CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

All the Reasons the Days Are Long but the Years Are Short

Call it cliche, but this parenting phrase rings true.
save article
profile picture of Lauren Barth
By Lauren Barth, Associate Content Director, Lifecycle
Published December 8, 2022
mother kissing sleeping baby
Image: Studio Firma

Of all the wise words, parenting adages and corny cliches you may have heard about life with little ones, one probably reigns supreme: “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Offer that nugget to a brand new mama learning the ropes, and she may (justifiably) roll her eyes. Say it to a toddler parent in the throes of the terrible twos, and they’ll probably scoff in your face. But to the mom of a 10-year-old, this phrase hits differently.

My oldest officially reached the double-digits stage, and I can barely fathom the fact that I’ve been a mom for a full decade. How? When? Where did those roughly 3,650 days go?

Time felt interminable in the beginning—change, feed, burp, nap, repeat. But two additional kids later, and those days, those years, feel more like a blip on the calendar. The math just doesn’t add up.

Yes, the days are long, but the years go startlingly fast—for so many reasons that only reflection and perspective can explain. But whether you’re a first-time mom struggling through the colic-infused days and sleep-deprived nights, or an experienced parent watching your big kid mature right before your very eyes, the time-warp reality of parenthood is both fact and fable, and these truths speak volumes.

The Days Are Long Because…

Your own needs have been put on the back burner since the moment you got that positive pregnancy test, and self-care is in short supply. Surviving on minimal sleep and chicken nugget scraps, you’re tired, you’re hungry and you’re desperate for a little TLC.

It feels like you simultaneously do all of the things and none of them. You’ve got the weighty responsibility of keeping a helpless human healthy and happy, but the day-to-day tasks associated with this unpaid gig are repetitive and monotonous. The clock crawls, and the tedium is real—even if you feel guilty admitting it.

Related Video

By the time you hit 9 a.m., you’ve changed multiple diapers, offered multiple breakfasts, kissed multiple boo-boos and calmed multiple meltdowns—all before you’ve brushed your own teeth. You’ve read Zoom Zoom Baby a billion times and have been singing “Baby Shark” on repeat for what feels like an eternity. Your only break? An abbreviated (but blissful) round of hide and seek.

Nap time is fleeting and unpredictable—which makes it impossible to plan your afternoon. You don’t know whether you’re going to get three blissful hours to do things for yourself or 30 measly minutes to accomplish the bare minimum.

There are times you have no adult interaction for hours on end. Your communication is limited to baby babble and the judgmental voices inside your head.

Baby is perpetually fighting sniffles and colds and fevers and rashes, and helping them through these discomforts (and making it through unscathed) is downright depleting.

You need to rock them to sleep or sing song after song or rub their tiny back as they finally drift off. It’s a sweet ritual. But you’re also counting down the minutes until you can finally have a solid chunk of hours to yourself—to catch up with your partner, catch up on your shows or simply sit for more than five minutes without having to get up. Then you stay up too late and wake up too early (and not by choice). It’s an exhausting cycle.

The Years Are Short Because…

Seemingly overnight, those delightful infant rolls and that pokable pudge give way to lean limbs and long bodies. Those amazing milestones happen at a rapid-fire pace. That once floppy neck is suddenly stable and strong. Baby is cooing and giggling and interacting, and it’s thrilling and wonderful, and—if you blink—you might miss that first emotive smile.

They quite suddenly develop opinions and determination of their own. One moment, they’re your little baby who’s entirely reliant on you. The next, they’re a budding individual with unique thoughts, strong preferences and a will of steel. (FYI: This also means that tomorrow’s jacket war is going to be draining.)

One blissful night, baby will sleep for 12 hours straight. They’ll embrace naptime. They’ll self-soothe when they stir at 3 a.m. They won’t need your hand on their back or your outstretched hand through the crib bars.

