The early years of parenting are so intense. I wasn't prepared, and often found myself struggling just to get through each day.
I was looking at life through a macro lens. Every moment, each new challenge was IN MY FACE. Larger than life.
I had never been so exhausted. Felt so isolated. Frustrated. Frazzled. Conflicted. Incompetent. And I wanted those feelings to pass.
The thing about motherhood is, they never do. No matter where you are in the journey, those feelings accompany you.
But there are others. Just as intense, and far more rewarding. Joy. Pride. Comfort. Gratitude. Awe. Immeasurable love.
It wasn't that I couldn't experience those positive aspects of motherhood in the early years; it was that the trying ones were in sharper focus.
"It goes by so fast." People love to say that to the parents of young children. It is often followed by, "Enjoy every moment."
Those comments tend to come in the midst of what feel like your worst parenting moments. When you are, say, trying to rush through the checkout lane of your local grocery store while your child is having a tantrum. Removing her from the park kicking and screaming because she ignored your direction not to push other kids. Raising your voice because you just lost that last little shred of patience.
It's true, of course. The years do go by quickly. But in the intensity of early childhood, all I could think when someone tried to assure me the moment would be fleeting was, OHMYGODSHUTUP! And that is the clean version.
In the really early days, when I was struggling with breastfeeding, suffering through severe sleep deprivation and taking maybe one shower a week, if a well-meaning bystander reminded me it goes by fast I sometimes thought to myself, I hope so!
I don't mean to sound negative. There are many wonderful things about the first years of your child's life. I know I will look back at them with longing for years to come. I already do.
I came to the realization the other day I am in a new phase of parenting. I'm no longer looking at motherhood through that macro lens, immediate objects appearing larger and more significant than they really are.
Today, my perspective is broader. Time and experience have enabled me to expand my view. I can look at life through more of a wide-angle lens. The present is still magnified, prominent. But far less intimidating.
In the intensity of those early years of parenting, it was hard to see past the individual moments to the expanded scene unfolding.
Now, while I embrace and enjoy the present, the future is also in view. It is off in the distance, blurry. But it exists. It is real. I know I will in fact make it there. (And believe me, there were times I seriously doubted I would.) As my daughter continues to grow, it comes more into focus.
The intensity is no longer constant. It waxes and wanes. Each new phase brings with it new challenges. But I have evolved as a mother, developing the ability along the way to look at parenting through a variety of lenses.
In the simple moments I would prefer the macro, for the joy to be magnified. In the not-so-simple ones, it can be helpful to step back and take a wide-angle view of the situation. Keep my eye on the bigger picture. Remind myself the issue is not as large as I imagine it to be. And that we will get through it.
Of course, parenting moments need not all fall into one extreme or the other. A knowledgeable photographer uses a variety of lenses to capture each moment and mood the right way. I'm still working at that skill, in parenting, photography, and my writing. Learning is a lifelong process.
One thing I do know. Whichever lens I choose to look through will not be rose colored, but I will always view motherhood as beautiful.
This post first appeared at The Writer Revived.