I hated this phrase...mostly because I was going through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Just keeping up with the daily care of two infants was hard enough--and I was supposed to "enjoy every minute" too?
I felt like a failure.
One of my favorite bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, wrote an article the other day about marriage, called "What makes a relationship work?"
This line stuck out to me:
We seem to accept the truth that "strong marriages have bad weeks, months, even years" so why does this truth seem harder to swallow when applied to parenthood?...I’ve been warned by older and wiser friends not to panic if we hit a rough patch—strong marriages have bad weeks, months, even years—
The thing is, our kids are people too, complete with little personalities, big attitudes, funny quirks, and loud opinions. And just like a strong marriage, our relationship with our kids requires work and daily maintenance.
In my seven+ years of parenting, I have come to realize that relationships with my children can and do go through difficult times that are frustrating, irritating, exhausting, even soul-crushing--trials of growth and times where I literally pull my hair out and think what-the-heck-am-I-doing?
There are so many times I have thought "I am a bad mom" or "I am not doing my best" when really, I was just going through one of these trials of growth. And growth is uncomfortable and painful and....not enjoyable.
The truth is, you don't have to enjoy every minute to be a good mom, despite the little old lady in the grocery store who sighs "it-goes-by-so-fast," and the "soak-up-every moment / enjoy every stage / be-the-perfect-parent-today-or-screw-your-kids-up-for-tomorrow" social pressures that we are inundated with on a daily basis.
Parenting is hard because we are in relationship with tiny humans, and all good, lasting relationships have hard times. The key words there are "good" and "times," because there are good times too--seconds, moments, days, and years that are good, and should be soaked up and enjoyed.
Those are the times where we feel like good parents.
But the reality is, whether in marriage, or friendship, or parenting, or any relationship, feelings can be fleeting. It's the sticking through the hard times that spells commitment, the "I-will-do-my-best-no-matter-what-because-I-love-you" that is the true marker of a "good" mom.
Is motherhood enjoyable? I think the answer to that question depends on the mother and the moment you ask.
But if the litmus test of a "good mother" is how much we enjoy it, we will always be sentimentalizing the past or wishing ourselves in a less difficult parenting moment (naptime, anyone?).
We need to release the expectation of "enjoying motherhood" and focus on the reality of growing our relationships with our children, and all the good, bad, infuriatingly messy, ugly, and beautiful aspects that relationships with people bring to our lives.