It seems as though every time I turn around, there you are. An empty-nester or mom of surly teenagers who feels compelled to tell me to “enjoy it!” or that I should “savor every moment! They grow up too fast!”

And every time, I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes at you behind your back.

Because most of my day is spent doing things like dragging a toddler out of the grocery store screaming because her favorite crackers were out of stock, or wrestling an overly exhausted eight-month-old with surprising strength into a clean diaper.

And don’t even get me started on the lack of sleep.

Because, listen. I get that you miss your kids being adorable and tiny. I get that your kids don’t need you anymore like they used to. Maybe they don’t even like you anymore, or maybe they’ve moved so far away that you only get to see them once a year, if you’re lucky.

I can’t imagine how hard that must be.

But you’ve forgotten the struggle of what it’s like to be me.

You’ve forgotten the sleepless nights, the colic, the tantrums, the early mornings, the late nights, the utter exhaustion, and the POOP. So much poop.

Time has clouded those memories for you. It’s easy to look back and think of only the special, sweet times. The ones you photographed and journaled about.

And maybe you truly would give anything to go back and do it all again, even if you remembered everything crystal clearly—the good and the bad.

But that doesn’t make this stage of life with small children any less grueling for me right now.

Sure, there are the sweet moments that make it all worth it.

But the precious moments are far outnumbered by the difficult, exhausting ones. And do you know what the last thing is that I need echoing around in my head at 2 a.m. while I’m trying to clean projectile spit-up out of my hair? That I need to be enjoying myself more.

Our purpose as mothers is not to sit around and mourn the fact that our children are doing exactly what they were meant to do: grow! Our children don’t exist to be our pets by staying little forever.

They are people. Little human beings trying to find their way in the world, and it’s our job to guide them through that process and shape and mold them into the best version of themselves that they can be. In order for them to do that, we have to let them grow.

It isn’t something to be mournful about, it’s something to celebrate. Every day our kids get older, we get to know them better and learn new and interesting things about who they are. They get more amazing with each passing day. Every day they grow closer to being the person they’re meant to be.

Yes, there is a bittersweetness to the fact that they need us a little less every day. And someday, they won’t need us at all. But that’s how life was meant to be, and it’s a beautiful thing.

When you tell me to enjoy my kids, it doesn’t help me to raise them better. It only serves to make me worry that I’ll regret standing there watching my beautiful, sleeping child for only five minutes instead of 10.

Should I have pushed my toddler on the swing for a few extra minutes instead of telling her that it was time for Mommy to go sit down?

It makes me wonder how tall I should let the stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen get before I can take a break from “enjoying” my kids to get them done.

It makes me feel guilty for sneaking off to the bathroom for five minutes to check the Instagram stories or for counting down the minutes to bedtime. Surely if I enjoyed my children enough, I wouldn’t feel the need to escape from them.

I admit, this season of raising my babies is a beautiful one. But there is beauty in every season of motherhood. You, as a seasoned mama, get to take a step back and enjoy the fruit of your many years of hard work raising your kiddos. You get to see what they’ve become and be proud of their accomplishments, whatever those might be. That’s a beautiful thing.

Though your memories of the bad times and the struggles may have faded, you still have the greatest insight into what young moms are going through in our season of raising littles. You are the best equipped to support and encourage us, because you’ve gone through exactly the same thing. And that’s beautiful thing, too.

So the next time you meet a young mama with a whole passel of kids in tow who looks like she hasn’t slept more than three consecutive hours in weeks, don’t tell her to enjoy it.

Instead, hold the door open for her, tell her that her kids are adorable and that she’s doing a great job.

Young moms don’t need one more thing to remember to do in order to be a good mother. Trust me, most of us are trying our very hardest to be all that we can be for our kids. What we really need is a little affirmation that what we’re doing is enough.

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Melinda Ashley

Melinda is an exhausted, but happy, mom of two girls and wife to the best husband a girl could ask for. When she’s not running around refilling sippy cups, washing diapers, or googling how to get get a toddler to eat spinach, you can find her blogging over at the Unfrazzled Mama.

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