Recently I’ve seen something floating around social media about only having eighteen summers with your children before they are grown up. The sentiment is that we need to make the most of their time as children, to make the most of our time as parents and the emphasis is that we should be making the most of this time in their lives. Now, you may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Yes, of course I agree that we should cherish our children and our time spent with them, but I don’t appreciate the pressure this time is running out mentality has on me, and most likely other parents.
It is true, time does seem to go by quickly, especially when your children are young and seem to grow a little all the time. However, you can spend time with your children, without the need for fancy holidays, big occasions or a bucket list full of ‘must-do’ activities to mark the years. Yes, the big memories are nice, but they don’t make the little ones any less special. Tucking your child into bed, giving them a cuddle, reassuring them if they fall, giggling together on the sofa in front of a particularly amusing cartoon. Those are all moments I will cherish, just the same as our holidays abroad or trips to theme parks, the beach or our local farm.
As somebody with a ‘blended’ family, sharing childcare, I find it particularly hard to read posts that suggest we ought to be holding onto every day in our child’s life because for people like me, that simply isn’t possible. There are times in my daughter’s life that I will miss, times I have already missed. It’s painful, but necessary in order for her to spend quality time with her other family and although of course I would never choose to miss time in my daughter’s life, it is the reality for us. What I don’t appreciate is people reinforcing the idea that we must hold onto these years in our children’s lives, to become obsessed with the idea of time running out on us.
I have suffered in the past with my mental health and am still battling anxiety today. For many parents, this mentality of the clock running out, of grains of sand falling through the glass right in front of our eyes isn’t just stressful, it can be hugely damaging. There have been days when all I have really wanted to do was to snuggle up in front of a film with the kids but I have looked outside, seen that it’s sunny and felt the pressure to ‘make the most’. of the day, to make memories that the children will remember. Spending money we can’t necessarily afford and doing something just for the sake of it is pointless. True, the children might not remember individual lazy days at home, but they will remember the closeness of our family, the feeling of being together and loved. They don’t need days out to prove how much they mean to us, hopefully they will know that already.
Then there is the guilt this mentality brings. The ‘what ifs’. What if I have wasted some of these precious years with my kids, what if I haven’t done enough with them, what if more years go by and I feel I haven’t done all the things I should have done with them? I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home, allowing me to do the school runs, to be there for the kids, to watch school plays and nativities and to attend meetings and open days with ease compared to parents who work in an office environment. But working from home means that sometimes I am doing work outside of office hours, I sometimes need to be on my laptop or my phone when the children are at home with me. This ideal of putting the phone down is sometimes not feasible. Of course I make time for the children, but being told that time is precious is not helping, just adding to the guilt you already feel as a parent trying to juggle it all.
I feel I am rambling a little, and perhaps others won’t agree with what I am saying. Maybe my own experiences have made me a little bitter. Perhaps I am reading too much into these posts about making every day count. After all, I totally agree that children won’t be children forever and I will most definitely be sad when my children are all grown up and no longer want or need me in the same way they do now. But I think as parents we can make the most of our time with our children, without clock watching, without the pressure to do it all.
I may only have 18 summers with my kids, but it’s the here and now that matters. I want to look back on these years with a smile, not regret all those times I have jam packed our schedule because I felt I had to. I want to live in the moment.