It Gets Easier. No Really.

There’s a universal set of lies that mothers of adult children tell mothers of small children.

1. Enjoy every second – I sure did!
2. You’ll blink and they’ll be graduating high school!
3. Oh honey, keep your chin up – because it only gets harder.

I’ve spent the last nine and a half years of my life attempting to ignore and not explode over these completely not encouraging statements, and also debunking them for other young mothers who have that horrified, exhausted, overspent look in their eyes.

Like my dear friend Not-Crazy-Renee had Tuesday afternoon.

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First of all, no one enjoys every second of motherhood. There’s a lot of crap we have to deal with – more literal crap than figurative, but plenty of both. We should enjoy the beautiful moments, for sure – but the concept of “enjoying every second” only breeds guilt and shame and a sense of being less-than in comparison to these mothers who have wet-wiped away the many crappy memories of their younger days.

Second. I don’t care what they say. When you’re in the midst of mothering young children, it is NOT a blink. Maybe it feels like it afterward, but it does not, in ANY WAY, feel like it in the middle – no matter how delightful your particular children are. Ali is a great example – she’s really been an unusually easy and great kid since about 9 months old. She didn’t even have terrible twos, y’all. But even still, when Chris sent me this Timehop the other day, it felt like at least a century ago – certainly not a blink.

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But those first two statements have been plainly not true to me for nearly my entire parenting career. (I even remember how NON-BLINK the first six weeks of Ali’s life felt. I kept blinking. The seconds of her constant screaming kept crawling along. BLINK BLINK BLINK.)

The third lie, however, has been my newest revelation of how lie-ey of a lie it actually is. And that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

“It only gets harder.”

No, no it doesn’t.

I don’t know how many people I’ve had tell me this over the years – so many that I don’t remember any particular individuals – they all blur together into a continuous loop of it-only-gets-harder-honeys. And maybe teenagehood totally gets harder – it probably does. I’m not there yet. But I am here to attest – and to share the agreement of many of my friends who are in the same stage as myself – that it does NOT only get harder.

My kids are 9 1/2 and 5 1/2. And my life is infinitely easier and more delightful than when I had a newborn. In fact, I’m at a pretty dang easy stage of parenting. I don’t have to wipe any butts, carry any pumpkin seats, comfort any inconsolable babies, pack a diaper bag, wake up in the middle of the night to impart life-giving sustenance to anyone, or teach (over and over) the idea of what “no” means.

(Okay maybe the no thing is still being taught over and over. But the rest are solid.)

I remember when Ali was born. It was a horrifying shock to our systems – one of those OHMYGOSH I WILL NEVER HAVE MY LIFE BACK EVER AGAIN shocks. Newborns, especially first newborns, are all-encompassing. They take your sleep, your calories, your arms, your every waking moment, and your sanity. They cry inconsolably. They cannot tell you what’s wrong. And they give nothing in exchange – other than their tiny cuteness, which is NOT ENOUGH, I tell you.

(At least for the first one. It made up for a lot on the second one.)

I felt pretty panicky in those first few months, thinking I would never feel like “just me” again. But I quickly learned, and was able to remember and therefore make Noah’s infanthood easier, that you progressively get your freedoms and your sense of self back.

Renee did indeed come over Tuesday afternoon, and the chaos of her life reminded me how very much of my life I have back. I gave her a giant cup of iced coffee, sent my children to entertain two out of three of her children, and tried to encourage her that she is in Ground Zero of Parenthood – this is The Hardest It Gets (at least up to 9 1/2 years old, where my assumed expertise ends.) Those baby/toddler days are draining, and are definitely harder than the days I’m experiencing now. I even texted her (desperately attempting to be non-braggy) an example at 10am the next morning:

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Here are a list of things that I can do now, that I would have never dreamed of doing when I had an infant, or a 1, 2, or 3 year old.

– I can take a nap – with my kids at home – and they are perfectly able to entertain themselves.
– I can sleep in – because they can read clocks and know they’re not allowed to come into my room until 8 (and 8:30 on Saturdays.)
– Ali really likes making a little money on the side, she she voluntarily brings me breakfast in bed about once a week (an entrepreneurial delight that I reward with 50 cents.)
– I can say “I’m going out on the porch to read a book”, and they say “Okay!” – and I – get this – GO OUT ON THE PORCH AND READ A BOOK.
– My kids and I can go on adventures – hiking, exploring, having fun – without having to worry about naptimes or diapers or feedings or even constant whininess (sometimes.)

Here are a list of things that my kids do for themselves that seemed like a foreign and exotic fantasy when I had a newborn or a toddler:

– They get dressed. Brush their own teeth. Get themselves in the car and buckle their own seatbelts.
– They clean their rooms with minimal help.
– They know how much iPad time they’re allowed a day (1 hour during the summer) and how many TV shows they’re allowed to watch (2 shows each) and which TV shows they’re allowed to watch, and they access said allowed events without my help.
– They fix their own breakfasts and lunches most of the time.

