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The Seasons of Life and Motherhood

I used to find it excessively cheesy when people referred to “seasons of life.” It reminded me of menopause. It still reminds me of menopause, but I am trying to have a new perspective on it.

Recently there was a first time, two-week postpartum mom at breastfeeding support group. She was lamenting the classic fussy time and cluster feeding, the lack of sleep, the constant feeling of being overwhelmed that almost always comes with the early weeks of breastfeeding.

We were troubleshooting her situation, looking for a way to find time for her to nap while someone else sat with the baby. She didn’t want to have dad take a night feeding because he is working. Fair enough. (However, dads can totally take a night feeding when at all possible). When I suggested she head to bed at 7:00 pm and have dad sit up with the baby for a two- to four-hour chunk of time, she responded in the way so many women do:

“I feel like I need to spend time with my husband because I don’t see him all day.”

I get it. As a woman you are so many things to so many people. You are a mother to this child, but you are also a partner (and a daughter, a sister, an employee). Just listing the roles is exhausting, let alone living them.

So I gave my classic response:

How do we spend time with our partners in the evening? Most of us sit next to each other, watch TV, and hardly talk. I encourage new parents to focus on quality time over quantity of time. In the evening, turn off all devices, make eye contact and talk to each other for 15-30 minutes. Eat dinner if you can (or one at a time while the other holds the baby). Then, mom should go to bed while dad spends time with the baby. Maybe he can even give a bottle that you pumped earlier in the day so you can get an uninterrupted chunk of sleep.

And then I found myself saying, “This isn’t the season of nurturing your relationship with your partner. It is the season of caring for your newborn.”

Think about it. When you were a childless couple, newly in love, getting to know one another, planning for your wedding, it was the season of love (oh man, now I am thinking of Rent). Now, hopefully you have built a relationship that can stand, well, a bit of neglect and abuse as you fumble through and attempt to survive the hazing of new parenthood.

The thing about seasons is that they change. Here in the mid-Atlantic region, we get four distinct seasons. We look forward to each one, squeeze every drop out of it, complain when we are sick of it, then eagerly long for the next season only to repeat this pattern. Seasons are predictable and reliable. There is never a doubt that the summer heat will break and we will soon be able to snuggle into sweater weather.

But parenthood is different. There are seasons, but oftentimes we can only see them in hindsight until we get wise to them.

The newborn phase feels like it will never end until you are feeding your baby solids wondering where your tiny newborn went.

The toddler years feel infuriating and relentless until you catch your three-year-old reaching for your hand before crossing the street and remember when you were certain that child would always run straight into traffic. And, oh, remember when that hand was so little it could only grasp your finger? But now it fits wholly in yours.

The threes and fours make you want to quit motherhood altogether at times, until you find your five-year-old reading independently.

Lucy is now in the tween years. I catch fewer and fewer glimpses of her as a child and more and more of her as a young woman. I find myself with even more freedom as her mother, but with more fears, worries, and dread.

This is a whole new season of motherhood for me.

Take a moment and think about the seasons of life and motherhood you have known so far. Think about the season of your life before you met your partner. Before you got pregnant. While you were pregnant. When you only had one child. Remind yourself that each season you may have anticipated, enjoyed deeply, become sick of, and then you quickly ushered in what was next.

This season you are in is exhausting and magical and never-ending and passing way too quickly. It will end. Whether you want it to or not, it will end.

So, did you squeeze out every last drop? Are you ready to snuggle into the next season of motherhood?