Not too long ago I was the parent desperately asking others the question, “Does this parenting thing ever get easier?”
Inevitably they’d say what I did not want to hear in my fragile state: “Parenting never really gets easier… just different.”
I’d force a laugh while sobbing silently in my head, my mental state receding further into fetal position.
HOW COULD PARENTING BE THIS HARD ALL THE TIME?? IT HAS TO GET EASIER THAN THIS!
And you know what? It has.
While I understand the sentiment, parenting has totally gotten easier. Never easy, but never quite as crazy as what I now consider baby boot camp and the following year and a half of “active duty” (baby boot camp being the first six weeks of your tiny drill sergeant’s life in which he transforms you into a well-oiled but sleep deprived machine, eroding your sense of self for the sake of the greater good). I’m now convinced that people who hold the “parenting just gets different” view fall into two camps: 1) The people who just really like the baby stage and 2) The people who have forgotten how difficult and life consuming babies are. A baby’s needs are simple but meeting those needs is straight up exhausting. When you’re going through it for the first time, it really is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.
It seems like every time we get used to a new phase of our child’s development, things change and we have to adapt all over again. This is why people say things just get different, because each phase IS hard. But thank goodness the newness of parenting wears off, hormones eventually even out, and the body heals. The lack of sleep becomes more normal and your brain adapts by getting more restful sleep in less time. If you can believe it, your kids will eventually start sleeping through the night and some day you too might get a full night’s sleep (dream big guys!). Your house will never be clean again but that’s ok because at least one day you will not always be the baby feeding, diaper changing zombie that you might feel like right now.
While you will always try to keep your child safe, you won’t always need to be on suicide watch for your little explorer. Nowadays I’m generally not worried that my kids might randomly put razors, deer poop, or engorged ticks in their mouth… all of which my youngest son has done in the past. I’m also not constantly mulling over the seemingly innocuous things that could kill them – plain old sleeping, choking on the plastic eyes of a teddy bear, bouncing too much. My kids might try to draw on the walls but at least they’ve stopped trying to eat the pen.
I asked my spouse if he thought parenting gets easier and he agreed because, as he put it, “It’s more rewarding”. As if on queue, my three year old snuggled up to him and said, “I love you, daddy!” There are plenty of challenges with my two-year old and threenager but the occasional sweet moments makes the hard work worth it. Not only will I get to look back on the adorable pictures I have of my kids, but I’ll get to re-read the cute and sometimes hilarious things they’ve said that I’ve kept track of. After my three year old watched me go skydiving last month, he asked if I was a super hero. My life is definitely getting sweeter.
Time with the kids has definitely gotten more fun too. My husband and I have been able to go kayaking more regularly now that they can join us and it is a blast. I can choose to play with my kids or if I’m wanting a break, I can (sometimes) just watch them play happily by themselves. We can go the pool, play in the sand, go to the aquarium, the kid’s museum, or a playground. There are a lot of options that have become so fun.
In addition to the cute and the fun moments, the older your kid gets, the easier it is to get some alone time. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary last week and our date night didn’t include me leaking through my shirt, having to spend twenty minutes pumping a bottle and/or worrying that my child would be left hungry because the movie went a little bit long. It’s much easier to appreciate our two boys when we’ve had a little time away. I’m a better parent when I get my alone time, and it’s really hard to pencil that in when your little one’s existence depends on you. Since my kids have started sleeping through the night, I’ve been able to run several marathons this year and am training to run a hundred miler this fall. I never would have dreamed of making such horrible decisions when my kids were still babies. I’m getting to be myself again, and I’m liking being a parent more and more as the kids get older.
In short, I have my life back. It will never be the same as before I had kids, and that’s ok. It’s still pretty freakin’ sweet if you ask me.
So as a final glimmer of hope for you parents out there wondering how you’re going to make it, know that for some of us, things do in fact get easier.