I recently read an article that really stuck with me. Its premise was to stop waiting for motherhood to get easier, because it never does.
Pshhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s the sound of me completely deflating, or at least, that’s how I felt when I first read it. As someone who feels like she is drowning more often than not, this is not good news. However, I’m not sure that author is correct.
It’s undoubtedly true that motherhood never gets easy. Each stage is fraught with challenges and the stakes get higher as your children age. Sure, you worried about their safety as babies (what mother hasn’t neurotically stared at her sleeping infant to check for breathing?), but teenagers are potentially one bad decision away from life-ruination at all times. I imagine that has to be a stress like I cannot yet imagine.
However, I also think which stages are harder or easier depends highly on the individual parent (and children). Neither a night owl nor a morning dove, I’ve always been more of a “10-10” girl, best suited for facing the day between 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. To say that the sleep deprivation of parenthood has been difficult is quite the understatement. There have been weeks, even months (upon months) where I have not felt human. After three large babies and difficult pregnancies, my body is a wreck; breastfeeding was a horror show; six years straight of minimal sleep is the cherry on a sundae I don’t necessarily relish eating.
I’m a Type-A person, particular about my things, my schedule, and my time. Type-A tendencies and parenthood are like water and electricity: mixing the two produces a spectacularly dangerous show. Raising tiny humans who destroy everything in their wake and have no respect for another person’s plans or desires has grated on my sanity.
To be clear, I love my kids with my every fiber. I would rip my heart from my chest if one of my boys needed it, but love and sanity are not the same. While I am overflowing with the former, the latter has most certainly been stretched very thin during the baby years.
Teenagers, however, are my jam. I teach high school. I’ve coached the soccer team. I’ve sponsored student government. I just love so much about teens—their enthusiasm, their sense of humor, the knowledge that the whole world is before them—a lot like toddlers, only they can use the bathroom entirely on their own. While I can undoubtedly get high from the smell of a newborn or the squeeze of a chubby baby foot, for most of my life, I have been geared more toward teens. Still, it seems to be mostly reports of doom-and-gloom coming downhill from the parents of the older kids.
I can already hear the naysayers, “Just you wait . . .” so I’d like to issue a disclaimer: I’m speaking in generalities here. Of course, there are some unique teenage situations (unexpected pregnancies, drug addictions, mental health struggles, to name just a few) that are undoubtedly harder than the baby years. There are always exceptions, so let’s just try to compare apples to apples.
On the rare occasion that I do hear someone speak positively of the teen years, I cling to it like a life raft in a churning sea. I know that phase won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but I do think it will be a very different pace and style of parenting. I look forward to watching my children navigate friendships, even though this often involves hurt and hard lessons. I look forward to watching my children master things independently, even though the path to independence is often frustrating. I look forward to helping my children grow in their convictions, even though this growth can be scary and uncertain. In these early years of tantrums, endless demands, and physically intensive 24-7 parenting, I am looking forward to these future stages that are a bit more “in my lane”.
I know they say not to wish away time with your children, and I’m not. My heart will break as we leave the baby stage behind for good, whenever that is. Furthermore, if you gave me a choice between raising babies forever and my children growing up and leaving the nest, I would choose babies forever (and also likely die of exhaustion, but whatever). However, I do think God made babies and toddlers uniquely precious and adorable for good reason: this stage is just so unrelenting, parents need to cling to that cuteness.
If you are a mom knee-deep in the diaper years, I can’t say for certain that it will get easier, but I can say that I join you in hoping and praying that it does. And if you’re a mom of an older kid, and it’s overwhelmingly difficult, can you do a favor for those of us behind you? Please don’t tell us about it until all our kids are consistently sleeping through the night and toilet-trained. Hope is the only thing getting us through the day. Thanks!