news item: “Don’t Say This: The Cruelest, Most Ignorant Parenting Cliche”

Has the following phrase ever been uttered to you?

“You can never get that time back.”

This cliché can be applied to a variety of scenarios, but I would hazard to guess that it is generally said to a parent who is working outside of the home / not getting to spend as much time as “possible” with his/her baby for whatever reason. It also seems to imply that all of that time is enjoyable with your child…which if one is being honest, is just not the case, and that’s okay. Parenthood is hard.

The writer of this article openly admits in the comments that the title of the article was perhaps “a little sensationalistic” (because of course we can all think of words that would feel crueler to us – especially with our ALI backgrounds), but I think she makes a lot of great points.

…the biggest reason why [the phrase above] deserves a permanent heave-ho is that its usual meaning of “spend every moment with your infant” reflects woeful ignorance of the realities of raising children across the course of their entire development.


The same people who put such a premium on being around to change their children’s diapers are in for a big surprise if they think they can lessen their vigilance come middle-childhood and teenage time, who think that time together is somehow less crucial.

The most frustrating part, for me, is the inherent judgment that the cliche implies. One would hope that we are all making the best choice possible when it comes to parenting our children, but what works for you doesn’t necessarily work the best for me, so please quit judging me!

I’m not saying that being with your baby as much as humanly possible isn’t noble or ideal. In fact, it is — it’s so, so important. But it’s all important. All those years. They’re all mind-bendingly, heart-breakingly important. And the good parents are the ones who take the whole picture into account and respect other parents trying to find their way the best they can.

The author of this article was trying to make the point that all of the child raising years are important (not just the baby years), and that we all need to quit laying judgement on people who have, through choice or necessity, made a different choice than we have. The part of the article that really got to me though, was the fact that the author had to defend herself in the comments. Instead of people saying, “YES, you are so right – ALL of those years with our children are important!” –  people made personal attacks. She replied with, “And for those readers who thought I was just justifying my own guilt or denial about “shipping my kids off” to daycare providers, you should know that weekdays I’ve been at home with my kids since my first was born almost seven years ago. Yup, for the most part I’m one of you SAHMs– except for the judgmental part!”


Do you think that the cliche is cruel, or is it just a fact of life?

Has it been said to you? To your husband? Do you think people place more “value” on Mom being home in the beginning years instead of Dad? 

How do we work on getting past the point where we feel such a need to judge other parents for their decisions?

How do we get to the point where we can respect others for their decisions, whether they are similar to our viewpoints or polar opposites?


  1. Hmmm. I think that most people judge and/or make judgemental comments because THEY have regrets, or THEY are bitter about how their parents raised them. It’s not about you, it’s totally about them. They need therapy. Call them on it. It’s bullshit. For the rest of us, not only do I believe that everyone (except crack whores, abusers, and crazy asses) everyone else does their very best. And quite honestly, I’m WAY TOO BUSY taking care of my own children to notice, worry about, or judge how someone else is taking care of theirs. The most I notice is to say “I wish I could do *that* better.” Or “I wish I were as skinny as *that* mom.” Which is just as bad for my morale, so I try not to notice at all. Ha!

    I’m a SAHM. I love it. I wouldn’t trade it. Obviously I think it’s the best thing or I wouldn’t be doing it. But I don’t worry about whether or not anyone else thinks it’s the best thing. I just know that whatever they are doing is what they think is the best thing for them.

    I think that there is a flip side to this. I am definitely judged and denigrated for choosing to be a SAHM. Society puts little to no value on us and I constantly hear comments about “wasting your life” and “only a mom” and other such nonsense. It’s offensive and hurtful, but really… screw them. And think that’s how all of us should feel. Who cares if someone is judging you for doing your very best…. hold up your middle finger and keep walking. They can all go to hell. And if you find yourself judging someone else, just take a second to wonder why you’re worried about “her kids” when yours are currently playing rubber duckies in the toilet.

    • LOL. Great response, Coco!! I think you hit it on the nose. I’m going to work on just holding up my middle finger and continuing to walk. 🙂

  2. I’ve gotten this quite a bit in the last year or so, although perhaps in a bit different context.

    From the day we announced that we were pregnant with Pippin, I have experienced a fair bit of judgement and critiquing from family, friends, and strangers about the fact that our children are so close in age. Even from people who know, in detail, the struggles we had reproductively speaking… the accusation has been that I am robbing Ginny of that ‘special’ one-on-one time ‘that she deserves’. That I will be too busy with an infant to give my toddler the attention she needs. (And don’t even get me started on the logical end to such thinking… that Pippin will NEVER get that special one-on-one time by virtue of being born second.)

