I went to see my cousin and her children the other day with JJ and EJ. She has a two and a half year old and a seven month old. They are both gorgeous but the baby is adorable – such a happy little man!
We went to a local playground and then back to hers for pizza (and a sneaky glass of white for us mummies 😊).
At one point during our conversation she asked me to reassure her that it does get easier. To be honest she looks to me like she is breezing it but I guess that’s the myth of modern motherhood. Of course my immediate default response was to think about my current parenting challenges and try and convey what it might be like for her in five years time.
Then later I retracted a little bit recalling the time I spoke to one of the ladies who ran a Surestart “Babes & Bumps” group I used to go to. She had teenage children herself and I remember asking her the exact same question – “tell me it gets easier!?” – and when she began to talk about how it’s not easier, it’s just different, I pretty much dictated an alternative reply – “NO! It does get easier – and you know why? Because whatever the challenges you have later on, at least you can face them on a night’s sleep!” (assuming you’re not an insomniac – if you are, you have my sympathy).
Having a baby is 24/7 and even if you are a total baby person and your baby is “easy” and adorable you are responsible for them. At. All. Times. If you have a toddler as well – that’s another layer of demands coming at you – conflicting, challenging demands.
Personally I had trouble coping with the demands some days. I felt like I was constantly on edge being constantly on call. I remember trying to imagine the day that I could be sharing a space with my family and feel completely at ease, not scared that something could happen at any second which could break me; or worrying about every little thing.
It’s easy for us parents of older children to forget – to get wrapped up in the here and now – but there is a disparity between “easier” and “different” – the early years are hazy days so unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before or will ever experience again – so much so that you might as well have been set down on Mars with nothing but an oxygen mask and a potato and told to get on with it (I’m looking at you Matt Damon). Whilst the world around you remains the same, your reality has altered and you will likely feel you’re watching on from behind a glass screen as everyone else merrily goes about their business.
When your children are older it’s as if you regain your senses little by little until you are living back in the real world again. Yes, they will push your boundaries, yes they might reduce you to tears, but, under average circumstances, that’s one bad day. The day you regain your sense of self, that’s empowering, so never let anyone tell you it doesn’t get easier.