From a mom of older kids to a new mama: It won’t always be this hard

I recently had a fairly major surgery, and in many ways, the recovery felt like being a new mom again. Like an exhausted and overwhelmed mom of babies and young kids. I was in pain, exhausted yet unable to sleep, and my body didn’t feel like my own. I just couldn’t imagine a time when things wouldn’t be so hard. 

Further complicating things was knowing that others who had a similar surgery to my own had seemingly sailed through recovery. Was I not as strong? More of a whiner? And when would things get easier? All thoughts that I had as a new mom too.

Things are hard now—really hard—but they’ll get easier. Eventually.

The things I wish I could have told myself as a new mom were the same things I tried to tell myself as a recovering patient: things will get easier; it won’t always be this hard.

This proved to be true. Things did get easier. (As a parent and as a patient.)

So I will say to you what I wish I could have said to myself: Things are hard now—really hard—but they will get easier.

When my kids were younger, I used to cringe any time moms of older kids would say things like “big kid, big problems” and “just you wait.” It felt condescending and patronizing. I wanted to remind them that when their kids were little, things like sleep regression and tantrums didn’t feel little just because their child was little. Because hard is hard. Period. 

Now that my kids are in middle school and high school, I wish I could say that I never made these unhelpful comments, but I suspect I have. And I’m sorry. Because here’s the thing that people are less likely to say even though it’s equally true: it actually does get easier.

I’m not suggesting that it gets easy, or that being a parent never stops being hard—because, well, most things in life that are important are also hard—but many aspects of it do get easier.

For one thing, you get stronger. More confident. More comfortable. You learn to listen to your instincts and trust your gut a little more. You learn how to listen to what your child is really trying to tell, not just what they are actually telling you with cries and tantrums and eye rolls. You settle in. 

But it isn’t just that. Some parts of parenting become easier too. Your baby eventually sleeps through the night. The tantrums stop. One day you will sail through the grocery store aisles alone because your kids are at school or are old enough to be left home alone. 

You will see glimpses of who your child is becoming and it will nearly break your heart, not out of sadness but because your heart can’t contain so much joy.

You will find time and energy to connect with your partner again. You’ll remember who you were in your pre-mama days and combine the best traits of her with the woman you are now to grow into this new person you love more than ever.

Your body will adjust. Your children will become more independent. You will find new ways to bond with them, new activities that you enjoy doing together. 

You will see glimpses of who your child is becoming and it will nearly break your heart, not out of sadness but because your heart can’t contain so much joy.

You will learn from your mistakes and, in the process, you will teach your child how to forgive—not just others, but yourself too.

Sure, there will be new challenges. And there will also be times when parenting feels whole lot harder (like age 12, for instance). But those times will pass, and you will know that they will pass. You will know that the hard phases are just that—phases. They aren’t permanent, nor are they a reflection on you as a parent or a person. 

So to those mamas who feel exhausted and overwhelmed, like things will never get easier, let me tell you: things will get easier. And even if it feels like others aren’t struggling like you are, like parenting is easier for other mamas, know this: parenting is hard. Period. But it won’t always be quite this hard.

In the meantime, do what you can to take care of yourself and your little one. Resist the urge to compare yourself to other parents. Rest when you can. Put one foot in front of the other. And know that you are more than enough, and you are not alone.

And when things do get easier, take a deep breath and enjoy it. You deserve it.

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