I hadn’t even given birth to my daughter when I received my first “just wait.” I was telling a friend at work that I was having trouble sleeping. In the 30th week of pregnancy, essentially housing a full person, turning over in my sleep was near impossible. I felt like I could not possibly get bigger, or more uncomfortable.
To my surprise, my friend—a mom of two—scoffed.
“You think you’re tired now? Just wait.”
It would be my first “just wait” of countless comments to come. As a first-time mom, I was desperate for good advice, looking to veteran parents to help navigate every new phase of keeping a tiny person alive. But I was floored by just how often I was hit with a “just wait” remark instead.
It would typically go something like this: I’d answer the question “how are you doing?” with an honest answer: usually exhausted, usually having some challenges experiencing whatever new thing this week of motherhood brought, but soaking up every minute of my baby girl. The heart-bursting moments were plentiful, and more often than not, they made up for the momentary “How did I get here?” thoughts I’d sometimes have, staring at an unrecognizable version of myself in the mirror.
And then, instead of help or empathy, or even just an open ear, I’d get the “you ain’t seen nothing yet” style of reply, either one-upping or dismissing my experience.
“Your boobs are sore now? Just wait until the cluster feeding starts.”
“She won’t nap without you? Just wait until the four-month sleep regression.”
The frequency of this urge, this chorus of comments, was jarring and confusing and frustrating. I’d clench my teeth at every “just wait” mom, bracing for what I knew was coming. Instead of being helpful—which I think, or hope, is the intended purpose—these warnings of what terrible things are waiting around the corner instill anxiety and feed our insecurities.
As young parents having babies and raising little kids in a pandemic with a “novel” virus no one has ever experienced before, don’t we have high-enough levels of excessive dread already? Isn’t this uncertain, anxious-about-everything period in all our lives the best possible time to support other parents? If I’ve learned anything from becoming a new mom during COVID, it’s to be in the moment, instead of worrying about a world I can’t control—and to be grateful for the fascinating, heart-exploding distraction right in front of me.
But then I nearly became one of them.
When my daughter, Lucy, was 14 months old, we went to pick up the mail at our old rental. The tenant greeted me at the door, with a fresh newborn tucked into her neck.
‘We really lucked out—he’s an amazing sleeper,” she glowed.
“Oh, well that’s really great,” I said, “But just—”
I had to push the words back into my mouth. He’s six days old, of course he sleeps. JUST WAIT for the coffee-drenched zombie-mom mornings to come!
But I smiled, and said how absolutely beautiful he was, and congratulated the new mom on all the joy coming her way.
Then it hit me: the just-waiters aren’t terrible, mean moms with malicious intentions. They mean well, but they want their battle scars to be seen. They want you to know that they’ve been there, and survived that phase, and the next one, and the next. And they want you to know it’s not all joyous—far from it. They also know how fast it goes, even if it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the trenches of momming.
Photos: Courtesy of Amberly McAteer
But what if we took every phase and challenge for what it was, and reminded our fellow parents to turn it into a positive? An earnest reminder that each moment with our little people is fleeting, for good and bad?
Instead of a “just wait until things get really terrible” kind of comment, how about celebrating the moment we’re in, and helping our fellow tired parents genuinely look forward to what’s next?
Just wait for the good stuff, like when your baby smiles for the first time. After weeks of being a curious, alien-newborn seal, the moment when they look at you—and legitimately grin—will be worth all the long, sleepless nights.
Instead of “just wait until your baby is mobile and you can’t look away for a second—you’ll never sit down again,” try: “When they learn to walk, your kid’s world opens up. They’ll explore movement and be able to better communicate what they want and what they’re interested in—just wait.”
Anytime I’ve vented about chasing my toddler around all day, a veteran mom invariably says, “Just wait until you have two kids underfoot.”
She’s right. Some days will be overwhelming—you will indeed lose your ever-loving mind. But what about when you see these little creatures communicate in a special sibling language only they can understand? When you watch them defend each other in arguments with other kids? When they grow up to be the best of friends? Just wait. These are the words and encouragement young moms need to hear.
A few months ago, when the pregnancy stick showed two lines, and literally knocked my husband and me off our feet (we sat on the bathroom floor, staring in disbelief), all the many “just waits” I’d heard in my daughter’s first year of life echoed in my ears.
You think one is a lot? Just wait’ til you have a second—you won’t ever have a free moment to yourself.
Just wait until you have two under two, and you can’t run in two directions at once.
Oh and also, you’ll never sleep again.
But watching Lucy grow and learn and become a big sister, complete with all the complexities and messiness that brings?
I really and truly can’t wait.