In parenting, "the sweet spot" is when everything is humming along nicely. You feel like you have a handle on the parenting thing and have found some balance in your life. If you’re laughing right now, you probably aren’t there yet. But hang on, it's coming.
For me, the sweet spot wasn’t the baby or toddler years, for sure. Maybe if I'd only had one child, the toddler years would’ve been a little easier. But I had two babies under 2, and those first couple of years after my second was born are a bit of a blur now. While I loved my life and my little family, it was a wild, exhausting and chaotic time. It certainly wasn’t easy.
Of course, there were days when everything went along smoothly and I thought maybe I’d found my balance. But then the baby would start teething or forget how to sleep through the night, or my toddler would prove why it was called the “terrible twos” (or forget how to sleep through the night) and I’d be thrown off balance again.
"It gets easier when they’re older," friends told me.
"When?!" I wanted to scream. I wanted a date to circle on the calendar, some point in time I could mark and say, "There. It’ll be easier then."
And then something magical happened. I looked up one day and realized I was smack dab in my parenting sweet spot. I’d been so busy trying to find a way to juggle everything that I’d stopped thinking about when it would get easier—until one day I realized it had.
Everything is simply easier now. Not easy—parenting always has its challenges—but easier.
For me, the sweet spot started a few months before my youngest turned 3. He was fully potty-trained, and my oldest was starting preschool three mornings a week and was excited about his new independence. We found a happy little routine that allowed me to find some time for myself, too.
I realized I was in the sweet spot of parenting because I was more well-rested than I’d been since either of my babies had been born. I was able to manage two kids, a house, our pets and my freelance work on a day-to-day basis without feeling like I was failing at all of it. I even had time to read a book or see a movie once in awhile and have date nights with my husband. Most of all, I realized I was really, really happy. Not only were my kids thriving, but I felt like I was starting to thrive, too. The best part? The sweet spot has only gotten sweeter.
My kids are in first and second grade now, and those early years of diapers and teething and sleepless nights feel like they were a part of someone else’s life. Everything is simply easier now. Not easy—parenting always has its challenges—but easier. It's easier than postpartum depression, running on three hours of sleep and not having showered in three or four days. It's easier than rocking two kids to sleep every single night and having one, or both, of them wake me up every single night. It's easier than never, ever having a moment alone (or with my husband) when I don’t have one ear on the kids.
I think every mom’s sweet spot is different. It depends on the number of kids and your circumstances as to when you’ll hit it. But there does seem to come a time for all of us when everything falls into place and we’re genuinely happy (and rested) most of the time. The hard part for me was getting past the incredibly hard early years, when exhaustion was a state of being and every moment of every day felt consumed with parenting duties.
Will it always be this easy? Probably not. I recently read about a study that said the most stressful years for moms are the middle school years. Most older parents I know say the high school years are a little better than middle school, but not by much. So, yes, it’ll get hard again, but in a different way than it was when they were little. Somehow, I’ll find a way to roll with the new challenges while I wait for the next sweet spot.
Until then, I’m enjoying these years, when everything seems to be flowing and we're all doing well and happy.