If you have young children, you have likely heard some iteration of the phrase, “Enjoy every moment,” repeatedly. They are the words uttered to you with a smile by the store cashier as she sees your toddler yanking at your hand. It is the comment on your Facebook post about finally getting the kids to bed.
Being a new parent is tough, but not tough enough to ever be sad, angry or even just a tiny bit annoyed by the situation.
That is what you are telling a new parent when you say, “Enjoy every moment.”
Take the time to think about why this phrase is problematic.
It is a command
You are ordering us to feel joyous. This dismisses whatever emotions we are actually having and puts us in a situation where we have to defend our true feelings or surrender to your command in order to be happy.
It is intrusive
Would you ever approach a young couple, in the midst of a heated fight, and tell them, “Enjoy every moment”? Of course not. Because, that would be insane. Why then is it okay to say it to a new parent? For some reason, kids give everyone a free pass to interject their unsolicited advice.
It is harmful
I know many of you think they are just words and that we should all lighten up. But, for someone struggling with motherhood, being told to “Enjoy every moment” invalidates her feelings and may keep her from getting the help she needs. When she hears those words, she may think she is doing something wrong and suppress her true emotions. With postpartum depression a real and growing problem, we need to let moms be free to feel the way they do.
It is arrogant
When you say, “Enjoy every moment,” you are telling a new mother that you know her life better than she does. You disregard her unique experience as a parent and imply you know best how she should feel at all times.
It is judgmental
Parents today are barraged with constant criticism. In my early days as a mother, I never knew if I was doing anything right. And, hearing that I should “Enjoy every moment” made me feel like I was failing, if I wasn’t happy all the time.
What then does a person with good intentions say to a new mother? Something that acknowledges the reality of new parenthood with a dose of encouragement. Once, while I was dealing with an epic toddler tantrum, a woman approached me and told me her daughter used to do the same thing and was now a successful young woman. Hearing that assured me I am not alone and even the most willful kids can grow into accomplished adults.
If you really need a comforting phrase, try this: “It won’t last forever.” When people say those words to me, I know they are both reminding me to savor the good times, but also assuring me the tough stuff will be over soon.
Or better yet, don’t speak, act. On a trip to the grocery shortly after my youngest was born, I was struggling with a heavy shopping cart, while trying to manage my hungry baby and whiny toddler. The strange man in front of me in the checkout line kindly let me pass him and helped unload my groceries onto the conveyor belt. By doing that, he actually made it a bit easier to enjoy being a mom.
I realize there is one time when someone saying, “Enjoy every moment” to a new parent truly comes from a good place, and that is if he or she has lost a child. I never want to imagine what that is like, and I know those parents wish they could have had another moment, even the not-so-good ones. To these parents, I hear you, and please know I, and I believe most parents, are doing our best to appreciate what we have, even if it isn’t always easy.
How do you feel when people tell you, “Enjoy every moment?” Sound off, below.
This post originally appeared on the blog, Maybe I’ll Shower Today.
Gail Hoffer-Loibl is a mother of two spirited boys who inspire her to share her thoughts on parenting, kids and life in general. She writes at Maybe I’ll Shower Today