    While I was pregnant, there were a lot of the ‘you’d better enjoy her now, because when the new baby comes you’ll be too busy to take the time, and she’ll be a jealous fire-breathing snot-bag’ types of comments. Have I been busy? At times, yes. Has Ginny be jealous? Initially, a bit. We found our rhythm, and I think we’re doing pretty well, all things considered.

    Does having two children in diapers mean I deal with a lot of poop? You bet, and so I certainly don’t need it from some other judgemental wanna-be perfect mommmy.

    I think, to a certain extent, comparing ourselves to others is human nature. It’s when that comparison mutates into judgement of another’s choices that things go sideways.

    • Hey lady – I’m going to comment on the news item above a little later on, but I wanted to share this with you. A friend sent this to me yesterday in response to some of these same worries I have with the division of attention in a 2-child family:

      It *really* helped me feel better about all the worries. I plan to revisit it often. 🙂

      • Thanks for that link, I STILL worry that I’m short-changing one or the other of my boys…I need to let it go, things don’t have to be EQUAL to be GOOD.

        • I need to read it again this morning! 🙂 Some really good Mama Mantras to pull out of there, The extra guilt we heap on ourselves after going through the ALI experience certainly doesn’t help, does it? You are doing the best you can in any given minute.

      • THANK YOU for sharing this article. This kind of message I feel like I need to hear often with the two kid/divided attention thing.

    • LOL. I’ll bet there’s a lot of poop! 🙂 I just don’t think you can win. I got reprimanded all the time by judgers because I was “robbing” my son of the joy of growing up with a close sibling, all while I was TTC for nearly 5 years between kids. Hoping something fierce, that this time I’ll be judged for having them too close together!!! 🙂

  3. I love the replies to the article. Flat out – most people are stupid 😉 I say that mantra almost everyday when I get the dumb “you have a white baby” shocked comments.

    I actually got the opposite of Coco recently when I expressed my twinge of jealousy listening to all my girlfriends talking about getting back into their classrooms this week and getting ready for the school year to start. I was SOOOOO jealous. I miss working. I’m starting to get a bit bored! It’s so ridiculous though that I feel like I have to explain why to other moms who do stay at home. They honestly think I’m nuts to want to go back earlier than the 1 year parental leave that I’ve got. I’m talking 1 month early girls – and I’m getting SHIT for it.

    I felt like I had to shout that I love my baby and love my time with her but I MISS working. It’s been 7 months for me at home now and I kinda feel like I need a bit more to do in my day. It’s so silly that I feel like I have to prefix that sentence with how much I love my girl but I can’t tell you how many of my gf’s are like “but don’t you just want to stay at home?” “you’ll never get this time back”. ARGH. It’s so annoying having people be so judgmental.

    The hilarious (note sarcasm) part is that they are all in total dismay that instead of taking another year of parental leave (which my district does allow but is unpaid for me) my husband has decided to take it and is going to be staying at home for 8 months with Lil K when I go back to work. He’s PUMPED. I’m PUMPED. Everyone else…thinks we’re nuts and that I should stay home. Wtf?!?!?!? Why is that so shocking? We both get time with her when she’s little it’s win/win in my eyes!

    Again, I like Coco’s idea.

    Hand up, middle finger in the air (if you’re feeling particularly cheeky stick your tongue out too) and keep on walking.

    • Ooooh – that is an AWESOME idea for Daddy to get 8 months with her too. I think it would go a LONG ways towards helping Daddy’s bond with the little stinkers if they had 100% SAHD time with them on a more routine basis. I get the whole missing work thing. Going back when she was 8w old was HARD, but I can’t imagine being 100% SAHM either. Grass is always greener… 😉

      • I can’t tell you enough how great it has been for my husband and daughter to have one-on-one time with him staying home with her. If I can’t be there with her, he’s the next best thing and he loves it. She loves it. We all love it. I think it’s great that your husband is taking the time off!

    • When I was a toddler teacher, I loved my kids and loved my classroom but I really just wanted to finally be done with other people’s kids and have my own kids. I wanted to go on field trips with MY kids, decorate THEIR room instead of my classroom, buy THEM neat toys.

