It's true, in the earliest days of being a mum the classic 'it's just a phase' pearl of parenting wisdom used to get right on my (slightly engorged) tits. It was only ever offered as an attempt to make me feel better, of course, but on the days I was existing in a fraught Mumzilla state, the fact that something was a phase didn't offer much comfort. In fact, it was right at the top of the Things I'm Sick of Hearing list alongside, 'It's probably a growth spurt!' and, 'He's probably just teething!' (which 9 times out of 10 were accurate assessments, actually, but still...bastard teeth and bastard growth spurts - everything is a bastard when you have had zero sleep and a small person is stuck to your body with Clingy Glue).
Phases were no good to me! I wanted answers. I wanted somebody to fix the baby who was waking every hour, or the toddler who would only eat beige food. I wanted a solution to the bed-wetting and tantrum-throwing, not a shrug that it 'wouldn't be forever'.
And yet, like almost everything in this here parenthood adventure so far, I am starting to realise that there are a couple of pretty solid reasons why 'it's probably just a phase' is offered as the default answer to everything (and why I have recently found myself offering the same statement to friends when discussing their parenting grumbles).
At times, dropping the phase-bomb is quite possibly the only comfort we can offer someone who has declared that things have become a little bit shit. If you have a baby with reflux so severe the vomit-spray hits a stranger in Starbucks (true story), or a toddler who will not sleep in beyond 4am (a friend of mine is living this exact excitement at the moment), there is not always an obvious practical solution. When staring into the bloodshot eyes of an exhausted mum who has already begged her GP/Health Visitor/Postman for advice, the promise of the current situation being temporary is sometimes the only half-helpful thing left to say (aside from, 'I'm coming round with cake.')
We all know the drill here. The chances are, she has already desperately scrolled through every online parenting forum looking for answers and come away feeling more confused than when she started - not least because a fight about baby-led weaning broke out somewhere in the comments and she couldn't code-break the apparent foreign language (DD1, DS2, TTC, WAATFAA??*).
So out it comes, the thing that always sounds slightly feeble and unconvincing but at least offers a glimmer a hope: "I bet it's just a phase..."
And do you know what?
It probably is.
That doesn't make it any easier when you are living it, of course. ["Phase my arse! He's been like this for months!" was another midnight rant of mine, in the thick of bi-hourly feeds.] And though it's possible that the 'phase' could go on for ever, more often than not it doesn't. More often than not the issue or difficulty you are so desperately trying to shake off transitions into a new issue or difficulty without you even realising it.
So I'm sorry to all the people I quietly sneered at after they tried to tell me about the temporary nature of teething/reflux/general toddler arsiness. It never feels very 'phasey' at the time, but eventually your child will have a full set of teeth and, with any luck, will have stopped performing the Stiff-as-a-Floorboard trick when you try to get them into the pram. Tomorrow just might mark the start of a new challenge.
It really isn't forever.
It probably is just a phase.
The Unmumsy Mum
*('Dear Daughter 1,' 'Dear Son 2,' 'Trying to Conceive,' 'What Are All The Fucking Acronyms About?' Might have made the last one up).