I've realized recently that every mom has to come to her own realizations about how fabulous parenthood is. How blessed she is. How amazing raising kids is. Because even when it sucks, it really is amazing. It's taken me what seems like FOREVER to climb out of the trenches and start to enjoy more of the beauty that motherhood has to offer, now that my babes are getting a little older.
I've realized, too, that there is nothing I could say, or anyone else could say, that has enough power to teach the lessons that every mother needs to learn by just going through it. Herself.
So, I'm willing myself to be that old lady who remembers with a clear perspective -- remembers that while it was oh so beautiful, it was also oh so damn hard.
I think the empty nest moms probably want to shake the younger generation of moms and yell, "IT WENT SO FAST! WAKE UP!" as we move through our world in a yoga-pants-wearing-zombie-like state. But the truth is, that's not even close to what we want to hear. That doesn't mean we don't want to hear anything, though. I recognize that you have experience that I don't. And, in some ways, I want to shake you and say, "TELL ME!! It gets better, right? RIGHT??"
I might just be that young mom who stares into the eyes of a more experienced mom, begging her to say something encouraging when my 2-year-old is screaming in the parking lot because I didn't let him buckle himself in. Tell me with encouragement, or tell me with a hug. I'm fine with either.
Maybe, as an empty nester, it's hard to know what to do. Because the moms with little kids? Well, we can be sensitive. Very. So, here's my advice to those well-meaning "experienced" moms who just want to shake me when they see me frazzled in the grocery store, not exactly appreciating every moment.
I understand what you're trying to tell me when you say, "Enjoy every moment," but I'd rather you say something else. Here are a few ideas:
1. Say nothing. While I know it seems like not much help to say nothing, sometimes that is just best. I know if anyone has said something even sweet, lighthearted, or joking to me on one of those I-want-to-run-away-and-live-on-a-deserted-island-and-have-a-volleyball-for-a-best-friend days, I might not have been so nice back.
Instead, a kind smile, a nod, or even some sympathetic eyes can go a LONG way to healing a new mama's heart in a bad moment.
2. "You're doing an awesome job." Every parent is getting something right. Promise. Trust that the new mom who looks like her child is straight up lacking in discipline is probably doing a hundred things right at home that you can't see. Instead of advice, simply tell her she's doing a great job.
3. "It gets easier." Now, with this one, you have to tread lightly, because... well, hormones. And, sleep deprivation. And, 3-year-olds. But, letting a mom know that it will get better, without elaborating too much, can keep that new mama from losing it. Say something simple like, "Oh sweetie, I know how hard it is. I've been there. But, just keep doing what you're doing. I promise it gets easier." It will be really tempting to throw in that "enjoy every moment" sentiment, too, but don't. Just give her a light at the end of the tunnel and leave that happiness and hope lingering in the air.
4. "Can I help?" Most moms will probably decline this sweet offer, and that's OK. Don't come off as the creepy person who's going to snatch the baby, though. Instead, offer to pay for her groceries, or push her cart out to her car, or maybe make faces at the screaming baby during checkout to make that kid be quiet. Even if Mom says no, an offer of help can go a LONG way.
5. Share solidarity. I would love it if, just once, an older lady would put her hand over her heart and say, "There was this one time..." and share a story about her own rotten kids and the time they almost lost it in the grocery store. Don't go into a 20-minute monologue. Nobody has time for that. Instead, share a funny story about the day your kid shattered a giant jar of pickles in the checkout line or the time you lost your kid in IKEA. Even if that mom looks like a deer caught in the headlights, because you're sharing your own bad day, you will make her feel better about whatever she might be going through.
You, my dear, experienced empty nester moms, might represent the only adult interaction that younger mom has that day. Use it wisely. And, as a young mom myself, I promise I'll try to be a little less sensitive, too.