Hey Mama, It Gets Easier
Why “it gets easier” is true – no matter what moms of older kids say. Here is when things started to get easier for me after having two kids under two.
Life with two kids under two: In the trenches
I can vividly remember the state of my being with two under two.
I was a shell of my former self. My second born, who was three months old, had yet to sleep for more than two hours straight or feed without crying since the moment he took his first breath.
I had anxiety attacks nearly every time I tried to feed him because I knew it wouldn’t go well. I became conditioned to fear feeding time and so did he because we both knew he wouldn’t like it and we would both end up in tears.
I hated that I felt useless.
I hated that I couldn’t seem to do the one thing that was most essential in the newborn days – feeding.
How do toddlers cope with a new baby?
With my first it had been different. My two-year-old was still adjusting to this other human in the house and she too needed me physically and emotionally all day long. She too woke up nightly. She was going through a transition of her own and it was my responsibility to guide her through that.
Toddlers don’t understand “mommy is tired,” toddlers want you to play, right now. The sleep deprivation I was experiencing stole my ability to think clearly or critically, to take care of myself, to feel joy, or to be able to make sound decisions. I couldn’t remember basic events about my day. All I wanted was four straight hours of sleep. All I wanted was a moment where I was not needed. I felt like a shell of a human. I didn’t recognize myself and I didn’t see a glimmer of light at the end of the big dark tunnel I found myself in.
Why do people give unsolicited parenting advice? Words that hurt
Enter the comments from well-meaning older mothers:
“You just wait until they’re teenagers, you’ll wish they were this age again.”
“Small kids, small problems. Big kids, bigger problems.”
“Enjoy them while they’re young, it only gets harder.”
These phrases hit me like a tonne of bricks.
How can any problem be bigger than my physiological need for sleep? How can anything be more stressful than the constant noise and touching that I experience 24/7 and I get 0 breaks from? I am literally needed by multiple humans for every aspect of their physical care and development every single day for the foreseeable future. How can I be needed any more than that? I hardly had the capacity to think about how to solve my current problems, never mind thinking about parenting bigger kids.
I felt belittled. I felt invalidated. I felt like there was something wrong with me for struggling. I felt like these comments confirmed my deepest fears: that I was not cut out to be a mom after all. If it only ever gets harder, and the problems only ever get bigger, and I already feel like I am drowning, I must not have what it takes to be a mom. I definitely don’t have what it takes to be a good mom. That is what I took away from this unsolicited parenting advice.
Is it normal to have mom guilt?
Mom Guilt: It’s a beast of its own. Mom guilt happens to just about everyone, and at the end of the day, we feel it because we think we aren’t doing enough as a parent. The crazy thing is that most moms don’t realize that while mom guilt is painful to feel, it’s also incredibly common and normal. That’s not to say that we need to live with it, but there are endless reasons as to why we feel mom guilt and many factors like sleeplessness, hormones, parental stress and more that contribute to creating it.
I felt guilty for not enjoying the sweet moments, but I couldn’t see past the fog of my exhaustion. I felt guilty for being touched out, but I couldn’t see past my aching shoulders, sore back and clothing covered in spit up. I felt guilty for wanting to plug my ears to the sound of delightful shrieks and giggles, but I couldn’t see past the sound of their screaming and crying all hours of the day and night. I was aware of the fleeting nature of these years, but I was unable to see past the difficulty because I felt swallowed up by it for many moments of many of the days.
I can understand that the women making these comments were walking their own hard paths. Every season of parenting and every season of life has its challenges, but comparative suffering never solves the problem. In no way does it show support or validate the struggles of a mom with young children. It induces fear. It induces shame. It induces guilt.
Does having older children come with heartache and stress? Absolutely. They look so different to the ones of little children. But there is a time and a place to share, and the time and place are most certainly not on the shoulders of an exhausted mom of littles just keeping her head above water and figuring out how to make it to the next day without losing it. If the intention is to give perspective, it’s lost on exhausted moms.
Does parenting get easier? My kids are older now.
We are past the baby and toddler stage, and while I miss aspects of their infancy, I can say for certain that I do not want to go back there. And so to the moms in the thick of it right now I want you to know:
One day mama, you will sleep again. It won’t be the kind of deep sleep you had before you had kids without a worry in the world, but the kids will sleep through the night, and you will get your nights back. You can binge watch Netflix and only have yourself to blame for the exhaustion.
One day mama, they will stop pulling your hair, your boobs, your skin, and your clothes. They’ll stop climbing on you and needing you to physically comfort their every need. Your body will be yours again and it won’t be as physically stressful as it is right now. You will wear clothing that has nothing to do with breastfeeding and the only liquids you’ll get on your clothes will be ones you’ve spilled yourself.
One day mama, you will not have to worry about and make every single tiny decision about what goes in your child’s mouth, it will come more naturally and they’ll be able to communicate what they need more effectively. One day they’ll eat the same food you eat. Feeding your children won’t take as much energy as it does right now.
One day mama, they will play without you. They will play together or alone, but either way, they will learn to do things by themselves and sometimes insist they do it that way. They will be able to do activities without constant supervision. You’ll take trips to the bathroom alone. You will watch them play from afar and you’ll enjoy it, oh how you’ll enjoy it.
One day mama, they will wipe their own bums. They will take themselves to the bathroom, do their business, wipe, flush, and wash their hands. They will likely forget a step or leave the towel on the floor or pee around the toilet bowl, but goodness me you’ll be able to drink your coffee hot while they do it.
One day mama, they will wake up in the morning and entertain themselves. They will. You’ll have to teach them what to do, but they will learn, and honestly… It’s one of the best things since sliced bread. You’ll lay in your bed knowing they are awake, safe and not needing you from the moment they open their eyes. It is in every way as blissful as it sounds.
One day, mama, this stage will get easier. It will pass. You will make it through, and both you and the kids will be okay.
Motherhood is lonely, but you’re not alone
You’re not a bad mom for struggling, you’re not a bad mom for feeling guilty, and you are not alone. You were a human with needs before these beautiful children came along and you still have those needs. You are being stretched to the bounds of your capacity to give of your time and energy and love. Even though it is hard, you are doing it.
Yes, it is bittersweet. Yes, you will miss some of the snuggles. Yes, you’ll have moments where you wish you could go back and soak it in with rested eyes. Yes, it will still be hard, but it’ll be a different kind of hard that doesn’t feel like what right now feels like. That’s not what you need to be worrying about in this stage.
Right now, focus on getting through the day, or getting to nap time, or getting to the next hour, because in these trying times, that is something you can do, and every day you are getting better at it. It’s all a part of the journey, one you are most definitely not alone on.
Mama, it does get easier.
Ps: Let’s reinvent motherhood!
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This was a good read! I am a new mom and I struggle almost every day. Thank you ❤