      Now that I’m a SAHM with two kids, I… sometimes miss my classroom. And I definitely miss those kids (they’re all 4-5 now, sigh). I’m glad to be home, but yes, I liked having a zone outside my home that was mine. I had something that was an extension of what I’m good at that I could do. So I get it 🙂

    • Wow, Traathy, you are so lucky to get a year off! Here in South Africa I’m also a teacher but couldn’t get more than four months, even though I wanted at least six. So I landed up resigning and now I’m a stay at home mom. Yes, there are certain aspects of work I miss, but on the whole I’d much rather be at home.
      So excited for you that dad is going to stay at home for a bit. I would be PUMPED too. (my DH just got 3 days off for the birth).

      • I really am lucky and don’t take it for granted when I see what the rest of the world gets 😦

        Not all of it is paid – but I’m lucky that my school district bargained for a year leave when you have kids.

    • Two of my closest girlfriends husbands had this experience and it was amazing to see the relationship develop. One of them even joined in the mothers group! It would be wonderful if all dads got this opportunity!

  4. This is one of those comments that irks me…kind of like “cherish every moment” or “it goes by quickly so you better take note.” Really?!? I prefer this comment…and I quote the one and only Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

    I kind of want to respond with, “I’m so sorry your childhood sucked.” Or “I’m sorry your missed your child growing up.” But really, would that make me any better than the commenter?

    People say stupid things. Sometimes with the nicest of intentions, and sometimes to be mean. But for the most part I think people have good intentions behind comments like this. I think the author is right…every moment spent with your children is important. If it’s in the mornings or evenings or if it’s all day long…It’s the people making this comment, who have regrets of their own or have had bad experiences, wanting you not to experience what they have. So along with the “just relax” comments all of us in the ALI community hate, this comment is most likely meant with some sort of encouragement.

    I also think people are judgmental by nature. Yes it’s sad, but I think every one of us has looked at another person or situation and thought, I would never do that or be like that or whatever. Do we all comment out loud about it? No. However, when comments like this are made to us, we all feed judged.

    So I’m trying this “seeing things from a positive perspective” and it really does give a different feel to this article.

    I loved what Coco had to say and Mrs Gamgee brought up a good point of time with two or more young children. And Traathy gets the backspin of this….and yet all of the comments agree…people are stupid….I agree, but I’m hoping they’re stupid with good intentions 🙂

    ps I might be totally off base here…but apparently I like to stir pots

  5. All these comments are great, and hilarious! I’m with you ladies, no matter what we do, we are judged. I’d do the whole ‘finger up and walk on by’ but I’m a super klutz and would probably trip. I hope you won’t judge me for that 🙂

  6. I am going to remain blissfully ignorant of what happened in the comments over there in the article and stay here, where it’s safe. It’s almost quarter of ten here and I’m too tired to get all frustrated and amped-up by internet meanies tonight! I will hide in the soft blanket of awesomeness that is PAIL, haha.

    Being a SAHM is hard, and I sometimes envy WOHMs the time they get to themselves (I say it to my husband all the time– “you got to take the train to work today, ALONE! And go to the bathroom when you had a free moment without having to put any screaming little people into the horrible prison that is a playpen! You get to listen to your iPod on the train and tune out and not be paying attention to anything besides missing your stop!”). And being a WOHM is hard because people insinuate that you don’t love your kids enough to stay home with them, or they mentally scrutinize your finances to determine if you really “need” to be working or you’re “just choosing” to work, and all the WOHMs who I know and whose blogs I read are missing their kids terribly while they’re away and feel incredible guilt for it, AND they have to get home from work and jump right into kid care and household management like they’ve had the time all day. And if you’re a part-time working-at-home mom who is also home with your kid(s)? You are the epitome of “trying to have it all” and you will never win, because everyone will always expect you to keep up with your work like kids nap on schedule and don’t cling to your leg and screech while you’re just trying to return the same GD email for the past two hours. Grass is always greener, but mostly it’s just ALL HARD and we just end up firing back and forth at each other when really we should all hire a babysitter (or two, or three), throw a bunch of giant pillows and bean bag chairs in the middle of a room, and take a giant nap together. We all deserve one!

