An open letter to the creators of parenting memes everywhere … from a mum who’s had enough

[DISCLAIMER: OK, so I don’t hate all memes, and if you love them and they inspire you, go for it and ignore my bitter rant – you do you! But just this day … I’d kind of had enough!]

Please stop telling me to savour every minute with my children. Stop telling me that one day I’ll pick them up and it’ll be the last time. That one day they’ll be gone – dead or grown – and I’ll miss the sleepless nights and tantrums, or whatever it is you think I’m preoccupied with. Stop telling me that every day is precious and it goes too fast, and that nothing is more important than being here with them, right now and making the absolute most of it all because nothing will ever bring it back and once it’s gone it’s gone.

Please. Just stop.

Because I know, Oh God do I know the preciousness of it all. Do I know how fast life passes by? Do I know with painful, awful, soul destroying clarity how much I’m missing out on and how impossible it is to get one second of it back?

Life speeds past my sickbed with such dizzying ferocity that it takes my breath away. I have missed more precious moments than I can bear to acknowledge and do you think I don’t know how gone those gone moments are.

It may seem profound to you to think of that mysterious, bittersweet day when you will put down your sweet child never to carry them again, because they are grown and strong and don’t need you that way anymore. But I put down my infant, not knowing if I would ever lift her again because I was too sick and didn’t have the strength, even though she still needed me – that way and in so many other ways that I can’t live up to and can’t replace.

You may envisage the day when you will look back teary eyed and wistful at the precious memories of this short time, when you are their whole world, and wish you had made more. I envisage a day when I look back and wonder whether what I could wring out of my sick and limited body was enough to equip them to face the world, and if it’s not, what that shortfall will cost them. I wonder if they will know me at all from what is left after all the sickness has stripped so much of me, and us and this time away. I wonder if I will still be there to look back and regret, or if my kids will have to face a world without me even in it.

Tell me, please how to savour their sweet voices when sound is so overwhelming to my diseased brain that the slightest noise is like being punched in the head. Tell me what it means to savour their exuberance and their constant need of me, when every movement in the room is physically painful, and when spending too much time savouring them today means I won’t be able to see them at all for days or even weeks. Tell me how precious it is to be the only place in the world your sick child can fall asleep when being their pillow means losing the ability to sit upright for days.

Tell me how the most important thing I can do right now is enjoy every minute, when all my energy is being poured into making them feel safe in a world where mummy’s body is falling apart.

And what about the mother working all the hours God sends to keep life and limb together – to put food on the table, clothes on backs, a roof over her head. Will you make her feel a failure because she couldn’t savour it all when she was dead tired and stressed over keeping them all fed?

Or the woman for whom motherhood is like walking through a minefield of triggers from her own abusive childhood, who every day faces and resists the drive to run and protect herself because she loves her kids more than life itself, and knows better than you ever will how precious this time is because it was so violently taken from her.

And how about the woman who has already lost a child and who knows that hugging them once more will never be enough, you can never savour it enough or store up enough memories to make losing them less agonising. That those very memories you tell her to savour are the ones that tear at her heart when her arms are empty and will never be filled again.

Tell it to the mother whose child will never outgrow their need of her, who won’t hit the milestones you bemoan. Tell it to the mother who will never feel that peculiar mix of pain and pride at seeing your child grown and independent and not needing you anymore. Tell her you wish you could keep yours little when hers will be little and dependent forever, when her fear is not, did she appreciate it enough, but what will happen to her precious one, in a cruel heartless world when she’s too old to care for them and protect them from its indifference.

Do you really think anyone needs to be told this by smugly nameless, faceless you, behind your open letter to the mum on her iphone, and the witty or heart tugging memes. All you’re doing is making people like you feel clever, wise or profound. You have no idea do you, what it really means to treasure? Treasure is buried, it’s rare and hard to find. No one needs to be reminded that it’s wise to hold it dear, or remember its value. It shines bright in the darkness and the muck in which it’s buried, and its value is self-evident. Digging for it is hard work though, and painful and some days just makes you want to cry. And when it’s agonising, what you don’t need is to be made to feel like you’re failing even more because you’re not savouring it, when your insufficiency is already punching you in the face. What you need to be told is that what matters most is that you’re doing your best, doing enough, and doing it for them, and that the good stuff still matters whether you have it in you to savour it or not.

I do not resent a minute or an ounce of strength I give my children. I don’t regret the pain or count the cost. I don’t hesitate to give my all, everything I have – little though it may be – to being the best mum I can be, the mum they need me to be, the mum no one else can be to them. I am grateful every day to have them in my life and to have the privilege of being their mother. I don’t need to be told to be grateful, or to savour them, because when life is full to the brim of pain and loss and struggle, you know how precious the beauty is. You know what really matters.

So please, take your trite reminders elsewhere, I don’t need your pretend profundity. I have enough to carry and enough to regret without failing to savour all the things you think I should. I don’t savour every minute because I can’t, I don’t have that luxury. And honestly, who the hell does? Life is hard, parenthood is hard. Telling each other how gloriously precious and fleeting it all is doesn’t make the hard things any easier, or the lost things any less gone and it doesn’t actually make the joy any more complete.

I’m not savouring, I’m grafting. I’m putting my all in to loving and supporting two precious, unique and wonderful people as they grow into who they are, and take on a world that is beautiful and glorious and dangerous. I am bringing up my kids to live well in a broken and breaking world. I’m doing my best to make choices about whether today my limited and finite resources will serve them best by joining in their game, watching them dance, resting enough to make sure I’m not too sick to see them tomorrow or writing my heart down for them so when I’m gone they’re not so alone. I am often arrested by the deep joy of motherhood, not because I’m looking for it, not because someone decided today was the day to remind me it was there, and not because it will soon be gone. I’m arrested by those moments because they are there, they will always be there, they are self-evident and I adore them. But ultimately, I’m working damn hard to make the life that my kids need to be happy, healthy and whole, because guess what … it was never about me at all.

And if that day comes, when I look back and wish I’d enjoyed it more, I will count myself lucky that I have that day to regret with, and then maybe I’ll get on with living that day the best I can, instead of regretting how I lived all the days that got us there.


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