When I had my first baby it hit me like a ton of bricks. My life was turned completely upside down. It was HARD. Very, very hard. I struggled with the sleepless nights, the breastfeeding, the constant worrying, the insane challenge of learning how to care for another human being. I was drowning, but everyone said, “Just hang in there, it gets easier at 6-months when the baby is sleeping better and can sit up.”
It didn’t get easier.
At 6-months my daughter was still waking up every two hours. She started having health issues around her 6-month birthday and was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive at a year. So needless to say, months 6-12 sucked.
“Don’t worry,” everyone said, “It gets easier when they can walk.” My daughter started walking at 14 months and it didn’t get easier. In fact it got harder because she was now mobile and refused to sit in the stroller anymore. If I strapped her in she’d start flailing around like a psychopath trying to escape from a straight-jacket. So I had to let her walk. And as anyone who has walked anywhere with a tiny toddler will tell you, it’s pretty much torture. It takes FOREVER to get two feet and they have zero understanding of what a sidewalk is and why it might not be the brightest idea to walk in front of the massive moving vehicle that’s zooming along next to them.
When we hit the Terrible Twos, everyone said, “Just hang in there, it gets easier at three.” It didn’t. In fact it got worse. The tantrums kicked into high gear. Her new verbal skills enabled her to say things like, “I hate you, Mommy poopy head.”
The Terrible Threes were followed by the Fearsome Fours. Which were followed by the Freakin’ Fives. The STOPPIT Sixes. The Somebody Help Me Sevens. The eights were great, but also hard. Nine, ten, eleven all had their challenges. And then on to the teen years. OMG the teen years. It’s like the toddler years all over, except the enemy is just as big and smart as I am. The teen years are just about killing me.
With every challenging age, people told me it would get easier.
Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.
There are challenges at every age. Sure, the challenges change and having a 13-year-old is a lot less physically taxing than having a baby. But the mental and emotional challenges of an 13-year-old girl are much more difficult than those of a baby who is soothed by a boob or a binky.
So here’s what I think. Parenting doesn’t easier. It never gets easier. It just changes. And that, THAT, is what we need to tell other parents.
We need to tell them to hang in there. We need to acknowledge that each phase is tough. We need to let other moms know that it’s hard, but this too shall pass. Everything is a phase. Every challenge is a phase. Every pitfall is a phase.
And just when you’ve developed the tools to deal with the challenge du jour, a new one will take its place. And that’s why they say the first 40 years of parenting are the hardest.