    • I definitely agree that working mums get the whole you don’t love your children vibe but then SAHM get the you don’t fiscally contribute to society vibe!!! It’s not fair either way!

      • Everyone hates all of us. We should never have had children! Oh, wait– childless/childfree women get crapped on, too.

        Hmm– stay at home moms, working moms, not-moms… I wonder what the common denominator is here… hmmmmmmm.

        • Too many X chromosomes, boo hiss boo! (sorry, I saw an unanswered – although facetious question – and I just couldn’t contain myself) 😉 You guys are cracking me up tonight…

  7. Love this. When my mat leave is over I will be going back to work part time. I see it as best of both worlds, but I seem to be alone on this since the comments I get are either “Oh…(sympathetic look)…well you can catch up once he is in school”- as if I am a lost cause because I am not giving my career enough focus or “That’s still too much [work]”. Can’t win. And I agree with the author about all the years, so I wish people wouldn’t assume that I will automatically go back full time when he is in school.
    The other comment I hear a lot when the SAHM/WOHM topic comes up is in regards to daycare- “I don’t want someone else raising my kids”, which bothers me because a) my son will be going to daycare and b) I went to full-time daycare my whole childhood and my parents have always be the voice of authority, no one else ‘raised’ me. People should be more aware of how offensive they can be in the process of defending their own choices.
    As for being judgemental, I have found that since I have actually become a parent I am starting to get it…the concept “what works for you doesn’t necessarily work the best for me, so please quit judging me!”. I get that (generally) every parent is just doing what is best for their family and working hard to get through each day and I *try* not to be judgemental. And I can say that at the very least I think before I speak and would never make openly judgemental comments especially to another mother (but I am working on that the voice inside my head saying “I would never feed my kid that!” because as Coco points out, who am I to judge since I remember my son eating a big chunk out of a Wal mart flyer last week. Oops).

    • “People should be more aware of how offensive they can be in the process of defending their own choices.” — SO true. So, so true.

  8. The first thing I thought when I saw the quote was that it applied to the decision to work or not. I hate when people say this to other people – I think it’s cruel too. I’ve NEVER said this. NEVER.

    It’s funny though, because I felt judged today for being a SAHM. I ran into an old coworker who was due on Sunday (I didn’t know she was pregnant) and she asked how the “SAHM thing” is working out for me and if I spend most of my time shopping. What, what, what? Shopping? Is that what she thinks I do all day? She also asked if I get bored – I wanted to say, “no more than I did, and you probably do, at work.” She had a tone like she was expecting me to say I regretted the decision which I do not. Not at all.

    She then went on to say that today is her last day of work for 10-12 weeks and that she doesn’t know what she’ll do with herself because, “work is who I am.” And then I felt all judgy.

    We all judge. We all validate our own decisions. And we all feel judged for the decisions we make no matter what those decisions are. The best we can do is not fuel the fire of one’s own self-doubt and guilt, which we all have no matter what it is we’ve decided to do. The best we can do is keep our mouths shut – because judgy comments won’t make someone say, “you’re right, I’m going to quit my job and stay home,” or, “you’re right, I’m going to go back to work.” They only make us feel… wrongly judged.

    Great post – something to think about!

  9. I’m so sorry my blog has been hacked because I just wrote a post on this. The gist is: it isn’t about “working” vs “not working” rather about your personality and your true self. The author of this book I reviewed divides people up into Organisers (people who like schedules, and like working), Huggers (feed on demand, stay at homers) and Fleximums (led by the situation). He says better to acknowledge who you are and what will make you happy than to sit at home, for instance, if you are an Organiser, and get a Hugger in tune with your kids to look after them.
    By the way he says that the age 0-3 is the most important to have someone around who will respond to your kid, one on one, and it doesn’t have to be you.
    And by the way I have recently chosen to stay at home – a difficult decision in terms of money, but not in terms of looking after my little one.

    • Can I be a hybrid of organizer and flexi because instinctively I am an organizer however with this mum thing I am flexi fly by the sea of my pants. However thinking about it husband is definitely a hugger so maybe best of both worlds then.

  10. I don’t know if this is even a parenting cliché, the way that “Enjoy every minute!” or “It goes by so fast!” is. This statement is one of those completely useless platitudes along the lines of “Just be happy/grateful” or “Just relax” or “It was meant to be” that people think they are being helpful but are actually just being assholes. To me, it doesn’t matter if they have “good intentions” or not – it is a shitty thing to say and letting it slide only reinforces that.

