Parenthood: It Doesn’t Get Easier

Parenthood it Doesn't

There is this interesting phenomena that occurs about six months into your stint as a parent.

You’ll be sitting there, covered in spittup and running on the fumes of a microwaved cup of coffee that you made last Tuesday. You’ll reflect on the fact that you no longer bat an eye at the idea of eliminating your bowels in front of other people, and you’ll cry inside a little. The idea of going to the grocery store in three days sans infant crosses your mind, and your brain throws a modest party consisting of little more than day-old Walmart cupcakes and maybe a can of Tab. Just then the baby will poop again, and you will scorn the day you ever decided to introduce raisins into her diet.

As you sit there, taking in the great kingdom that is parenthood and wondering why you ever elected this lifestyle in the first place, you silently chant the Novena of Infants that some friend of yours who has a kid a couple months older than yours has coached you to invoke during the moments of Deepest Parental Ennui.

It will get easier, it will get easier, it will get easier. 

And just when you are halfway through the third movement of the New Parent Rosary and counting the beads as faithfully as a hermit who has survived on foraged raw honey and ditch water for 30 years, you receive a phone call from your strung out sister-in-law, the mother of toddlers. She tells you how her youngest, a three-year-old girl, has just emptied all the dried spices in her kitchen in a large pile in the center of the patio and then elected to poop on the pile, presumably so that everyone else in the household would know that she is Lord of Gingerturd Mountain. Upon being caught, the child ripped off her mother’s glasses and tossed them in the InSinkErator.

“But it gets…easier?” This is all you have to offer.

Your sister-in-law – neigh, everyone else on the entire planet – knows better. And it is at that moment six months into your life as a parent when your sister-in-law invites you into the true coven of parenthood by revealing our most closely-guarded secret.

There is no easier. There is only harder.

This lie of ease is well-intended. Its perpetuation is the only thing keeping sleep-deprived parents of colicky babes alive during their first months of parenthood. We tell new parents life with their child will get easier – that sleep will return, that the social life they knew will return, that breastfeeding will become natural – because we want to believe it ourselves. Much like the legend of Santa to children, we dangle the carrot of easiness in front of the eyes of our newest initiates because it keeps them going another day. That and the fact that the orphanages are full.

But the truth is that it doesn’t get easier. You hear so much about the Terrible Two’s. You see them coming and you train yourself to brace yourself for tantrums that will break the sound barrier and shatter diamonds. But then, about halfway through the two’s, you go in for a refresher course in that lesson you received when your kid was six months. At two-and-a-half, you start to hear whispers that the three’s are about eleventy billion times harder. And once you get to three yourself, you realize that this was not a lie.

You realize this when your own kid erects Gingerturd Mountain in your very own backyard.

You realize this when she  asks you why the walls to the bathroom are green and the discussion, replete with why’s, quickly devolves into an existential meditation on the substance of life itself.

You realize this when you start to think seriously about sending your kid to school, and the halls of learning of today bear little resemblance to the schools of your own childhood.

You realize this when your child cries not because she wants a bottle or a diaper change, but because she feels genuine anguish that you will not run the lawnmower in the attic.

It never gets easier. Not at three. Not at four. Not at five. Not at eighteen. It doesn’t get easier, but it gets better.

It gets better when your child learns to sing her own song, both literally and figuratively.

It gets better when she celebrates her triumph of using the potty by herself.

It gets better when she sees a cucumber and a jelly bean in front of her and selects the cucumber because she knows it’s healthier.

It gets better when she yells in your face and slams the door, but then emerges from her room on her own to apologize and give you a hug.

It gets better when you realize – really realize – that all you can really give your kid is you, that your love is worth more than your worry and your psychoses and your (numerous, OMG SO NUMEROUS) imperfections.

So, spoiler alert: there’s going to be a poop pile of some sort in the middle of your backyard for awhile. Better plant some grass seeds and put it to good use.

grass

65 comments

  1. Very cute. I love the green paint part. I get that… I am that…

    1. There is something about green paint that brings out the Descartes in all of us.

  2. Well thanks for simultaneously scaring the bajeezus out of me and exciting me for what the next couple of decades look like. I’m ready for my little man to be here. Single or not, I know parenting is going to be difficult, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

    1. And that’s the thing: it’s so incredibly worth it. Anything that’s really worth your time is both difficult and wonderful at the same time. Best of luck on your journey!

  3. I keep hearing the line in Yoda speak…”There is no easier. There is only harder.” And as a mom of a toddler an preschooler, I know that it is true. Oh Yoda….

    1. I think I’d like to attend a playgroup where Yoda was present.

  4. wait a moment Santa isn’t real? omg thanks for that emily! (cue slamming of doors) smile loved this post I am not a parent (I am only 23, and college is erksum enough without adding a child to the mix) but I feel like I connect with you on some spiritual level perhaps having read the theories of vygotsky and piaget both of whom were instrumental in forming the development of child psychology. Two of the many.

