A response to the moms who don't

Recently an article called “Don’t Carpe Diem” by Glennon Melton went viral on the internet. Like many other mothers who commented (yet were clearly the minority), I was deeply saddened to see so many young mothers irritated at older mothers who told them to ‘enjoy the moment’ … ‘seize the day’ … ‘carpe diem’…. Apparently only a chosen few young mothers are encouraged by these messages from older women. Other mothers are irritated and frustrated and discouraged when given this advice. Interestingly enough, the author of the article actually states: “I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn't work for me. It bugs me.” I found this quite interesting for various reasons. She acknowledges that the message is right and good and yet still places the blame on the older mothers for sharing it and—furthermore—validates other young mothers to ignore it…to discount advice that is right and good. This brings to mind King Rehoboam, who ignored the wise advice of his elders only to heed the bad advice of his peers.

Let me be clear: I will never stop sharing the Carpe Diem message, no matter how many young mothers decide that it bugs them. Why? Because I firmly believe that it is right and good. I actually appreciated this message as a young mother—knowing that I was being encouraged to enjoy my days with little ones instead of biding my time until the next season of life. Furthermore, I know countless young mothers who are seizing the day and who appreciate hearing this advice! Sadly, Carpe Diem is misunderstood by far too many and assumed to mean something that it does not imply at all. Carpe Diem is a quotation from Horace's Odes meaning ‘seize the day’ or ‘make the best of the present moment’. I willingly admit that I can’t personally imagine how seizing the day and making the best of each moment could possibly be such an irritating message. This, I suppose, is why I don’t relate very well to the anti-carpe-diem moms. Even if one understood it as ‘enjoy’ instead of seize, surely it can still be put in a proper perspective. However, these young mothers believe that older mothers are telling them to enjoy temper tantrums and sick children. They believe that older mothers have forgotten what raising a child really entails. They came out in full force with the moaning and groaning of all-things-difficult-about-child-rearing. And, the loud response was, “How am I supposed to enjoy THIS??” They believe that somehow seizing the day cannot happen because parenting is hard, children and parents are imperfect and days are long and full of challenges. This is EXACTLY why I carpe diem. To carpe diem is to see beyond the common, to see beyond the mundane details of mothering and to grasp the greatness.

Of course we all want to seize the moments when things are easy and seemingly perfect and children are all happy and content. But, dare I suggest that I can also seize the challenging moments? I can seize them to make the best of them. I can ponder them and pluck out lessons for the future. I can challenge myself in the moment that an adult child is challenging me to respond in a godly manner. I can challenge myself in the moment that my youngest child is demanding or difficult to respond in a way that will best comfort or correct. I can endure days of hormonal teenage girls because that is part of watching my four daughters grow into amazing and unique young women. These are the moments, some seemingly more momentous than others, that I know will make memories and memories are precious to me—the pleasant and unpleasant alike—and I will not squander these moments or wish them away. I seize these moments because they are my lot under the sun. I chose to become a parent. I willingly bore six children and this is what I’ve given my life to do. I could have done countless other things … things I was qualified to do. Yet, I chose this and—qualifications aside—it was my first and last choice.

So, does this carpe diem mom believe parenting is easy? It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had no idea that it could ever be so hard. And, while the young mothers may not appreciate this message, I truly believe that parenting young children is much easier than parenting adolescents and teenagers. Yet, I acknowledge that we all enjoy different seasons for different reasons. Watching my children’s growing pains into young adulthood, I have cried until I had no more tears to cry. I have prayed until I had to give my words over to the Holy Spirit because I couldn’t find the right words. I have begged God’s mercy on all my failings. I have questioned my ability to discern and make good decisions. I have humbled myself in front of my children to admit my faults. I have shared my mistakes with others to help them avoid the same mistakes. I have thought that it would have been easier to choose a career outside the home and let someone else teach my children. For a homeschooling mother has additional challenges that cause her to constantly question and ponder her choices…so many things to consider when it comes to methods and philosophies and paths for different children. I have questioned my ability to be a godly parent. I have tripped, stumbled and fallen and risen up again to try harder. And, I have truly cherished every moment. I may not have enjoyed every moment, but I have cherished them all. Next to my awesome God and my dear husband, I love my children best. I want them to have joyful lives. I want them to follow Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I want them to seize the moments they are given and to look at life as a wonderful adventure. I want them to truly live—to learn to suck the marrow out of this thing we call life!

