couple, in the midst of a heated fight, and tell them, “Enjoy every moment?” Of course not. Because, that would be insane. Why then is it okay to say it to a new parent? For some reason, kids give everyone a free pass to interject their unsolicited advice.
3. It is harmful
I know many of you think they are just words and that we should all lighten up. But, for someone struggling with motherhood, being told to, “Enjoy every moment,” invalidates her feelings and may keep her from getting the help she needs. When she hears those words, she may think she is doing something wrong and suppress her true emotions. With postpartum depression a real and growing problem, we need to let moms be free to feel the way we do.
4. It is arrogant
When you say, “Enjoy every moment,” you are telling a new mother that you know her life better than she does. You disregard her unique experience as a parent and imply you know best how she should feel at all times.
5. It is judgmental
Parents today are barraged with constant criticism. In my early days as a mother, I never knew if I was doing anything right. And, hearing that I should, “Enjoy every moment,” made me feel like I was failing, if I wasn’t happy all the time.
What then does a person with good intentions say to a new mother? Something that acknowledges the reality of new parenthood with a dose of encouragement. Once, while I was a dealing with an epic toddler tantrum, a woman approached me and told me her daughter used to do the same thing and was now a successful young woman. Hearing that assured me I am not alone and even the most willful kids can grow into accomplished adults.
If you really need a comforting phrase, try: “It won’t last forever.” When people say those words to me, I know they are both reminding me to savor the good times, but also assuring me the tough stuff will be over soon.
Or better yet, don’t speak, act. On a trip to the grocery shortly after my youngest was born, I was struggling with a heavy shopping cart, while trying to manage my hungry baby and whiny toddler. The strange man in front of me on the checkout line, kindly let me pass him and helped unload my groceries onto the conveyor belt. By doing that, he actually made it a bit easier to enjoy being a mom.
I realize there is one time when someone saying, “Enjoy every moment” to a new parent truly comes from a good place, and that is if he or she has lost a child. I never want to imagine what that is like, and I know those parents wish they could have had another moment, even the not-so-good ones. To these parents, I hear you, and please know I, and I believe most parents, are doing our best to appreciate what we have, even if it isn’t always easy.
How do you feel when people tell you, “Enjoy every moment?” Sound off, below.
I’ve never been terribly affected by postpartum depression because I’ve had major depressive disorder as long as I can remember, so if I had it, it just felt like more of the same. Having special-needs kids who don’t always react socially the way they’re expected to, I get more of the “She just needs more discipline!” or “*I* would never medicate my kids.” That last one really gets to me; it’s as if it’s a choice, and I’m doing something wrong. If the child was diabetic, would you disapprove of giving him/her insulin? No, of course not. But for some reason, mental health medications are not regarded in some quarters as necessary or helpful. And those quarters tend to be the loud ones. I’ve had a lot of practice in ignoring stupid unsolicited advice while smiling and nodding. I guess I’d do the same with that one.
It sounds like you got a good handle on what’s best for you and your family.
You make a lot of great points! It used to make me roll my eyes, but as my kids have gotten older, I’m more understanding of where the people who say it are coming from. You start to realize how insanely fast time goes and as time passes, the hard parts of each stage you’ve been through start to lose their sharp edges. I don’t say it because I know it’s impossible to enjoy every minute, but I just let it roll off my back when someone else says it to me.
I really don’t think most people who make these comments are intending to be arrogant or judgemental. I know we don’t enjoy every moment but when we look back on it all, we might find ourselves missing a moment that we didn’t enjoy being in. I have a 25 year old daughter and two seven year old boys and I’m about to have a grandchild. It goes SO FAST. I try not to make those kinds of cliche remarks to other women because I know they’re not usually well-received. But I like to think they are at least well-intentioned, most of the time.
You make a good point. I know when you are in the thick of things it can be tough to see things from others’ perspective.
I can remember times when my kids were driving me nuts or my baby was up all night and someone would say that and I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry either. I knew where it was coming from.
But I think you make great arguments. And I’m glad I have never said it to a mother. I have said, it goes really fast, which could also annoy me, but to be honest, it does go really fast! Lol!
This is true!
YES! There are so many comments the “wiser” make trying to help us feel better… when in fact it does not. Exactly because of what you’ve said!
I feel like I strike a balance. I know how hard these days with a baby or toddler are but then you blink and they’re starting second grade. So I agree with @tmlaur that I do TRY to enjoy as many moments as I can. Knowing that they aren’t all going to be peachy, and some days there is very little to savor!