    1. Thanks, Tyler! No, Santa isn’t real, but Vygotsky and Piaget are. I like them a lot better :D

  5. Or as I like to say, “It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.” I’m loving having my Em back. Because I snorted through this whole thing. And you used the word Ennui. I can sleep peacefully tonight (because I don’t have babies anymore…just another illusion of easy).

    1. I feel like the word “ennui” has fallen out of my vocabulary a lot since college when I tried to shimmy it into every sentence to make myself sound smart. That’s really a shame. Thanks, sweet friend. This was a fun one to write ;D

  6. I love this! Very well written and very charming.

      1. You’re welcome. (-:

  7. Easier? I’m still snorting my dinner out my nose… ;-)

    1. You get me, Dawn ;D

  8. I am very impressed with your writing. You were able to continue down a long series of sentences full of brilliant allusions to kid reality. I immediately thought of this beautiful French woman I hang out with who wants nothing more than to have a child and while I love her, I am tempted to send it to her. Of course it will fall on deaf ears. I know you are deeply happy. As a writer, I picture the exclusion of space and time. Egos bigger than my own running around and requiring 24-hour attention and forever.

    1. Thank you so much, Mario. You are very wise. One of the frustrating things about parenthood (and really, any challenge at all) is that you can’t truly know what it’s like until you’re actually in the thick of it. Thank you so much for reading.

  9. It doesn’t get easier, but it gets better. Gold! Thanks Emily ❤️

  10. Now that worries me a bit but I guess the worst is the 18s :(..Have a long way to go..till then, I am going to enjoy the ‘it doesn’t get easier’ phase~

    1. Don’t worry about it too much. We all have a knack for powering through this thing called parenthood like a champ. ;D

  11. Heads up from a seasoned parent: The thought of putting my 19 & 21 year olds back into a crib, just so I know where they’re at and what they’re doing, has crossed my mind more than once.
    Now I find myself WANTING to breastfeed a hundred times in the middle of the night.

    Parenting has twists and turns along the way that will keep you on your toes. Sometimes you’re smiling, sometimes you’re buying hair dye in bulk.

    1. Well said. I miss those early days too so much. My friend Kelly wrote an amazing post on that very yearning for years gone by: http://areyoufinishedyet.com/2013/09/10/i-am-afraid-i-may-have-wished-it-all-away/

  12. Love your work. Just wait until they are old enough to use social media. You will be looking for parenting tips from the NSA before you know it.

    1. HA! Playdates should be fun with the NSA director handing out orange slices.

  13. Wonderful post! I guess the bigger the kid, the bigger the problems but it seems the joy grows too…

    1. Thanks! Well-said!

  14. A wise friend of mine (with teens) told me years ago during my son’s colicky baby phase: It never gets easier, it just changes. And I’ve found that to be true, every stage my kids go through is still challenging. Just watching my son go to middle school last year was enough to put more grays on my head.

    1. I’m expecting to be completely grayed by the time she gets to middle school.

  15. Well-said.

    I think the beauty of parenthood is that just when we think we can’t do it anymore, too tired, it’s all too much, the baby begins to sleep through the night. And when we think we will explode at the speed of light if the kid shoves one more carrot up their nose at dinner, they begin sitting through an entire meal without putting anything into the wrong orifice. We get taken to the brink time and time again, and then the foot comes off the gas. I’m in it for these mind games. Keeps it interesting.

    1. It’s really the longest game of bait-and-switch ever. Which is good novel material, if nothing else.

  16. I love this post, I’m currently in the “my 21 month old does what she feels like a dog throws more food around my kitchen that what she did when she was a year old” stage, your right though it doesn’t get easier it just gets better. Thank you for writing such an honest post, I think most of us think what your saying but don’t say it.

    1. And thank you so much for reading, commenting, and even reblogging! I appreciate it.

  17. Reblogged this on puddles are free and commented:
    All though this isn’t a money saving post I think my self and a lot of people I know might like a read of this

  18. The Marines used to run an ad that went “Marines…the toughest job you’ll ever love.” With apologies to the jar heads, I think that perfectly describes parenthood. Now both of my chickees are out of the house and the joys and worries are still there; they’re just experienced long distance.

    1. Why did they get rid of that ad?! I mean, that HAD to have had people just lining up!

  19. So far, no poop pile. My kids are squeamish. But, getting an teenage boy through a pregnancy scare? Done that! Wasn’t it a poop pile of fun! Some things certainly get easier, but I’m finding the less physically demanding it is, the more emotionally draining it becomes. And just as I am accepting my imperfections, the kids are continually pointing out my flaws and failures. The ways they manipulate get more and more devious. But, they come around (especially when they want money, or to drive the car with heated seats).