When I say seize the days and live joyfully, I don’t mean that every moment will be enjoyable. I mean that we should live with joy in our hearts. When I say enjoy these baby days, I don’t mean that nursing every 45 minutes and having a baby who only sleeps attached to you is easy, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed that special closeness because I knew it was fleeting. When I say don’t wish it away, I truly mean that no matter how much you enjoy other stages, someday you just might miss those little babies more than you could ever guess now. When I say, make the most of every moment, I mean to try to mother in such a way that you will not look back with regrets for things left undone. When I say, enjoy your busy days, I mean that biding the time until the children go to sleep is no way to truly enjoy your children. Don’t think for one instant that they cannot tell whether or not you are finding joy in their company! When I say carpe diem, I truly mean it. I truly believe it. Carpe diem is my way of rejoicing in each moment, in each day that the Lord has blessed me with. Life is a vapor and I mean to live my life joyfully. The best of times, the worst of times…this is my lot under the sun and I want my children to know that I love them when they are wonderful and when they are not wonderful. I want my children to know that I cherish every moment with them…the happy moments full of frolicking fun and basking in joy and the moments in which we disagree, get angry and frustrated with one another yet still love each other fervently. That’s how I seize my moments

So, when days were long and hard I rejoiced that we had the day together anyway! When the children were difficult, I tried diversions and distractions so that instead of looking for tomorrow to be a better day, we could try to redeem the rest of that day! When I was difficult, I rejoiced that I was learning about myself and sought lessons from my failings. When I began to raise a toddler again with young adults in the home, I rejoiced that I could learn from my mistakes and realize that so many things that frustrated me in my early parenting years should have been overlooked. Little childish mistakes that I met head on with anger could have easily been smiled or laughed away with a gentle reminder. Proactive behavior helps avoid reacting negatively which in turn avoids many a tantrum. I learned that a smile and a kind word often went farther than a firm rebuke. And, while I learned these lessons and remedied my mistakes our older children learned them, too. This is the perspective of an older mom…not a perfect mom. We don’t get a do-over. We are not guaranteed the opportunity to raise our children from babies to toddlers to young adults to adults. There is no promise to parents that they will live to see their children to adulthood. This moment is all you ever really have. That’s the carpe diem message.

An even more well known quote is from a modern movie—Dead Poets Society. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." Looking past the movie (which I saw in 1989), and applying it to my life today I can honestly say that I still agree with the sentiment. While I am quite sure that my life as a wife, mother, homemaker and homeschooling mother would never be considered extraordinary, I can honestly say that I’ve done everything in my power to seize my days and make them extraordinary in my little corner of the world. My chosen lot in life is considered insignificant by many. Yet is there really anything more extraordinary than molding human beings? Is there really any career that has more extraordinary impact on this world we live in than raising future generations? This is why I choose to live a carpe diem life. This is why I can seek the extraordinary life because for me it is the blessed life. I believe that life is good, life is beautiful, life is worth living and living joyfully is the best way to give back to the world!

Parenting is hard, but that doesn't mean that we can’t pick up the pieces of a difficult day and smile at those precious little faces that depend on us for everything. Take the time to listen to their chattering, to answer their constant questions, to listen to the narratives of their day. Children have great needs and we have the ability to meet those needs. We have a purpose and a time to fulfill it. We can show them the love of God through the unconditional love of a parent. We can dedicate time training them to make our days happier and more pleasant. We can comfort them, correct them, and guide them —seizing each moment we are given with them. Joy is contagious…spread it to your children by rejoicing in the moments you are given. Let them see you smile. Let them see you rejoice in them! Carpe diem. Seize the day, ladies! Make your lives extraordinary!

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One Response
  1. Cara Belknap says:

    Outstanding article – but you are wrong – your life as a wife, mother, homemaker and homeschooling mother IS extraordinary!  And now you are using your well-earned knowledge and great writing skills to His glory in  teaching the younger women (which teaching has become sadly uncommon as it has become less popular).  I am so thankful for you, dear friend!   

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