Your toddler no longer has the separation anxiety that once fueled your frustration. When you drop them off at daycare or preschool, they’ll give you a quick peck and happily run off to learn and grow and play and explore—without you.

Independent play will happen one fateful afternoon, opening a world of possibilities. You’ll be able to sip hot(!) coffee and watch your little one pretend. It’s like a magical sneak peek inside their curious little brain.

You see their eyes light up when you walk into their nursery in the morning. They run into your arms when you pick them up from daycare after a long day at work. A sleepover at Grandma’s house fills you with joy and guilt. You want a break more than anything in the world, but you desperately crave that delicious moment when they’re back in your arms.

You’re “mama.” Then “mommy.” Then “mom.” There’s no warning, and this transition can sting.

After the eager countdown to your child’s bedtime, you spend your free moments scrolling through photos of their day, and marvel at how you made this tiny human being who sometimes drives you to the brink, but also makes your world turn. The days are long, but you’ll lay in bed at midnight exhausted and excited to do it all over again tomorrow.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

mom and dad walking with baby stroller through park
These Are the Best US Cities to Raise a Family in 2024, Study Says
By Wyndi Kappes
Busy Phillips on the TODAY show Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Busy Philipps Says Her ADHD Treatment Has Helped Her Be a Better Mom
By Wyndi Kappes
allison kuch and baby at home
Allison Kuch Spills Her Parenting Secrets and Plans to Grow Her Family
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
dad kissing baby at home
The Best Gifts for New Dads to Suit Any Budget
By Emma O'Regan-Reidy
group of diverse babies
The Search for the 2024 Gerber Baby Has Officially Begun
By Wyndi Kappes
toddler putting toys away
Psychologist’s Hack for Getting Your Kids to Help Around the House
By Wyndi Kappes
Advertisement
grandparents helping mom and dad in the kitchen with new baby
Parents Get Real: What Is (and Isn’t) Helpful When Welcoming Baby
By Anna Davies
ADVERTISEMENT
woman taking a five dollar bill out of wallet
Mom Asks First Birthday Guests to Bring $5 for Remodel Instead of Gift
By Wyndi Kappes
mother reading a book with 3 children at home
Mom Warns Parents the 2 to 3 Kid Transition Is No Joke in Viral TikTok
By Wyndi Kappes
Jennifer Garner attends the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix's "Family Switch" at AMC The Grove 14 on November 29, 2023 in Los Angeles, California
The One Thing Jennifer Garner Asks for Every Mother’s Day
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
grandpa and grandma holding baby
These Are the Most Popular Nicknames for Grandparents in the US
By Wyndi Kappes
baby standing next to stroller in front of the eiffel towel in paris france
These Are the Best Cities in the World to Raise a Family, Report Says
By Wyndi Kappes
Paris hilton and husband
Paris Hilton Shares a First Look at Her Family of Four
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
parents talking to sad child
Study Reveals the Negative Words Parents Use and How They Affect Kids
By Wyndi Kappes
friends giving pregnant woman gifts
The Best Mom-To-Be Gifts to Celebrate Her
By Emma O'Regan-Reidy
Rihanna attends the FENTY x PUMA sneaker launch party at NeueHouse Los Angeles on December 18, 2023 in Hollywood, California
Rihanna Says She Wants More Kids: ‘as Many as God Wants Me to Have’
By Wyndi Kappes
New Mom Gifts
The Best Gifts for New Moms to Make Her Feel Loved
By Martina Garvey
ADVERTISEMENT
leah nicole weiher and toddler daughter in hospital bed after paralyzing accident
Mom Learns to Walk Again Alongside Her Toddler After Accident
By Wyndi Kappes
serena williams holding newborn baby with husband and daughter
Serena Williams' Best Advice for Transitioning From a 1 to 2 Kid Home
By Wyndi Kappes
dad hugging mom and infant at home
First Mother’s Day Gift Ideas to Celebrate New and Expectant Moms
By Emma O'Regan-Reidy
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List