We hear this often as mothers, usually from women older than us who have moved beyond the trenches and are haunted by empty bedrooms and quiet dinner tables. I remember well the years I spent in the trenches covered in small people who constantly needed some part of me. I would be in line at the grocery store, pregnant, wearing a baby on my back and with two toddlers in the cart, and some older women would come up and say, “Savor these years, they go so quickly.” And my inner response would be, “How on earth am I supposed to savor these moments when I don’t sleep, eat hot meals, or go to the bathroom alone?” Then I would feel guilty because I spent hours of my day hoping and praying the day would go quickly, planning any tiny escape I could manage, and wishing someone to tell me, “It gets easier.” To you, sweet mama’s in the trenches, waiting for bedtime like prisoners waiting for parole, I am here to tell you—it gets easier! I am also here to tell you it is almost impossible to savor these years when you are in them. The truth is that you are exhausted, and your children need so much of you every day that you don’t have the luxury of savoring. There are certainly moments you know you’ll want to remember—snapshots of joy and innocence that fill you with gratitude, but savoring, that is for those of us who have moved on to new seasons.
I have a daughter getting married. Beyond the stress and chaos of the planning, there is a tremendous amount of gratitude for this child that God gave us and a lot of reflecting on her life as a whole, and I know there were many moments that went unsavored. We look at pictures, and I tear up; we tell funny stories about her teenage years, and we laugh; but we mostly stand in awe of the privilege it has been to be her parents (and that includes days when we couldn’t wait for her to go to bed so we could be alone). My baby is six, and I can’t have any more children. I still grieve that reality, although the sting lessons with each year. But I realize that, in this position, I can look at those years with rose-colored glasses, and I do, even though I remember how hard they were. As our family grows, I realize more and more that the greatest joy of parenting is watching your children turn into people you feel privileged and proud to release into the world. When they are little, time moves so slowly, your days are so long, and their need is so great. And then, as if in a moment, they are more self-sufficient, they are funny and witty, and all you want is for time to slow down because you are suddenly painfully aware that your time with them is actually quite brief.
The truth is that this vocation is never easy. Every season brings new challenges, new opportunities for refinement and growth, new ways to rely on our wonderful and merciful God. His grace is sufficient for us and for our children. But please, say no to guilt, and if you do not find yourself savoring each moment of your current season, give yourself that much needed grace, mamas! The most important thing we can do is thank God for whatever season we are in, and know that as the seasons change, each one of them is a gift. We often can’t see the gift until it passes through our hands, but we can learn to stop and thank him for the long days, the short years, and the miracle of love manifested in the domestic church.