Every baby is different but there are some general rules that apply to new parents. Here's one of them: no matter how well intentioned you are, however a new parent is trying to cope with life with a newborn is none of your business.
Being a new parent is hard – it's one of the hardest things you can do. Emotions are high, energy levels are low and everything is clouded by this hazy mist of undying love and an overwhelming desire to get some freaking sleep.
Despite that, one thing all new parents have in common, aside from all of them thinking their baby is the cutest (when, in fact, mine is), is the fact that they all get told, on a regular basis, that they need to enjoy every moment, that time goes by way too fast, that they'll be all grown up before you know it.
The thing about time is that it's pretty elastic. As new parents will tell you, nap time minutes fly by (suddenly "30 minutes" goes by in 12 seconds and you're still halfway through your shower when the baby monitor tells you, tough luck, your time is up) and nighttime hours can have 368 minutes each, especially as you pace around the dark rooms trying to get the future of this country to go back to sleep.
New parents get a lot of unsolicited advice, though, and, because they get to work out their neck muscles so much as they nod along to all the silly advice they didn't even ask for, they get pretty good at ignoring it. Honestly, new parents are bone tired and don't have time for your opinions.
It'd be hard for me to care less about anyone's thoughts on what my child eats, how she sleeps or what I do to keep her entertained. I normally brush off the whole "you're making a rod for your back" stuff but there is one particular expression that always sends me into a hormonal rage: "enjoy every minute".
No. No I don't. No I won't. And I'm not a bad mum for it, I'm just human. A tired, sleep-deprived human, madly in love with another earthly creature but who wishes that incredible creature would just get some goddamn sleep.
"Enjoy every minute" is an unreasonable expectation to put on a new parent. It's simply impossible to achieve and to dare them to is to set them up for failure.
You're not going to enjoy every minute. You're not going to enjoy having someone else's vomit down your shirt. You're not going to enjoy sleeping 45 minutes a night. You're not going to enjoy witching hour, teething, colic and the overall fear of not knowing what is wrong with a tiny baby who cannot yet communicate with you. No one should expect you to enjoy poop explosions and you're not meant to enjoy having to clean up baby food from your curtains, your bookshelves and your carpet (and that's just breakfast).
Even if life does go by way too fast (if you've ever been on a treadmill, you know this isn't always true), does that mean I have to enjoy every minute?
When you place the expectation on a new parent that they should enjoy every moment, you're not letting them be open about the lows of parenthood, which might make it tough for them to open up with you and get the support they so desperately need.
Instead of trying to portray parenthood as Instagram-perfect, judging new parents for their disposable nappies and their formula feeding, we need more real talk about parenthood and the bits of it that truly suck. It really does take a village and that village needs to be full of good listeners who won't make parents feel guilty about those times when they wonder whether they're cut out for this.
Next time you're about to tell a new parent to "enjoy every moment", consider other, much better, things you can say to them instead:
- You're doing great
- This really is hard
- Let me cook you dinner
- Can I watch your baby for 30 minutes while you have a nap or a shower?
- More wine?
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