As soon as I was done speaking, another mom with two young girls looked at me and said, "Oh, you ruined it. I was so hoping it gets better. I was just watching you and thinking how you were me in a few years. And then you said something that I say all the time in the same tone of voice."
We had a good laugh, and I assured this mom that those moments she just saw were much fewer and farther between than they are when you have preschoolers. Then I opened my mouth to remind that mom to enjoy the stage she was in -- and I stopped. I stopped because I remember when I was in the midst of those days when everyone needed something from me and I would have sold nearly everything I owned to simply get five minutes alone -- even if it meant going to the grocery by myself.
We're often quick to speak to another mom who is a stage or two behind us and tell her to simply enjoy the moment. We do it because we realize our kids are growing up quickly. We do it because we can view that stage with the rose-colored glasses of hindsight. We do it because we think we're being encouraging.
But the reality is that saying those words to an overworked, overtired mom who is just in need of a few minutes of peace often just triggers guilt. What if she's not enjoying the terrible twos (or the terrible threes, as we had in our house)? What if she's so tired it's all she can do to keep her kids well and fed? What if she's in the midst of a rough stretch with her kids?
When we tell another mom she should enjoy the stage her kids are in, we're implying that she's doing something wrong if she doesn't enjoy it. We're simply heaping more mommy guilt on a mom who probably already feels plenty of her own.
I love my daughters, but I really didn't enjoy the baby stage from about three months old to nine months old. I don't miss those days, and I don't want to do them again. They were hard, especially with my second daughter. Were there moments of joy? Absolutely. Were there moments that I loved? You betcha. Would I say even now that I enjoyed that stage of my life? Not really.
Not all stages of parenting are enjoyable. We really won't miss some of those days. Yes, we should try to enjoy our kids as much as possible. But we really shouldn't keep telling other moms to enjoy the stage they're in. We're not walking in their shoes. We're not living the day to day in their house.
What we do want to keep in mind even in the tough stages of parenting is that God is growing us and our kids. He is at work even when it seems like He's not. When there's no light at the end of the parenting tunnel, God is still walking beside us in the dark.
So, the next time you see a mom with kids a stage or two behind yours, offer some encouragement. Let her know that the load does get lighter. But don't tell her to enjoy the moment she's in. She probably has lots of moments she enjoys. She just needs to know that this particular stage doesn't last forever. She needs to know that even if she's not enjoying that particular moment, day or month, she's still a good mom.
Because, truly, as much as we love our kids, we don't have to enjoy every moment. We just have to be faithful to being the parent God made us to be in that moment.