I remember getting advice when my children were babies and toddlers from complete strangers who said, “Don’t worry, it will get easier as they get older.” An example of that was at a drug store and my son sat on the rubber mat of the automatic doorway and cried and cried. He wanted to get a pinwheel and he proudly brought his own dollar to buy it. He didn’t understand that the cashier was taking it away from him for good! He wanted it back.
I’ve been through babyhood to adulthood with my kids and I will tell you — it does not get easier. I have a friend who had four kids old enough to babysit my young kids. She used to be a “mom mentor” to me. She said, “It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.” Other words of wisdom from her were “Bigger kids, bigger problems — like wrecked cars and flunked college classes.” Yes, I found these words to be true.
Which gives a mom more stress? Changing endless diapers or hearing that your child flunked an exam in college? Or, when I got a call from my son over a week ago who said he was knocking on doors for the election and a person “self-quarantined” for Coronavirus answered the door and took materials from him. I got a call from him minutes ago saying “Mom. I have a fever. I have a sore throat and cough. Those are the symptoms.” I’ll take the drudgery of picking up dirty clothes off the floor and changing puked on sheets any day of the week compared to what I’m feeling this minute!
In an article in The Week called Why ‘It gets easier’ is a parenting myth by Claire Gillespie, she discusses that having babies who are dependent upon you for everything is tiring, but as children enter their teens, we are faced with a whole new batch of problems.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Hang in there — it will get easier.”
The well-meaning words of a fellow parent. Someone whose kids were older and more obedient than mine — on that particular day, a fractious 3-year-old wrapped around my leg as I tried to wrestle his 10-month-old sister into her stroller.
I’m not usually one to take unsolicited parenting advice, but this I clung to.
Nine years later and I’m still waiting for it to get easier. Okay, so my son doesn’t form a vice around my calf in the supermarket parking lot anymore, but life with a kid on the cusp of teenagedom is just as challenging as the pre-school days. And while my almost-double-figures daughter is a lot more helpful during shopping trips, she’s as challenging as she was before she could walk and talk, just in completely different ways.
After a lengthy gap, I’ve gone back to the beginning. This time next year, I’ll have a toddler and a teenager. We’re already taking bets on who’ll be the most erratic. I reckon the odds are pretty even.
In some ways, that well-meaning bystander in the supermarket parking lot all those years ago was right. It does get easier, insofar as kids become more independent. They learn how to feed themselves, use the bathroom, get to grips with zippers and buttons and laces. They need you less for all the practical aspects of parenting that take up so much precious time during hectic mornings. When they start school, you even get a few hours’ respite from being at their beck and call.
Being in the position of comparing a very young child with two significantly older ones has confirmed to me that, as exhausted as I am from breastfeeding on demand and changing endless dirty diapers and simply being “on duty” around the clock, kids are easier when they’re younger.
Founder of Your Village Erin Royer-Asrilant, who has a master’s degree in psychology and a specialty in child development and family relationships, agrees that while the most physically taxing years were when she had three toddlers, she now faces other, more emotionally difficult parenting challenges.
“As my children have become more aware and spend more time out in the world, they have come up against things that I, even as a parenting expert, have to do some problem-solving to figure out,” she says. “There have been numerous occasions when my kids have had issues with something a teacher did or said. One time, my son was so distraught because he wasn’t voted to be on student council that he couldn’t stop crying when he got into the car after school that day.”
An unavoidable part of growing up is dealing with, well, grown-up stuff. My 90-year-old grandfather is currently seeing out the end of his life in hospital, and my two older kids have lots of questions that I don’t know the answers to. Mainly, they want to know what will happen to him when he dies. Years ago, when they asked me the same thing about our kitten after she had to be put to sleep, they accepted a vague response and were comforted with cuddles. These days, I can’t get away with bluffing.
Here’s my question, do you think parenting ever gets easier? In what ways do you think it does or does not?