.

.

…………..and that’s as far as I got writing this post before I put it down for the day and got back to life.

…..Later that night, I discovered that in an effort to make money that morning, my daughter, while I was still in bed basking in my #ItGetsEasier lifestyle, had unloaded a dirty dishwasher. And I discovered it at 10:30pm that night. Which also meant that the bowl of #ItGetsEasier cereal she’d brought me that morning….yeah I don’t want to think about it.

…..And on that same night, my son, of whom I do not have to wipe his butt anymore because #ItGetsEasier, solidly clogged up the kid’s toilet with a massive dump – so much so that neither that night nor the next morning could my husband unclog said toilet.

So yes.

It does get easier.

You do get your self back.

But parenthood is a lifetime purchase.

And they’ll find a way to make you pay interest.

Disclaimer: Before you hate, I love my children. I love to spend time with them. I love being a Mommy. This post is only meant to encourage the fellow mothers in the trenches of what is a quadruple-overtime-required job – is it worth it? Yes. Is it seriously mind-blowingly hard sometimes? Yes. That is all.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. Well said!

  2. My kids are 13, 11, and 8, and I’m still in that easier stage of parenting. I couldn’t agree more with this post.

  3. Sarah R says:

    PREACH! This has been my experience as well. The first weeks of a new born were HARD, then got slightly easier until they started crawling. Then it was really hard again until about 2 when each year gets easier and easier.

    I think 2 year olds get such a bad rap with the “terrible twos.” I’m so glad my mom told me that, in her experience, the 2s were better since at least they can communicate a little bit. I found those newborn crying days when I wasn’t sure exactly what the baby was crying about to be downright scary. I felt like such a bad mom that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

    I really wish people would stop saying “Bigger kids mean bigger problems”, etc. It’s a wonder people ever have more than one kid after they hear that!

  4. Terra Mortensen says:

    This is so true! At 6 and 10 my kids are shocking easy compared to where they were even two years ago. I’ve worked at home all summer and the actually entertain themselves pretty well for a few hours every day! And yes – sometimes I take actual naps! I imagine that parents of teenagers are laughing at us right now, but I’m sure enjoying these easy years while they last.

  5. We were in the phase of “it gets easier” when our oldest was 4. He was a trick baby. Sweet, slept through the night, well behaved, and in many ways a little adult.
    Then we had another. He is a character to say the least. When he was 2, we had a 3rd.
    I am in the trenches of toddlerhood with a 1 & 3 year old. My 7 year old is easy. The littles arent. I keep telling myself it will get better, it does get easier. Once the baby turns 2 or 3, life opens up again. We can go places & do things without being held captive to naps and picky eating.
    In the meantime my oldest is a huge help. He has to be, I couldn’t do it without him.
    Only a few more years.
    I love my kids with everything I have, buy can’t stand the “cherish every moment” crowd. They forgot what it is like to go without sleep. For years at a time.
    My step sister is pregnant with her 1st, I still haven’t told her the terrible truth about newborns. She has till Christmas. :)

  6. To give you an idea, my 3 year old feral child swung a bag of cat poop above his head yesterday yelling “that’s my jam!”
    :)

  7. I’m probably the odd girl out, but to me it’s way harder now than when mine were little. My kids are 12, 9, and 8. I had wonderful babies (all three slept through the night from day 1 and never cried for the sake of crying…a pure delight and not even exaggerated!) Oh how I was deceived. My children got more difficult to parent as they aged. I’m quite certain I have the strongest willed, most independent, most dramatic, and most competitive and driven children in the history of ever. So while I agree some things are easier because they are capable of doing everything for themselves now and physically we can go and do a lot more, emotionally it is so difficult sometimes that I’m not sure how I will survive to the next day. I guess my point is I must be someone who handled the physical challenges of little ones better than I handle the emotional challenges of older ones. Maybe those advice givers of “it only gets harder” were more like me.

    • Our oldest sounds like he was kidnapped from your house and left at ours… except he wasn’t an easy baby AT ALL. He’s 11 and very helpful in many practical ways, but super stressful to parent bc of how incredibly strong willed and demanding he is.

  8. Kelly Lacey says:

    As the mother of 2 girls (ages 20 and 15 1/2) I can say to this point it is glorious.

    There is nothing like spontaneously saying “Dad and I are going out, there’s food in the fridge- make yourselves something to eat. Our phones will be on. Love you” and then just walking out the door.

