I Don’t Need a Parenting Guilt Trip

As a parent of toddlers, I hear it every week: “They’re gonna be all grown up before you know it.”

I could be wrong, but when people say that to me, shaking their heads and looking down, I feel like the implication is, “. . . and you’re going to feel so guilty that you didn’t appreciate every one of these precious moments when you had the chance.”

No, I won’t.  If I remember the moments accurately, I won’t.

Here’s the thing: I’m doing everything I can to savor the moments of my daughters’ childhoods – seriously, I am – but it’s not as easy as it sounds.  Parenting toddlers is hard work; it’s non-stop need-meeting.

And yes, I understand that one day I will wake up, it will be their wedding day, and I will wonder where the time went.  So I’m definitely trying to treasure each moment of this short chapter in their lives.  But treasuring each moment is tough when one child poops her pants while the other one is whining for Cheerios, and suddenly both of them start crying because they need a nap, and then they start fighting over a pink plastic frog, and the next thing you know, I just want to make it stop.

I do not, however, want to treasure the moment.

(Note: I just came off of a full daddy daycare weekend, so this is all very fresh to me).

If I sound cold, hard, or at a loss for perspective, perhaps an illustration will bring clarity.  The other night, I was watching the reality game show “The Amazing Race,” on which 11 teams spent the episode on a pristine beach in Bora Bora.  It sounds like a nice, memorable moment to be treasured forever.
A scene from the episode

But the problem was that they had to find a clue inside one of 400 sandcastles on the beach.  What’s worse: if they didn’t find the clue, they had to rebuild the sandcastle before they could keep looking for the clue in the other 399 sandcastles.

The sand was dry and unsuitable for building sandcastles – even with a sandcastle bucket.  The sun was beating down on their aching backs, and sweat was running into their eyes as they tore down one sandcastle after another in search of clues that weren’t there.

Nobody was hollering from the sidelines, “Treasure every moment of this beautiful day in paradise, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”  I mean, there would have been truth to it, but it wouldn’t have been that helpful.   The contestants were doing well not to break down crying or just give up.

When my daughter woke up crying and scared at 11:30 last night, I sat with her for an hour and a half.  I sang to her, prayed for her, and repeatedly tried to convince her that there were no animals in the house.

Quite frankly, it didn’t feel anything like a Hallmark moment as I struggled to stay awake while comforting her.  And if I’m failing in some way as a parent during moments like that simply because I don’t get warm fuzzies – oh, well, my daughters don’t seem to care.  As far as I can tell, they’re just glad I’m there doing my job, and I’m glad to be doing it – but truthfully, it’s tiring.

With that in mind, the next time someone says, “They’re going to be all grown up before you know it,” I might just say, “Thank goodness, because this is hard work.”


  1. Hm, I've always interpreted those head shakes as that person's own regret or nostalgia and not a comment on the young parent in front of them at all.


  2. Yeah, I see what you're saying. It's like *they* feel guilty, but the effect is that it just gives me an advance pass for a ride on the parenting guilt trip train. I can't handle that.


  3. Josh, everything you say here is true. I'll just add one related point: they don't grow that fast. The 11 years I have been a dad seem like 11 years. I don't wonder where those years went. I didn't wake up one day and think it was only yesterday then they were born. 11 years of parenting has gone by at exactly the same rate as 11 years doing anything else.


  4. Honestly, everything you said rings true to me. I realize that the well-meaning people probably look back on this part of their lives and wish they had treasured more moments; however, my burned out self takes it differently. I take it the way you have written about in this post. I guess it makes me a bit defensive.Parenting is THE HARDEST job in the world! But worth it all.Thank you for blessing my family with all of your posts.


  5. My sister, mother of three, always gets annoyed when an older mother says something along the lines of "Don't you just love every moment?" You may guess correctly, that no, she doesn't love every moment. But she does love her kids. Thanks for the noest perspective.


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