You know what's super unenjoyable? Being told to enjoy something.
It's a bit like being told to calm down. If I'm having a brain popping rage attack and you tell me to calm down, you might as well whisper "and then set fire to my car" because the end result will be much the same.
So when some sweet, well-meaning older lady looks at me and my children as they prepare to engage in the 76th Hunger Games on the floor of the fruit and veg section, and titters, "cherish every moment", it's touch-and-go to see if I can muster a non-committal, doesn't-reach-the-eyes smile, or if I just grab her round the neck and throw her into the arena with the kids.
"It goes so fast." Misty eyes. Head tilted to the side. Hands across the heart. It's always the same.
So sweet. Because when you're ready to volunteer your children as tributes, the one thing you really want to hear is how grateful you should be.
We know people mean well but here are a few reasons it's really unhelpful when you're told to "cherish every moment":
1. It's too much pressure
Like we need one more thing to fail at, now we're adding 'not happy enough' to the list? All day long, I'm looking at my kids, thinking, am I cherishing this enough? No? Fark, why can't I be more #blessed and #inthemoment? What's wrong with me??
Mothers are under pressure to spend all day providing educational, uplifting, sensory rich, nutrient dense, character building experiences for our children and now we have to enjoy it all too.
There's no question we enjoy our kids; we love them. But there are moments - lots and lots and lots of moments – where it feels like tedious, repetitive, exhausting grunt work.
It's completely normal to feel that way but if we tell mothers they're supposed to be cherishing every second, they're going to feel like they've failed.
2. It's stupidly unrealistic
I've literally been told to "even enjoy their tantrums". What sane human being enjoys tantrums? That's a child in distress. It's not fun for anyone involved.
The child's obviously upset and the mum is annoyed, frustrated and doubting herself for not knowing how to keep her child happy and calm. If you enjoy watching kids flail around, you're a sociopath.
Some aspects of raising small children are decidedly unenjoyable. Yes, in hindsight you can look back and think how wonderful it was when they needed you so much, but when you're in the moment and your child is doing his best Chucky doll impersonation, it's completely normal to wish you were anywhere else in the world.
3.It's bad advice
Human emotions don't work without the ups and the downs; there's no good without the bad. If we cherish every single moment then nothing would feel special, it would all just be more of the same.
Motherhood wouldn't be the same without the devastating lows followed by the glorious highs. Sometimes you need to have a whole day of un-cherishable moments to really appreciate those little arms around your neck at bedtime, so you can say, "yep, it's worth it. Despite everything that has gone wrong today, you are spectacular and I love you."
4. It's unfairly critical
Thanks for the guilt trip! The underlying message is: you obviously don't love your children enough.
Every mother knows you can be consumed with love for your children and yet, well...not like them very much because, let's be honest, children can be very unlikeable.
If an adult called us a poo head, threw the food we just made on the floor and then screamed nonsensically for ten minutes straight, we'd have them committed.
We forgive our children because they're children and we expect different things from them but it doesn't make their behaviour any more pleasant. We can despise a lot of things they do but it doesn't mean we love them any less.
Trust me when I say I am cherishing the moments that deserve to be cherished. The sweet cuddles, the funny things they say, the tiny arms around my neck. I squeeze my eyes shut and compel my brain to remember them like this. I know how fast they're growing; it's agony at times, knowing how much I'll miss it all.
I'm not wishing any of it away but please don't tell me to cherish every moment. Sometimes kids suck and we need to be able to say that out loud or we might implode under the pressure of being so goddamn grateful all the time.