Stop Trying to Get Me to Pre-Miss My Kids, Not Every Parenting Moment is Magical

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It’s around 8.15pm and after a double bedtime that started 90 minutes ago, you return downstairs to find you’ve been robbed and the house ransacked. Oh no, it’s just the mess your kids managed to make in the few (long) hours they were home between school and aforementioned bedtime. You bend down wearily to pick it up, because as much as you’ve tried, getting the kids involved and singing a “tidy up time” song never quite caught on. Then it’s time to cook dinner, because actually, your working day finished at 6pm and the kids were screaming for food from 4.30pm – and you didn’t really want pesto pasta with a side order of chicken nuggets. Though, now, you’d take that if someone made it for you. You sit down with whatever you’ve cobbled together for dinner, phone in hand and prepare for a mindless brain-break of a scroll.

Time and again I’ve found myself in this situation, only to happen upon an instagram post that informs me that I shouldn’t moan because one day, I’m going to miss all of these moments.

What is the incessant need to make women believe in the mystical magicality of every parenting moment?

In the font of a “live, laugh, love” sign these posts will try and tell me that one day, I’ll miss the sticky fingers and the handprints on the walls. I’ve only got 18 summers, you know?! (Well, I’m currently bankrupting myself figuring out how to find childcare for just this one to be honest). One day, my house will be silent – and I’ll long for the screams of pain only a toddler with an apple “cut the wrong way” can make. One day, I’ll sob endlessly, remembering the moment one of my kids screamed “You’re not my best friend!” and trapped my fingers in the door (instead of sobbing with fury, I guess?).

But … will I? Why am I constantly being asked to pre-miss my kids? What is the incessant need to make women (I don’t see male influencers making these posts, or men sharing them) believe in the mystical magicality of every parenting moment? It’s just another cross for us to bear and standard to live up to. Another way to make me feel bad about feeling bad?

If I’m being generous, I’d say that these posts are designed to make struggling parents feel better. Of course it’s always great to find the light in the dark, the sweetness in the pain. And yes, when you’re in the thick of things, sometimes you might need a reminder that you could be missing out on amazing moments. We take things for granted every day – and I suppose parenting is no different. “These are the good days” we’re often urged to tell ourselves, so perhaps these kinds of “motivational posts” are designed to have us think that way and protect ourselves against the potential looming spectre of future regret at not taking it all in.

I’m sure there are times I’m missing out and allowing outside factors to cloud me to the wonderful in my every day. But I just refuse to believe that I’ll miss everything. I’m sick of being sold that all aspects of parenthood are magic. And I think that’s ok? It’s ok to long for a day where nappies are a distant memory. Will I miss picking up 280 jigsaw pieces every night from the floor? Really? Will I miss carrying around a giant backpack full of spare clothes, snacks and toys just in case they’re needed on a tiny whim? Will I miss someone screaming at me because I tried to put them in a bath, only to scream at me seven minutes later for taking them out? I mean, maybe. But I’m banking on not.

I refuse to accept that I should enjoy hoovering up crumbs every night because I adore the hands that created the mess.

It’s also an overly universalising approach. Most of us who’ve struggled through the mess of parenthood know that we reside mostly in the grey. Some days you can thrive in the mess and the mayhem, sometimes it’s funny and manageable – sometimes it can bring you to your knees. And guess what? Those days haunt most of us – they’re not forgotten.

Conversely to the messaging, I resent the implication that I need to be remotely reminded that moments that are slipping through my fingers every day. I believe few people are more aware of the passing of time than parents, the people who regularly pack up charity shop bags of tiny beloved clothes that no sibling-to-come will ever exist to wear. I already know deeply I’ll miss the hand-holding, the desperate runs towards me at nursery pick-up or the easy-won giggles of a toddler. But don’t tell me that just because I’ll miss cuddling my tiny child’s body to mine one day that I’ll miss the corresponding sleepless night where they kick me in the head. Nobody likes getting kicked in the head. I think it’s ok to say I’m thrilled that I’m nearly at the end of changing nappies. It doesn’t mean that the very idea that my kids won’t live with me one day can’t leave me so choked I have to stop where I’m standing. The fact is you can’t immunise against regret any more than you can immunise against the passing of time.

Anyway, it’s sexist too. This messaging to women that they should suck it up and enjoy every moment (or they’re, at best missing out, at worst traitorous and ungrateful) goes hand-in-hand with the rise of trad-wifery and the fetishisation of tidying and organisation in recent years. I refuse to accept that I should enjoy hoovering up crumbs every night because I adore the hands that created the mess. I’ll be honest, in my house, I’m not the parent usually doing the hoovering anyway. But if we’re searching for societal equality, the idea that the domestic load is inextricably tied to the “joys” of parenthood and that “joy” is in turn inextricably linked to women and mothers, it has to stop.

I miss my yesterday kids every day – but nothing can stop time. Certainly not parenting memes that try and get me to pre-miss them and insist that forcedly enjoying mind-numbing or disgusting tasks will make things better. Instead, all I can do is be honest to myself, enjoy what I can and love the person they are today and tomorrow.

Rhiannon Evans is the interim content director at PS UK. Rhiannon has been a journalist for 17 years, starting at local newspapers before moving to work for Heat magazine and Grazia. As a senior editor at Grazia, she helped launch parenting brand The Juggle, worked across brand partnerships, and launched the “Grazia Life Advice” podcast. An NCE-qualified journalist (yes, with a 120-words-per-minute shorthand), she has written for The Guardian, Vice and Refinery29.

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