I remember talking to mothers with older children when I had babies and complaining that I was overwhelmed. They would say, “Just wait! It gets worse!” I remember looking at them and thinking, How hard can it be to take care of a huge man-child that you don’t even have to watch?!
There are a million reasons why, but here are a few:
You have to watch your child — again.
When they’re babies, you find that you don’t sit down during the day. You spend your time chasing them around, making sure they don’t stick their finger in an electrical socket or fall down the stairs. But those days end, and they don’t need much watching anymore. Then, suddenly, just when you are starting to relax, middle-school age comes about, and it’s time to be extra-vigilant again. You can’t take your eyes off these little demons. Except now, instead of getting a shock from an electrical outlet, they’re on their phones and iPads doing god knows what. There’s social media to deflect, homework to get done, armpits that need deodorant, and a bedroom begging to be cleaned.
You are waking up way too early.
When you have a baby, you walk around the world bleary-eyed with your hair in a ponytail, just trying to get through the day. Your day starts at 5 a.m. because your child refuses to sleep. 5 p.m. comes, and you are on the homestretch. You can put your child to bed by 8:00, and the rest of the night is yours. Yet you don’t spend your nights out with friends because you know that sleep is precious.
As the baby grows, they start to sleep later which means you begin to go back to your old self. You do your hair and drink wine. Preschool starts at 9 a.m., so you can wake at 7:30 like a civilized human and enjoy a few sips of coffee before your day begins.
When kindergarten begins, your kids go off at 8 a.m. to the bus stop. You can drink a whole cup of coffee and watch 10 minutes of the Today show! Then all of a sudden, just when you are old and you have aged beyond your years, the alarm clock needs to be set for 6:30 a.m.! Your child needs to be at school at 7:30.
You pushed a child out of your vagina and you believed that you just had to get through a few rough years of sleeplessness. Nobody told you that you wouldn’t sleep again until you were 55.
You will spend every penny you have on feeding your child.
Remember when you had a baby, and you had to scrape together every penny you had to buy Gentlease formula every three days to keep them alive? Yeah, those were the cheap days.
Now my children eat two bacon cheeseburgers for a snack and ask what’s for dinner.
These children satiated.
Fruits and vegetables?
Those are like air in my children’s stomachs.
They will eat and eat until I have lost everything and my bank account is at zero.
I dream of the days when I would put one scoop of Enfamil into some water and my children would shut up for three straight hours.
Speaking of meals, we are back to chicken nuggets.
Throughout the early years, I worked on refining my children’s palates. I fed them fruits and vegetables, hid beets in their brownies, and shoved quinoa down their gullets.
As a result, they somewhat have an understanding of healthy eating.
Apparently, come middle school, that understanding is over. The “school lunch people” have designed a menu fit for a student who just smoked a huge blunt.
The school menu that once included veggie wraps and black beans now offers french toast sticks and nachos daily. The lunch people have given up — and quite frankly — so have I.
Eat waffles and chicken nuggets everyday. I don’t care anymore if it means I don’t have to worry about making you a lunch.
You don’t know what you’re doing.
In elementary school, they come home with 15 minutes of homework.
Now suddenly there are hours of homework. Last week, my son asked for help with his math homework. I helped as best I could, with my very limited math skills. My husband came home and made him erase everything we did and redo it because “it was all wrong.”I trusted him, as he was once a high school math teacher.
My son then came home with a big fat F. I furiously texted my husband at work, telling him that our son got an F on his homework because he taught him incorrectly. This resulted in what can best be described as marital discord. We’re only in the first year of middle school, and we are all confused and upset. We have three more years of this.
I am not really sure which age is worse, a baby or a middle–schooler, but the similarities are stark. Either way, I am exhausted, broke, confused, and stressed-out. Maybe I will feel better when the kids are in high school, yet somehow I have a feeling this is all just part of the parenting package.
For those of you with babies, looking forward to that light at the end of the tunnel, consider yourself warned. The end of the tunnel seems to be when they move out.