    *Obviously* I can never get “that” time back. You can never get any time back – but you also cannot create more. That is literally how the time-space continuum works. I can never get back the time I spent with my ex-husband, or the time I spent feeling hurt, angry and guilty while pregnant instead of enjoying it. But you can also never get back good times either, like those early days of falling in love with your partner. What *does* matter is being mindful of the experience in the moment, and learning from it, good or bad.

    When applied to parenting, again, you can obviously never get ANY time back. We make decisions in the moment, or in the present, that we feel will have the best short and long term consequences for our families as a whole. Sensationalism aside, what I appreciated about this article was the argument that ALL the time you spend with your children is important, especially as they get older. Whether it is all day, or after work/daycare/school, making that time *matter* is what is important. Due to the actual physical nature of time, quality time, not quantity, is what is important. Rather than shaming each other and making choices out of guilt, we should be encouraging the people in our lives that they are doing the best they can, and it IS, they ARE, good enough.

    • Woot! And not to be Sheldon or anything, but along the whole time space continuum thing… if you *could* go back and get that time, doing so would only change what the present is, change it in ways you can’t forsee… I know that for me… I’m totally religious here, so read “God” or “universe” or whatever floats your boat…. BUT for ME… My family was messed up really bad. Like Jerry Springer messed up. I put myself through counseling for YEARS to be able to be a semi-functioning member of society. 🙂 But what I learned, and what I value the very most… is that the strengths that my parents gave me were exactly what I needed to get through my life… AND the weaknesses my parents gave me were exactly what I needed to overcome, to get the growth and the strength that I needed to become who God needs me to be. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything… I wouldn’t line up for second helpings either, but I wouldn’t change anything. If you lose the struggle, you lose the strength. The reason I am who I am is precisely because I struggled with those difficulties. And I like who I am. Period. And I choose to believe that any mistakes I make with my children will be their mountains that they needed to climb, and one day they’ll see those “mistakes my mom made” as a blessing in their lives. At least I hope so.

      • Whoa. Awesome comment, Coco! Thanks for responding to me. A big YES MA’AM to what you said.

      • “If you lose the struggle, you lose the strength.” — LOVE this Coco!

        SRB – I love how you can be so clinical about things. That is literally how the time-space continuum works. HAHA. So true.

        • Heh. It’s called SCIENCE. 😉

          In all seriousness though, I think it is interesting that despite differing world views, the majority of commentors have a similar perspective on the statement.

  11. I admit it never occurred to me to be offended at that statement, its just such an inane and cliche thing to say. Duh, you can never get ANY time back, including time to work on your marriage, your health, your career, your friendships, your hobbies… etc…
    Not sure why I read them, but some of those comments really made me sick to my stomach…

  12. I must admit one thing I hate is the insinuation that because Molly is IVF I need to be even more mindful and take extra care with the precious moments. Because then I feel guilty at how excited I get when chippie gets home and I get 45 mins to have a bath, shower or work out on my own as if I am not appreciating the miracle I have. I also hate how everyone refers to her as the miracle baby. She’s not a miracle she’s just a baby.

    • I can’t believe I’ve actually never had anyone say this to me (yet?)! I don’t know how I’d feel about it… probably just all depends on their tone when they said it. Being a working mom isn’t something I worry about taking heat for. I just don’t give a shiz if people think it’s the right/wrong thing or not. I may never “get that time back”, but if it was time I would have spent pulling out my hair while managing two toddlers alone all day by myself, it’s time I wouldn’t actually WANT back. I would be a crappy, impatient, frustrated mom if I was home all the time, and I’m just really glad that I know that about myself. So how does it go again? Extend middle finger and keep on walking? Works for me! 😉


  1. […] Josey found a news item that talked about a common parenting cliché that while can seem innocuous is often aimed at mothers who choose to go back to work after having a baby.  The phrase “You can never get the time back” at worst is an indictment on the mother for choosing, or needing, to go back to work and at best is a naive statement about the realities of parenthood.  Parenting is not just about the time when your child is an infant, all the time, infancy to adulthood, is important time.  Check out Josey’s thoughts and read the article for yourself here. […]

  2. […] Don’t Say This: The Cruelest, Most Ignorant Parenting Cliche- (parenting, judgment) […]

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