Four years ago, I was chatting with a colleague about family life. Her husband was a fly in-fly out mine worker. Two weeks home, two weeks away. She admitted that the family was used to the schedule, but that it was still overwhelming for her when he went away.
I stupidly said, “At least your kids are older, so it must be easier.”
Her kids were pre-teens and teenagers, you know, ones that could wipe their butts and weren’t asking to be carried every second and weren’t sucking on her boob all day. (That’s the phase of parenting I was going through at the moment with a 2 year old and a baby on the way).
She nicely said, “Actually…”
And, went on to describe how things don’t really get easier, they only change.
Now I get it.
Yes, it does get easier in some ways.
They sleep better, need to be carried less, can speak more, etc.
But, the strain and shock of adjusting to a young child, and especially of being a new parent, morphs into something else… Something more mentally demanding. Something requiring more patience. Something more high maintenance and that is more refined.
The days when I thought I couldn’t lift another tiny human being have been replaced discussing how much and what sort of screen time is appropriate.
The days of little sleep, have been replaced with negotiating a million unreasonable and unusual requests.
We used to get by with one little walk outside a day, but now they need much more. Dance lessons, swimming, bike rides, you name it.
The days when I swear I could not wipe another butt, oh yeah.. sorry, I’m still in those days, let’s not go there.
And, over the years, MY needs have changed too!
When they were babies, I knew in my heart, I wanted to be no place but home. Now that they’re older, is this what I really want? How much of myself do I want to put back into the workforce? Is my outside-the-house-work fulfilling enough that it validates being away? And, if I am away, how much of the household and of the kid’s emotions should I be willing to sacrifice to do it? They still need me… but I need myself too.
And, do I really have an excuse to not have dinner on the table or a clean house? After all, I don’t have a baby anymore… so what do I do all day??? Can I justify my lack of ‘domestication‘ now that my kids are older. True, they’re older, but it doesn’t make it easier.
I’m sure one day it will get easier. Like really easier. Like, when they either move out, or turn 25 (arbitrary age, because that’s the age I seemed to sort myself out). But, for now, it’s not. Being a parent is a challenge, no matter how old the kids are!
Special Note: This post is not to leave new mothers feeling hopeless! If you are struggling in the early years, with physical pain, or emotional trauma, things will get better… be sure to seek the help you need.