These aren’t the best days of my life. You go out of your way to tell me they are. You tell me in the grocery store as I wrestle through with my toddler, you comment on my Facebook status when I complain of my exhaustion. You remind me that it’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.
I am living in the fog of sleepless nights with newborns. I am in the midst of the toddler years, dropped into a war zone with no training on how to defuse a bomb. You seize any opportunity to remind me to count my blessings when I can’t remember which side the baby last nursed on.
It’s obvious something must change between where I stand now and where you are. Let me remind you of what you may have forgotten.
I spend my days wiping poop out of folds, and I have three daughters, so we’re talking about a lot of folds. I have a clogged milk duct that I have no choice but to nurse through. My body is in this weird gray area where 95 percent of the time it’s teetering on starvation, but I stress eat enough peanut butter while standing up in front of the pantry to keep it soft and flecked with cellulite. I am a walking stereotype, made up almost completely of coffee and wine and an insufferable share of self-pity.
I am in the epicenter of young motherhood and I can’t see my way to the calm. I can’t see ahead to the quiet halls of a nest gone empty. I know that a great sense of achievement and heartache await me, but you’ll have to forgive me, I’m in quicksand with babies strapped to my body and I’d like to use your loneliness as a rope to climb out of this. I’d trade one of my twins for five minutes uninterrupted, and you’d give anything for a text from your daughter. You think I’m squandering this, I think you have selective dementia.
Right now I remember not being able to hold all three of my crying children when they need me, because God gave me a big enough heart, but not strong enough arms. And I remember losing my temper. I feel the sting of my impatience as much as my toddler. Time has yet to dull my feelings of failure and erase my shortcomings.
These are not the best days of my marriage. They are strong ones. Man, do we make a good team. But I’m Michael Jordan, my husband is Scottie Pippen and we are just trying to make it to game seven. Dribble. Pass. Shoot. Change. Feed. Rock. Same thing. Nice play, Scottie, but please . . . don’t even think about touching me.
I don’t see my husband anymore, not fully—there’s his shoulder I nudge in the middle of the night to comfort a crying infant, a nudge that forcefully says your turn. There are his hands to pass a baby to, and his voice that I need in place of my own to discipline a child I gave up on two hours ago.
How presumptuous of you to assume that every morning I don’t lift my babies out of their cribs knowing that tomorrow they will be just a little bit heavier. They will do a little more and need me a little less. I don’t need you to remind me to savor these moments, the magnitude of what I’m in the middle of is dizzying.
Don’t tell me that these are my best days, because those comments come loaded with guilt and pressure. Guilt, because if they are, why am I unhappy? And the pressure to make the most of them. Pressure that will have you loading up the minivan to make memories that you’re filtering for Instagram before you even pull out of the apple orchard. Memories that are far too much work for children to not even remember. Can we save these elaborate trips for the school-age years? So I will at least get credit for my suffering.
Parents need your extra set of hands, your affirmation that whatever they’re feeling is OK. They need your trays of lasagna. They don’t need your romanticized take on parenthood, presented from a comfortable distance of 15+ years.
What sort of life am I left to live if I believe that this is the sweetest it will be? These days are significant. There is magic in them. But they are not my best. Those lie ahead of me, and behind me, and they are scattered between the then and now. There are proms, graduations, and grandbabies; I can’t wait to watch their lives unfold as mine comes back together.