It’s Okay Not to Enjoy It All

I don’t enjoy the tantrums.

I don’t enjoy waking up in a puddle of pee after my three-year-old’s overnight pull-up leaked after he crawled in bed with us during the night.

I don’t enjoy the middle-of-the-night wake-ups that I was told would end before he was one. I don’t enjoy hearing that it’s my fault he wakes up in the middle of the night. Some babies don’t sleep. Some toddlers don’t sleep. Mine is one of them.

I don’t enjoy hearing that my parenting methods are too gentle and that I need to discipline more firmly, punish more, dole out consequences as though they were Goldfish crackers.

I don’t enjoy finding poop on the walls when my son couldn’t find a towel.

I don’t enjoy finding my makeup scattered in the bathroom when my son makes a mess. He wants to clean it up so he can be helpful. Nor do I enjoy having to figure out how to best secure my collection of eyeshadows so he cannot give himself Groucho Marx-style eyebrows with mascara while painting his cheeks like a clown.

When I’m carrying my child out of a store snugly wrapped up in a backpack-style carrier as he fusses and squirms and yells in my ear, the last thing I want to hear is to enjoy it. All I can think of is getting my over-tired, overstimulated preschooler home for a nap.

My husband was recently told that it’s okay not to enjoy every moment of parenthood. I agree – not all aspects of parenting are enjoyable. And as parents, we don’t have to enjoy every moment. Maybe the best thing we can do is accept each moment is as it is. We’re all trying our best, even when we’re struggling to find the positive in the tantrums. 

What I want to hear as a mom is that it’s okay to not enjoy every moment of motherhood. This, too, shall pass. When I was pregnant a friend told me she enjoyed every moment of pregnancy. I remember thinking that nobody enjoys constipation, heartburn, or nausea. What we enjoy is the outcome of every difficulty that comes with pregnancy. 

There are days that are hard and bring hard moments, and maybe, instead of seeing those as moments to find joy in, I can choose instead to accept them as they are: hard moments where work is necessary, where I don’t need to find joy in mothering. 

I find joy in the other moments, when Magna-Tiles cover the floor and my son’s brow furrows in concentration as he works to build the castle pictured on the box. I love when he pulls the mixing bowl out and asks me if we can bake cookies, and when he helps me mix muffins and then fills the muffin cups. 

The memories I carry closest are the moments that bring me joy. I accept that motherhood brings hard things; some are encrypted in my memories to help me remember that this too, shall pass. Others I set aside to make more room for the moments I enjoy.

Enjoying every moment isn’t possible, but I can enjoy the little moments. We don’t have to enjoy every moment to be good moms.