I recently read this blog post written by a mom of 3 little ones, who is also a clinical psychologist.
To sum up the article, Samantha (the mom) writes that she struggles with the toddler stage. She doesn’t enjoy it and she realizes that she tends to not handle it in the best way.
Believe me, I get it, Samantha! I have 4 little ones; my eldest was newly 5 when my 4th was born. Toddlers are tough! There is a lot of crying and tantrums and diapers involved, and if you’re sleep deprived from having babies who don’t sleep through the night at the same time, it is so hard.
I also agree with you that when you’re in the midst of it, with possible post-partum depression or baby blues, having someone tell you to “enjoy every minute, because it goes so quickly” isn’t the most helpful advice. Yes, they are wise words that are important to keep in mind, but if we have a friend in need it’s important to offer some practical, tangible help along with the encouraging words.
What I don’t agree with is the advice given in the post.
I included Samantha’s profession because I felt that it was relevant to the post. She is a clinical psychologist; this means that many people go to her for advice and will take her advice, whether it’s good advice or not. They will assume that she knows what is best.
Samantha’s advice was basically, “if you don’t like the stage of parenting you’re in, it’s OK to spend less time with your kids (in her case, that meant increasing the amount of time they spend in preschool) and then she goes on to add that it’s even more OK if you spend more intentional quality time with the children.
“If you don’t like spending time with your kids, it’s OK to spend less time with them.”
Now, I don’t have any kind of degree in psychology, but I’m pretty sure that if a child spends less time with their parents, behavioral issues get worse.
Like I said, Samantha only has littles. She hasn’t experienced any other stage of parenting beyond baby, toddler, and preschooler-hood.
So it might sound nice and idealist to say “I’ll avoid the stage I don’t like now, and enjoy the easier ages later. I’ll make up for it then.”
But (from having spoken to other moms who have older kids, since I am also in the stage of only littles) parenting never gets easy. It changes, of course. And the challenges will be different. But it never gets easy.
So what if Samantha gets to the next stage of parenting and discovers that she doesn’t like that stage, either? What if she dislikes it even more than the toddler stage? She’ll have lost all of that precious time with her kids that she could have had them at home during, and now they’ll be off to school, she’ll have 8 hours a day less with her kids, and she won’t be able to enjoy the hours she DOES have them because she’ll haven’t have learned to find joy in the hard days.
She also is assuming that she will have those future years with her kids. Unfortunately, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Something could happen to her or her kids, and there may not be any more “next years” to catch up on those missed moments and relationships. Live each day as though it is your last, because it might be.
To the Mamas reading this..I get it. It’s hard and tiring and when you’re in the days, they seem to drag on. But if you look back, the weeks, months, years will have flown by. Needing some time to yourself to de-stress and calm down is fine, but also keep in mind that these younger years are so few and soon your kids will be spreading their wings and they won’t be home as much, especially if they go out to school.
I wish I could give all of the practical, tangible help that we all need from time to time; unfortunately, all I can give you from behind a computer screen are words. I wrote before a blog post of encouragement to all the tired and weary mamas out there.
Don’t be afraid to accept help from friends and family, or to ask for it.
Pray through your days. Put on worship music (it’s hard to be cranky when you have praises to God blaring from the speakers.) Sing a silly song and get everyone laughing. Read the Psalms.
There are some great and encouraging books out there about to encourage moms who are struggling with the little years, such as Loving the Little Years.
I think that it’s OK to not love a childhood stage. Also, some kids might be easier in a stage than others.
But please, remember that losing…giving away… time with your kids is a permanent sacrifice for a temporary problem.
So let us not grow weary while doing for, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.