A moment of joy every day
You just need one, to carry you through to the next day
Before I had kids I had an image of myself post kids, as a wise mama, giving out advice to friends who were a few years behind me in starting their families. But difficulties conceiving our first meant that by the time she was born most of my university friends had got there first. Instead it was me turning to them for advice, mainly consisting of me wailing “why didn’t you tell me it’s like this?” and them replying “you’d never have believed us.”
But a few years after that, my other group of friends — women I had met through working in politics and who became increasingly important to me as we spent more time supporting each other as our careers grew and our history together deepened — started to have kids too, and I got my opportunity to be the wise woman of our little friendship village.
And it turns out that every baby is different and I didn’t really have any specific advice to give. Except one piece. Which was to relay to them that on the worst days, the ones where you have had no sleep and things hurt and you can’t stop crying, what I tried to do was to find just one moment of joy. This could be as fleeting as looking at a sleeping baby and thinking how peaceful and beautiful they looked, even if when awake they were crying and writhing and unable to settle, or the feeling of the first touch of warm water while you showered as someone else held the baby. If a moment is five seconds — an arbitrary amount of time but approximately how long it takes to look at something and think the words ‘I made them and they are so beautiful’ — you have over 17,000 opportunities to feel this every day. And while if you only feel it once that’s a lot of five second chunks of not feeling so good to get through too, I found it was enough to get me to the next day, when I would look for another moment of joy.
In my more cynical hours, which is most of the time, I look on this advice and want to vomit. A moment of joy sounds like a self-help book, and a bad one at that. But when I let myself soften a little I realise that actually the advice is still sound for myself now, even though my kids are older. When you are in the playground and it is cold and everyone is hungry and you have things to be getting on with at home, all it really takes is one moment of joy — the expression in a small face as it comes down the slide, or an impromptu hug after the snacks have been produced — to make it all seem better. So that is what I tell my friends having babies now, when they want advice and when they say to me “why didn’t you tell me it’s like this?” — I tell them to look for one moment of joy every day. Just one. And that if they can find that one moment it will be enough to carry them through to the next one, which, so far, has always come.