At the start of Lent this year, I was the sleep-deprived mom of a 3-month-old baby. I published a Facebook status that said, “For Lent, I’m giving up sleep. #newmom.”
It got 45 likes and several comments from commiserating and empathetic mommies and daddies, saying “Amen!” or “Piece of cake!” They got my joke. They understood that as a parent, you have to try and find the humor in pretty much everything or you won’t survive.
But then I saw this comment:
“I know it sounds like total BS, but you really will miss the late-night snuggling once he gets older. So although it sucks now, try to soak it up.”
I “liked” the comment, but actually, I hated the comment. Like, it really pissed me off.
“Soak it up,” along with “Enjoy this time” or “Embrace the moment,” have become my most hated pieces of parenting advice. (I hate even more that I have said this cliché to other expecting mommies. Before I became one, of course.)
Most of the time, this instance included, people dole out this advice after a comment about some of the less-desirable parts of being a mom to an infant. Here, it was about lack of sleep. I’m sure the comment was well-intentioned. Most of the time, asinine comments are. But this time, I was pissed.
For one, I didn’t say anything that would imply that I am NOT “soaking it up.” I didn’t complain about the lack of sleep. I didn’t say, “No sleep sucks,” and I didn’t even mention late-night snuggles.
Side note: No sleep for mom does not equal “late night snuggles.” Sometimes, it equals a screaming, writhing baby who does not want to snuggle. He just wants to cry, eat, use your boob as a pacifier, scream, play, chat, etc.
So you’re telling me that I should be “soaking it up” in the middle of the night when I’d rather be sleeping? No thanks.
Not all moments in motherhood are enjoyable or precious. In fact, some of them are, quite literally, sh*tty. Just because I don’t particularly enjoy having bloody nipples and I don’t cherish every dirty diaper I change and I don’t like waking up every 45 minutes to receive a pacifier, doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying being a mom, or that I’m not soaking it all up. (Believe me, I am soaking up plenty, and most of the time, “it” is a bodily fluid.)
More than that, though, things are hard enough when you’re a parent. I don’t need the added pressure of feeling like I absolutely have to enjoy every moment of parenting. No one does.
There have been so many days and nights when I’ve broken down and cried at the enormity of it all, of this job being a mom. I think selfish thoughts like, “I want to sleep,” or, “I can’t do this,” or, “I just want to be alone.” My next thought is always, “But you should enjoy this time — everyone says to enjoy this time!” And then the guilt floods my veins like a drug. Oh, the guilt. It’s overwhelming.
Yes, I know, and I agree: Motherhood is precious. Babies are miracles. Time goes too fast. The days are long, but the years are short. And I know there are countless women in the world who would die to have a baby keeping them up all night.
I know all of this. See above paragraph on guilt.
But here’s what people don’t get: I can enjoy my baby and still wish he would sleep. I can be grateful to be a mom and still want to feel like a human. I can love my baby and still want to sleep in my own bed, instead of the rocking chair. I can be simultaneously tired and wanting sleep and still love my baby with every fiber of my being.