“You are going to miss this!” Parents often hear this lovely sentiment when they are up-to-their-ears in diapers and vomit, have no time to shower or watch a show, and are simply exhausted. Yes, this well-intentioned advice is usually offered at a time when you are venting to family or friends about the trials of parenting – sleep deprived and/or, perhaps, lost in a battle of outsmarting a toddler. As a parent, a therapist, and human, I would love to never hear “You’re Going to Miss This” ever again. In those difficult moments of parenting, the phrase is invalidating, untrue, and downright hogwash.
Ok, I will step that statement back a little bit. Perhaps there are parents out there who will wish that they are, once again, catching their child’s throw up in their hands as they rush towards the bathroom cursing over not understanding how kids don’t know that they are about to puke (does that just happen to me?). Perhaps. Of course there are things we will all miss about raising kids. With my kids being 10 and 7, I already look back and miss the tiny hands and voices, the quiet nights rocking in the glider, and the coos and giggles without any talking back. I can, however, absolutely honestly say I will not miss being up every 2 to 3 hours, not having a moment to relax, and, of course, the catching of the vomit.
What I really want for all parents is for them to be able to complain that this parenting stuff is hard, really hard. And, then, for friends and family to look at them and say, “Yes, it certainly is.” The response of “you are going to miss this” dismisses their need for support and certainly invalidates that they are really struggling in that moment. Basically they are saying to you, “You don’t get to complain because one day you will wish that you were here, up to your elbows in misbehaving/messy/crying kid, once again.”
Parenting can be a huge struggle. A parent needs to be able to admit, “I am not going to miss this” without fear that others will perceive that they are taking what they have for granted. Can’t we have both? Can’t we love our children and our lives with them but also struggle with the hard parts? The culture of ‘you have do everything and be everything for your children and, at the same time, not complain about it,’ is unrealistic and unfair.
Parents miss their down time. They miss traveling unencumbered. They miss socializing with friends without having to find that one hour in the year none of your friends has a child’s sporting event. And, they miss alone time with their spouses . Parents really should be allowed to look forward to a day that it is just them again without feeling they are doing something wrong. I look forward to, once again, sitting on the beach with my husband, cold drink in hand without guilt or thought of needing to pick up the kids or what homework needs to be done. I know I will miss so much of parenthood but, in those moments, I will not miss the sleepless nights, the 7 tons of laundry, or the crock pot meals. I hope to sleep, do less laundry, and eat well. Despite how much I love being a mom, I look forward to that – a lot – and I am not afraid to admit it.
We need to see life after parenthood as a joyous time – a time to reconnect with life beyond kids and not a time that we will spend solely missing parenthood. In fact, it is unhealthy to look at our time as parents as the pinnacle of happiness or, at least, feel that we should have to see it as the pinnacle. Doing that, again, brings on guilt for struggling with the challenges of parenting and also guilt for, perhaps, really enjoying pre- and post-parenthood. I do feel so sad when I think about how fast the years have gone by, but to mitigate that sadness, I do think about what life after parenting brings.
So, the next time a person with good intentions offers the phrase, “You’re going to miss this, ” perhaps you politely let them know that there is a lot about parenting that you love, but the hard times will not be missed. Perhaps you add that you actually look forward to days where you aren’t changing poopy diapers or cleaning fruit punch off of your new shoes. Maybe by being honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly – along with defending your right to not miss the ugly – you will help other parents feel validated and feel that it is okay to say that parenting is hard.