“One day I’ll miss these early wake up calls,” a new mom assured herself the other day, by way of apologizing for indulging a bleary groan over her baby’s 5 a.m. stirrings.
I felt it was my duty, as the senior mother, to lend some perspective on this swiftly fleeting time of her life.
“No,” I assured her. “No, you won’t.”
She can take my word on this. My youngest just turned eight. His brothers are thirteen and eleven. My family is in that sweet spot, the middle years, where we all still like each other, and everyone can get in and out of the car by themselves and go to the bathroom unassisted. It’s glorious.
Of course, there are things I miss about the baby years, but sleep deprivation is not one of them. Neither is that reflexive guilty feeling whenever I admitted to myself–or heaven forbid, to others–that I wasn’t rolling in gratitude and joy every second of every minute. The early years are challenging, physically and emotionally. But you can’t admit it without someone there to remind you they’ll be grown before you know it, and oh, how you’ll long to have this time back. The insinuation being that you don’t properly appreciate the gift of motherhood right now.
That, my friends, is a diaper load.
Not only is it unhelpful, and dismissive of the totality of parenting, it’s downright depressing. As if the baby years are as good as it gets, and it’s all downhill from there. The years fly by, the babies grow up, and there’ll be nothing left to do but haunt tired new moms in the grocery aisles with tales of the glory days. The ghost of Motherhood Past.
I’m not going to be that ghoul. I’d rather be a beacon of hope instead, the one who says, “Wow, babies are precious, but I remember how exhausting that was. Hang in there, it gets better!”
In that spirit, as a Mother’s Day gift to new moms everywhere, I offer a list of 10 things you won’t miss about the baby years.
- Sleep interruption. As fondly as I recall snuggling with nursing babies and spooning with anxious toddlers in the wee hours, I savor every unbroken hour.
- The cargo. My back muscles twitch every time I see a mother lugging a sleeping baby from the car in an infant seat, or balancing a toddler on one hip, with an overstuffed diaper bag slung against the other.
- The hassle factor. The simplest errands become major undertakings when you factor in car seats, nap schedules, diapers and tantrums. I feel like a stealth operative now that it’s possible to just hop out of the car and duck into the post office. I buy stamps while humming the theme music to Mission Impossible.
- Diapering. I put in six accumulative years of cloth and disposables, for an estimated 14,000 changes. I don’t miss one of them. Toilet training is also a 100 per cent nostalgia-free zone.
- Lack of privacy. There was a time when my children and I were almost always on the same side of the bathroom door. Nowadays, I won’t even speak to them through it.
- Crying as the primary mode of communication. I see this as an evolutionary design flaw. If calves can walk moments after birth, why can’t newborn humans speak simple sentences? Or at least write a note?
- Two words: Nasal suction.
- Two more: Spit up.
- Baby proofing. Let me tell you, the unfettered cabinet door is a marvel of engineering. Never take it for granted.
- Insecurity. Anxiety. Obsessiveness. Guilt. Fear of screwing up. Pressure. It’s not that I’ve never known those feelings since my children outgrew the baby years, but experience is a mighty shield against them. I survived that brief, intense, beautiful, challenging time. My back a little weaker, but my confidence much stronger.