    Did I enjoy their baby and toddler stages, absolutely- but I wouldn’t go back in time because it does in fact get better and better. :o)

  9. Sheri Klein says:

    My oldest is almost 21 and my youngest is 13. I definitely agree that the day to day parenting gets easier as they get older. And I remember when my children were in that magical 6-12 range. But then the moodiness of the teenage years set it. No more snuggling and in-asked-for hugs. Pretty much no kisses ever (although sometimes if they want something really badly I’ll make them give me a peck on the cheek, cos I’m devious).
    But what I find truly “hard” about parenting at this stage is that I can no longer fix all of their problems. I can already see the world starting to beat them up and it just breaks my heart.
    And don’t even ask about how it feels to see your kids drive off in a car together with NO ADULT!
    But there are rewards with this age. I don’t have to stay up till midnight to watch grown up television. And dinner conversations are intelligent, interesting and often hilarious (at least most of the time – they are boys so sometimes we descend into arguements about which super hero is better).
    It all comes down to this: love your child at whatever stage they are in. Be present as much as you can but don’t feel guilty for taking some alone time. And always take all the hugs you can get!

  10. Colleen says:

    You know what else people say this about? Marriage. Like every season in life is destined to be more gloomy.

  11. I love certain things about babies/toddlers, but man, I’m so looking forward to being able to spend all day at the beach/waterpark/wherever without worrying about meltdowns due to naps. And kids being able to get themselves up and feed themselves breakfast so I can sleep past 7…..that sounds heavenly.

    Thank you for giving us hope!

  12. It would be so great if people could just not offer advice unless asked! That goes for babies, marriage, what is or is not “healthy”, and everything else related to family and raising children. I will always remember about a month before our wedding, an evil witch of a co-worker saying to me,
    “Are you sure you want to get married? All men are just big babies. And most people get divorced, anyway.” When I assured her I did indeed plan on getting married and that my fiancé and I had been dating for 5 and a half years so we knew each other really well by that point, she said, ” Oh. Honey, I know someone who dated her husband for 6 years and they still got divorced!” I just tried really hard not to ever engage in a non-work related conversation with her again after that. I know most people aren’t that bad, but unless you are saying something positive why on earth would you go around making people feel sad, doubtful, or fearful? What can you possibly gain from that?! Ugh.

    Oh, and I agree that the newborn stage (actually more like the first 6 months) was pretty awful, for many reasons, yet at the same time I wanted time to stop because I just loved her so much and wanted her to be a baby forever. Crazy emotions! Now that we’re past the first year I still find myself thinking that way, but at the same time looking forward to all the things we can do as she gets older. You know what, though, I would never tell a new expectant mom that she’s going to hate the first few months, because that just isn’t accurate and doesn’t account for differences in personalities & temperaments of babies, and I feel like most people who say those kinds of things are probably just pessimistic types who find it easier to remember the bad. If asked, I would say, I found it hard, but so worth it, and even in the midst of it there were sweet times.

  13. Christen Sparks says:

    I love everything about this post. I was encouraged, laughed (several times), and reminded not to ever repeat any of these lies to any fellow mommy.
    P.S. Why do your comments think I’m Lindsay Zannis? Her name and email automatically came up under my comment before I posted it.

  14. THANK YOU for writing this! I don’t care when my children started to speak, the milestone I remember is when they no longer needed a nap! I can schedule things and do things AT. ANY. TIME. I wish someone told me it does get easier! I wouldn’t have cried so much for years on end! (not really, but I didn’t see much light at the end of the tunnel.). I hope this post gets as much mileage as your jeans post!!

  15. I always try to just tell people that it gets to be a*different kind* of hard. And I mean well when i say it– I really do. I look back on my own early parenting days and realize that I honestly thought that it WOULD get easier and as it consistently didn’t, and in fact for my own personality and that of my children so far it actually did get harder, I do wish that someone had warned ME that there is something at least mentally easier about those early years when it’s all simply about keeping them alive from 7:00 to 8:00 and still somehow maintaining your own sanity. It may be hard, but somehow, in retrospect it seems simpler.

  16. I’ve never been told the 3rd. Just the opposite. Everyone I know says is DOES get easier. I’m hoping so. Although I can attest to the fact that having more kids is easier. I was just talking to a mom of 14 (!!!) and we agreed that having 2 kids was the hardest! Maybe because they entertain each other or there are move helping hands. I’m not sure but 4 is way easier than two!!!

  17. Qoumidan says:

    I’ve noticed that I hate future tense encouragement. All the blah blah blah it gets better doesn’t help me *now*, I’d much rather get solidarity; mothers who know what I’m going through and just leave it at that.

    As a side note, my favorite time of motherhood so far is the first day up to about 3 months. It’s like food, everyone likes something else and for different reasons.

    I like black licorice and newborns.

  18. Thank you. My daughter is three and I am pregnant with number two. I needed this.

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