There’s a discussion that happens regularly in my local parenting Facebook group, a variation on a theme that pops up every month or so. It almost always starts with a picture of a sink piled high with dishes, or a living room hidden beneath piles of laundry, or cranky children throwing their dinner on the kitchen floor. The question is some version of, “Does anyone else struggle with this? Am I the only one? How do you handle it all?”
Thankfully, since I’m a member of an incredibly supportive parenting group, these posts don’t lure in any judgment. Instead, there’s an encouraging chorus of “me too!” responses, peppered with offers to take the kids for the evening and a few ideas and strategies shared. The comment section agrees: parenting young children is hard, and we’re all in the thick of it together.
I’m grateful for these conversations; they’re an example of how social media can be its own antidote when the curated Instagram feeds and the too-perfect family vacation albums start to overwhelm. Here are parents agreeing to drop the facade, share the daily struggle, and support each other. I’m particularly grateful for the parents of older kids in the group who offer a glimpse into the future. They’ve given me a mantra that I repeat when I feel lost in the mess and would give anything for a clean house and 20-minute shower.
Raising young kids isn’t the time of my life.
This isn’t the time of my life to have a consistently spotless house.
This isn’t the time of my life to make huge strides in my career.
This isn’t the time of my life to sleep in and enjoy leisurely weekends.
This definitely isn’t the time of my life to buy that gorgeous white rug.
Sometimes, I long for these things, and I start to feel like something’s missing. That’s what we’re all doing when we ask those questions: Am I the only one? Am I doing something wrong? Did I miss something? Are there parents with infants and toddlers who can carry on like their lives aren’t almost entirely consumed by raising children right now?
I remember saying that I wanted to be a parent whose kids were part of the family, not the center and focus of the family. I thought that meant somehow that the essential parts of my life wouldn’t change when I became a mother. But the reality is this: the early years are boot camp. An infant can’t help but demand more of you than you’ve ever given before and then some, and a toddler’s need for protection and supervision is exhausting.
But someday, things will change. My daughters will need less of my time; I’ll slowly begin to sleep in again on weekends, maybe take a long shower or two. It’s the haunting reality that Solomon repeated: This too shall pass. It’s both an encouragement and an exhortation; this will change someday, for better and for worse. The physically demanding years will start to fade as the years of wrestling with letting go begin. But that won’t be the time of my life, either.
It won’t be the time of my life to show my two-year-old a dragonfly for the first time.
It won’t be the time of my life to feel my second baby’s in utero hiccoughs.
It won’t be the time of my life to cuddle my girls close all hours of the day and night.
My velcro-baby firstborn has already transformed into an independent toddler, one who’s happy to shout “Bye!” and blow me a kiss to go play with her friends. I’ve already begun the years of letting go. Remembering that I’ll eventually trade later mornings for older kids makes me more content in this season. I won’t miss everything about these hands-on early years, but I’ll miss enough to make it a bittersweet transition.