Life with a newborn can feel like a never-ending death spiral of exhaustion, diaper changes, and middle-of-the-night feedings. You are promptly thrown into the baby deep end where, let’s face it, you will most likely drown. Make no mistake, having a newborn baby is hard. Or at least, it feels that way until that baby turns into a toddler.
The truth is that nothing makes you miss the sweet, simple days of babyhood more than parenting a hardcore, no-nonsense toddler. Walking around permanently half-asleep and covered in spit up might seem bad now, but it’s only a glimpse of what’s to come.
1. Babies Sleep a Lot. I’ll admit, newborn sleep is kind of the worst. It happens in fits and starts, and you need to be there to put them down and help them settle and when they finally do it only lasts half an hour and then you both end up in tears. At the time, infant sleep feels like a nightmare that will never end. But guess what? Toddler sleep is a nightmare too. The only difference is that there is less of it.
Babies might not sleep the way we want them to (i.e. through the night), but they do sleep an awful lot. You’re still going to feel like an exhausted zombie, but keep in mind that in a year or two, that little baby might decide that she is ready to give up napping once and for all! Toddler sleep is also full of not-so-awesome things like night terrors, or waking up in the middle of the night because they want to talk to Grandma on Facetime. Newborn sleep might not be the greatest, but toddler sleep WILL DRIVE YOU BONKERS.
2. They Are Quieter Than You Realize. Newborns cry, sure. But while it might feel incessant to your sleep-deprived, new-mom ears, I’m sorry to report that it gets worse. Eventually, crying will become screaming and whining, and it will happen specifically to voice their displeasure over a variety of formerly-benign occurrences – putting on clothes, getting out of the bath, eating dinner, wanting to play with the toy they previously couldn’t have cared less about until someone else’s kid picked it up.
When a baby isn’t crying for a specific need, they don’t usually make a ton of other noise (unless it’s a delicious baby giggle, or something equally quaint). Yes, it might seem like the crying happens a lot (and my heart certainly goes out to you if you have a colicky baby, because then it REALLY feels like it will never end), but when those quiet moments do happen, savor them. I assure you your future will be much, much louder.
3. Their Needs Are Pretty Basic. The difficult part about newborns is that you have to do a lot of guessing. Are they hungry? Tired? Gassy? Maybe they just want to be held? As a parent, your job might be exhausting, but it’s pretty straightforward: keep the baby alive. It doesn’t require a ton of specialized skills at first, which is great because if it’s your first time, you probably have none.
Then comes toddlerhood. Now, you have to do all of the fundamental things you’ve done all along, but you also have to handle emotional meltdowns, the emerging need for independence, socialization, pickiness, and potty training. As much as you wished your baby had come home from the hospital with an instruction manual, you’re really going to be begging for one once your toddler is banging her head against the floor because you won’t let her play in the toilet.
4. You Can Go Places Pretty Easily. I used to think leaving the house with babies was next-to-impossible. You expect me to go outside? You must be bananas.
These days, I find myself at the grocery store with two toddlers trying to launch themselves out of the cart while I’m picking out apples, and I long for the days I could just cruise them around in their car seats and entertain them with colorful, dangly toys.
5. They Will Stay In One Spot. Parents of small babies often worry that their children are falling behind if they don’t do things right away. We want them to sit up, to crawl, to walk. And we want them to do that AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Don’t do this. Enjoy being able to sit your baby down knowing that he won’t be able to run off and throw himself head-first down the stairs when your back is turned for two seconds. Savor it. It won’t last long.
6. Your Clean House Can Stay That Way. Babies usually mean lots of laundry and bottles. When you’re exhausted, this can feel overwhelming. But you’ve never properly met a slob until you’ve lived with a toddler.
Toddlers will take out every single toy they own and throw them around the room, just for fun. They will purposely spill their milk on the floor so that they can splash in it. And they have an inexplicable talent for ensuring that all the surfaces in your home are permanently sticky. No matter how hard you try to keep the house clean, your toddler will work even harder to make it look like an episode of Hoarders. This is why wine exists.
7. They Smell Delicious. Is there anything sweeter than the smell of a newborn baby? Just take a nice long sniff of your little infant’s head and all of your worries will disappear.
Unfortunately this doesn’t usually translate into toddlerhood, when it’s not uncommon for your kid to always smell faintly of urine and farts.
Related post: To the Mom With a Toddler and a Baby