    1. C is just dipping her toe in the manipulation waters. When she wants her pacifier, she’ll whine, “But I feel so fwustwated! I need my paci to welax!” And I’m like, uh, little girl, if you can express that so well, I think you’re capable of soothing yourself some other way.

      1. I think I would be so pleased at her vocabulary and insight that I’d forget and give her the paci! I’m so glad neither of my kids liked a paci or sucked their thumb. It sounds like a bear to give up.

  20. No, it never gets easier. It just gets different as they get older. Previous difficulties go away, new challenges arise. And my guess is, even when they do finally leave our nest, we still have our share of worries.

    Wonderful post!

    1. Thank you, Carrie! I have zero reason to believe it will ever get easier, but I’m pretty dang sure it’ll always be an adventure.

  21. I keep wondering what my pile of poop will eventually look like…so many wild possibilities.

    1. As long as you steer clear of the raisins, it will be pretty handleable.

  22. You know a post resonates with your own personal parenting struggles when you find yourself nodding whilst reading.

    1. What a nice comment, Rebecca! We’re all in this together, right? :)

  23. Krysten · · Reply

    Love this. You spoke what I have known in my heart, inspite of that worn and tired mantra “it gets easier” parents of older children tell me in attempt to ease my dismay. Just as matter does not disappear, but only changes form, so it is that parenting (and life) never gets easier. Challenges and joys evolve and will eternally coexist. Thank you for your writing.

    1. Well-said, Krysten. We all have our struggles no matter where we are in life. They just look a little different. Thanks for reading!

  24. So I guess I should count myself lucky that I’ve only had poop in diapers and underwear? And once in the bathtub?

    1. Considering you’ve gone through three babies, you should count yourself miraculous.

      1. Now, one of the twins did manage to somehow flush the pee guard on their potty down the toilet. That was fun to retrieve…

  25. imateendad · · Reply

    Im actually exciting for every liitle piece of it… doesnt matter if good or bad! my son is 1 and i know its gonna be hard but its so amazing to see him grow up!

    1. That’s awesome! We all have so much to look forward to in the lives of our kids. The good comes with the bad, and that’s what makes it so wonderfully worth it :D Thanks for reading!

  26. Love this. I must say that while I never thought it would get easier I never expected this part to be so freaking hard. #13yearolds

    1. Thank you. I have a soon-to-be 14YO cousin. For her birthday, I’m giving her a One Direction CD. I’m giving my aunt a bottle of wine.

  27. Always thought that Mother Nature tricked you–she provides this amazing first baby who is just about perfect and leads you to think “hey, this parenthood thing is a piece of cake.” Baby #2 arrives and is the spawn of Satan and then you know you’ve been had. Thankfully I never received the poop pile. I think you just trade challenges throughout your children’s lives. No, it really doesn’t get easier, it just becomes ‘different.’ Good luck when you begin to maneuver the mine fields otherwise known as the teen years. ;)

  28. I like your attitude! I hear a lot of moms these days talk about being a parent as if they regret it. Since I’m not a mom yet, it’s nice to see someone who says it’s worth it even if it’s constantly a struggle.

  29. It does get easier. At about year 3! Hang in there.

    Ive often said that if it werent for the sleep deprivation that temporarlily lowers new parents’ iq scores by 10 (true fact), we’d remember how hard everytinh was, and wed have a lot more only kids!

  30. If your little one is six months it does get easier. Remember, however, little kids, little problems. Things just become different. Courage!

  31. I love this and I feel like hugging it. I am a mother of 17 month old boy girl twins. It’s a circus at my house but I know with time something will change.

    1. Aww, I feel like hugging *you*.

  32. My three year old was sick. She needed medicine every four hours. I get up to give her the 3AM dose. I stumbled around, thinking, “Why in God’s name did I have a child?” I understood how some people snap. Not that I would, but I could understand how it happens.

    I woke her up. She squalled. I gave her the medicine. She gagged on it, an awful taste. I waited for her to scream at me for waking her up and gagging that stuff into her.

    Instead she grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I love you.”

    I felt like the lowest, worst, stupidest, most evil heel in the world. And the happiest person in the world.

    And I gave her a kiss.

    It never gets easier.

    My nephew was accepted at Princeton. He deferred and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He just got out, after two tours in Afghanistan. I have never seen anyone so frightened as my sister. Or so proud.

    It never gets easier. It does get better.

  33. Sheila Rogers · · Reply

    I have five children ranging in ages from 10 to 21. I agree, It does get better. Two of my kids are now away at school (which is why i started blogging–marriagemotherhoodandmore.com.) All you have said is true! You have so much more to look forward to–the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, it is going to be the best journey of your life.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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