Parenting Is Always Hard. So Stop Comparing Baby Years To Teen Years.


General / Friday, May 18th, 2018

I find it hilarious when parents of older children tell me I’m in the easy stages.

I can’t remember a time parenthood was easy. I can think of phases when things were different, but I don’t think it was ever simple. Even pregnancy can be rough. In the beginning, you’re exhausted and maybe sick, in the middle you feel better but start to waddle, and in the end, you feel like your own planet.

Thankfully, none of that is in vain. After waiting months to see your child’s beautiful little face, you feel like things will always be this perfect. Except they won’t.

Bringing a newborn home is the just the beginning of an 18 year or longer series of curve balls. So why do so many parents downplay the struggles of the early days? Do they really think their comments are helpful? Parenting is a series of ever-changing challenges and it makes zero sense to rank them. It’s especially important that we don’t overromanticize the difficulty of the early days. Here’s why.

That first moment of love is a trick.

For some, birth starts with perfection. From the moment their eyes see their child’s face, it’s love at first sight. It becomes impossible to refrain from basking in their baby’s beauty and visions of the future are filled with images of puppies and rainbows.

Or maybe things went directly from pregnancy pains to the blood-curdling screams of sleep regression. Everything hurts and you exist in a body that feels foreign. And don’t get me started on the breastfeeding challenges and the toll it can take on your relationship. During this time, it takes everything in your power not to strangle the person who convinced you to take this leap, including the friends who egged you on.

The image of perfection fades fast though. Where’d the perfect child who stole your heart go? The answer: it was all an elaborate scheme. Evolution put bonding chemicals in our brains that having us teetering between the sweet intoxication of a new baby and the dread of new motherhood. 

You’re surrounded by opinions, but none of them are helpful.

I’ve been there — delusionally exhausted and ridiculously overwhelmed. During that time, I got some of the world worst advice. My least favorite two were: “Sleep when the baby sleeps” and “Enjoy this time, it’s as easy as it ever gets.” What better way to extend a huge fuck you to a struggling new mom than to tell her to sleep when the baby sleeps. Hello! Sleep regression means they hardly sleep. 

Inconsiderate comments set new parents up for self-doubt and feelings of failure.

I was told children get progressively more difficult with age. That basically meant if I was struggling on level one, I’d never survive the subsequent stages. Well-meaning comments of parenting stages can still be harmful.

Those comments terrified me and made me wonder if his issues were a reflection of me. Neither my son or I was getting enough sleep, and it made me wonder if he was getting enough of anything. Was he getting enough milk? Did he not sleep because I was forgetting to do something? Was his mom good enough?

Nothing stays the same.

From two weeks forward, my son didn’t sleep. He survived off quick naps to maintain the strength to keep his parents (read: his mom) awake all night. Around three months old, things changed but weren’t any easier. He’d sleep, but only while nursing through the entire night — no boob, no deal. After that stage, he would only sleep to the sound of running water. No, not a YouTube white noise clip like most babies. It had to be live action shower water. That changed with time, too.  

A new baby is a lot to process. As a new parent, you’re getting to know a person for the first time. You quickly learn that it doesn’t matter what anyone else was like, even their siblings. It’s okay to feel that process is challenging. And it’s totally unfair to tell a new parent that this is the “easy part.” 

The adjustment period might not be as difficult for some parents as it is others. But it doesn’t mean it’s universally easy. New parents need support and words of comfort, not criticisms that lead to self-doubt. Please stop telling baby parents that they have it easy. Parenthood is always equal parts beautiful and disaster.