OK this isn’t my quote; this eloquently put statement came from one of my lovely mummy friends at playgroup this week (*disclosure – she has zero actual violent tendencies*). Initially I laughed, relating to the challenges of a baby who won’t sleep and does not want to be put down. After I had finished laughing I cringed, I realised that I must have been one of the people who had said to her “don’t worry its just a phase.”
So why is this well meaning phrase so annoying?
Because its irrelevant!
When you are in the middle of it and you haven’t slept properly for days, weeks or months, its irrelevant . When you absolutely adore the bones of your child but just wish that you could have some physical space from them for 5 minutes, its irrelevant. When you simply need a break, hearing someone tell you it’s a phase is irrelevant and just not helpful.
The comment is also in danger of belittling the whole experience you are going through, after all “if it is just a phase what’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s going to last forever!”
The truth is you know it won’t last forever but it’s happening right now and it’s hard.
I mean if you just think about it for a minuet it’s actually a pretty stupid thing to say. It’s not as though you thought it would literally last forever anyway. You don’t actually think your 13 year old will need a 3am cuddle or that your 18 year old will scream the house down every time you leave a room.
It will end, you know it will but it’s happening right now and it’s hard.
So why would anyone say it in the first place then? Well personally I said it because as irrelevant and annoying as it might be, it is still true. I am on my 3rd baby now and I have seen these phases come and go like the weather. My eldest is only 6 so I know I have a mountain of phases to get over that I haven’t even thought about yet (please no-one mention the phase where I will have 3 teenage girls in the house)!
That new-born cry, the beautiful baby smell, the night feeds, the clinginess, the mess from weaning, the tiny clothes, the accidents from potty training, the cute baby babble, the bruised knees, the tantrums (I take the last one back, still waiting for that one to end). The point is good or bad, whether you want it to or not, time moves forward and our kids grow up. We may be desperate for them to sleep through the night but when they do we will look back and wish we could go back and squish their little pudgy thighs again and hear their infectious baby laugh.
The other reason I would choose to use the golden nugget of a “phase” is that in my mind its preferable to a barrage of actual parenting tips. It’s good to share experiences but we have to be careful not to come across judgemental. There are so many different parenting styles out there and so many different ways to deal with each and every challenge that comes our way. Everyone has an opinion and what works for one family wont necessarily work for the next.
I am an advocate of self-care; if we take care of ourselves as mothers then we are better able to care of our children. All we can do to get us through the most challenging phases is to search for the joy no matter how buried behind tired eyes it may be. When your child cracks a smile hold onto it intentionally and with purpose, when you’re given the chance to have some child free time even for 10 minutes take it, when you feel the negative feelings start to overwhelm you take a minute just to breathe. No matter how irrelevant these little things seem they really do really matter.
And if all else fails, don’t worry it’s only a phase!
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