“Enjoy every minute—it goes so fast!”
It’s the phrase that drives every mom of young kids to drink. (Seriously, is the wine industry giving these people a kickback or something?) But the thing is, even though I would never utter those words to an exhausted new mom, I do believe it. And I’m currently in the thick of exhausted new motherhood, so I can say it.
I won’t lie: I’m freaking out a little bit right now because it is going so damn fast all of the sudden. My brand-spanking-new newborn is six weeks old. Yes, SIX WEEKS OLD. She’s gained two whole pounds since birth. She’s so sturdy that I’m already carrying her around in a football hold. She’s become BFFs with a few stuffed animals, and she laughs at me when I make funny faces. She’s practically on her way to getting her driver’s license and going off to college!
I’m (mostly) kidding about that last part, but it doesn’t change the fact that I pushed out this beautiful, squishy baby girl one day, blinked my eyes and was somehow transported a month and a half into the future.
If I try really hard, I can account for the days. There were the hazy days of recovery and rest and trying to keep a 3-year-old from climbing on our heads early on. That was soon followed by a barrage of visitors. And then some half-hearted attempts to do educational activities with my son, some whole-hearted attempts to get him to cuddle with me on the couch to watch a long movie and, finally, some heroic attempts to leave the house by myself with the two of them.
But really, I feel like I just blinked.
And now I’m feeling a mommy tsunami of guilt. Why? Because I’ve been asking myself this question: It’s going by so fast, but have I truly been enjoying it?
The short answer is: Yes. I love being a mom, I love my little girl, and I love watching my son in his new role as a big brother.
The longer answer is: I’m wondering if I’m as present with my second child as I was with my first. Am I being as good of a mom to my daughter as I was to my son three and a half years ago?
Those early days of new motherhood with my son were dizzying, and the love was so overwhelming, I felt like my heart would literally burst at any second. With all due respect to my husband, my son was my obsession, my love, my world. And for those first few months, I had no other responsibilities but him. I had been laid off while pregnant, it was the dead of winter, and I felt absolutely free to sit and stare at him for hours on end. I didn’t care if I wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t care if the house got cleaned or if I showered. I didn’t care if I didn’t do anything but stare at him on the video monitor once he finally, mercifully fell asleep. Umbilical cord be damned, I was still very much attached to him every minute of the day.
As they say, you can’t spoil a newborn. It turns out, however, that you can spoil a mom.
Because I was so spoiled. I got to spend all the time I wanted with my son, whenever I wanted it, and I mostly ignored the outside world. Now I’m greedy and I want that same time with my daughter—I crave it. But no matter how hard I try, it’s impossible to have that kind of undivided attention when you have two small kids (and laundry and real-life worries) without adding another 24 hours to each and every day. My life is different now, and it’s just not feasible to pretend like my other responsibilities don’t exist. So, hello, guilt.
But that guilt isn’t helping anything. In fact, it’s making things worse since it’s further diverting my attention away from her. Look, I know that I’ll have to get out of my new-mom cocoon soon. People will expect it, and social obligations and work will start up again. But these few short weeks of having a brand-new newborn? I’m going to do my best to bask in my new-mom glow with her.
I realize that life won’t stop just because I want to hit pause and stare at my baby. But at the very least, I’m going to try not to feel guilty when I return an e-mail while I’m breastfeeding or when I can’t always just stare at her while she’s sleeping without anything else on my mind. Because the truth of it is: I am enjoying every minute that I’m with her, but it’s probably never going to feel like enough…because honestly, it is going too damn fast.