Scrolling through my feed on social media, an article caught my eye. Though I hadn’t clicked on this exact one before, I felt like I’d already read it 100 times. The gist was: “Enjoy every moment with your small children, because they won’t be little for very long.” And I get it. My 3 boys are already growing faster than I imagined possible. There is nothing novel about this message. It has been whispered in my ear from the very moment I became a mom. It comes at my from every direction. From my well-intentioned mother and older sister, from the sanctimonious veteran moms I encounter in person and online, and even from strangers in restaurants and checkout lines. Over and over again I hear, “Enjoy this moment because it won’t last.” And it aggravates me every single time.
The message takes on various shapes and forms. When my oldest was a newborn I heard: “Enjoy it now, it will only get harder when he crawls.” When he crawled I heard: “You think this is bad? Just wait for the terrible twos.” And when I vented about the house rattling tantrums I was told, “When they are little, their problems are little. Wait until they are teenagers and their problems are bigger.” Now as many friends tearfully send their children away to college, I am bombarded with reminders to “be present, take in every moment, and it all goes so fast.” I can barely hear myself think over the chaos and noise in my home, while they complain about the heavy silence filling theirs.
And it is true. All of it. So so so true.
When I read The Power of Now by Eckard Tolle, it changed my life. Learning to be present in this very moment is the antidote to crippling anxiety and suffocating depression. This present moment (or the now) is literally all that we have. Buddhists have long taught that suffering occurs when we reject the present moment. When we live in the past, worry about the future, or resist what is happening right now, we can not be present or peaceful.
Thinking about this, it hit me like a ton of bricks why the message of the article ignites such strong feelings from deep within my gut. Because the very message preached at me- TO LIVE IN THIS PRESENT MOMENT- is something the author, herself, is failing to do. She sits in a warm, safe, and QUIET home, with the time and privilege to type out her message. With the click of a few buttons, she instantly shares advice -that she is unable to follow- with the entire world. Instead of being present in her moment, she is stuck in the past, longing for it once again.
She is not unique. This struggle to stay in the present moment is part of the human condition. Our reptilian brains evolved to protect us from danger and constantly scan the past and future in order to protect us from threats. And every given moment contains potential gifts as well as the potential for suffering. I am not saying we shouldn’t be present and attend to the gifts and miracles surrounding us every single day. I think that joy and peace come from exactly that. But I also am saying that every stage, every phase, every unique life also includes pain and struggle and the minute we try to resist, ignore, or downgrade it, that only increases suffering. Telling someone to enjoy every single moment is ridiculous because frankly- some moments just suck. At. Every. Stage.
THE very moment that a well intentioned mom
tells me to soak up every moment because it goes by
too quickly- she is failing to soak up her current moment.
THE very moment that a well intentioned mom tells me to soak up every moment because it goes by too quickly- she is failing to soak up her current moment. Life is unpredictable, ever changing, and filled with joys and pain. This moment right now, in your quiet house, is JUST AS FLEETING as the moment you held your colicky baby. If I could, I would ask the author: What is happening right now, that you will turn back later and wish you had been present for?
So the next time you see me struggling in motherhood (or life in general), please have empathy and show compassion. Hear me when I explain how desperately I want to sit for 5 minutes without someone screaming, “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!” Tell me how sad you are in the quiet moments and I will give you space to share your grief. Because we are all in this crazy life filled with ups and downs. Connecting with others is magical, healing, and energizing. Share your experience and I will share mine. Just please don’t tell me to enjoy every single moment of it.