We've all heard it, especially when we were new moms: “It gets easier.” And while I certainly prefer this sentiment to its counterpart, “Just wait …,” I had to let it go. Because holding on to the dream of a magical time when parenthood felt like a walk in the park was holding me back from enjoying my parenthood reality—which is far from easy.
I’ve realized after seven years as a mother that it never really gets easier for very long. Parenthood, much like life in general, moves in cycles. Changes in development, school and even the weather, all play a role in influencing the relative ease with which one can parent.
Generally the hard stuff of the past is replaced by new and different challenges. Your first-grader doesn’t wake you several times a night, but you might find yourself up at three in the morning worrying about their progress at school. When you're focused on the idea that parenting is supposed to get easier, a new difficulty can feel like a setback, or worse still, a failure.
If you’ve been assured that “It gets easier” and it never really seems to, it’s hard not to assume that it's because you're doing something wrong. Everyone is expected to struggle as a new parent, but once you’ve been at it awhile that allowance seems to fall away. I think we all continue to grapple as parents, but the challenges become more personal and more difficult to talk about. Everyone can relate to the rough days with a teething baby but the emotional meltdowns of a five-year-old are less universal.
This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of times when things really are easier. The stars align, and for however brief the moment, your children are relatively easy to parent. The trouble is, if you're expecting parenthood to simply continue to down this path you might not fully enjoy those times when you’ve been given a break. You may be holding your breath, wondering if this is really it, if it's really going to stay this way. Or you might be too stressed about the prospect that if things turn challenging again, you’ll have to start all over on your quest for the easy-parenting promised land.
When you stop expecting the easy times, you can start enjoying them.
When you stop expecting the easy times, you can start enjoying them. Each afternoon spent playing and getting along becomes a gift. Each uneventful night of sleep, becomes a dream come true. You can have a great morning where everything goes swimmingly and a beast of an afternoon where everyone screams at each other, and it can all just be OK. The rough afternoon doesn’t take away from the lovely morning and the easy morning doesn’t make the hard afternoon any worse.
When I realized that parenthood isn’t a steady train ever chugging in the direction of “easy,” but instead, a wild roller-coaster with euphoric twists and gut-wrenching turns, I learned to enjoy the ride. I now see the struggles for what they are— not as disheartening setbacks, but as necessary developments. And I embrace the easy times, not in spite of the knowledge that they are fleeting, but because of it.
Parenthood doesn’t get easier, but you do get better at it. For me that means embracing the challenges, reveling in the victories, and always expecting the unexpected.