They Lied — It Doesn't Get Easier
I just want to gently warn you.
I remember walking miles around my kitchen counter with a newborn baby wrapped tightly around me, waiting for my husband to get home to provide me with just a moment of relief. I scoured the internet in the middle of the night for sleep tips and how to relieve gas pains to stop the crying. And all the while, I kept hearing one thing: “It’ll only get easier. This is the hardest part.” Well, four kids later (now ranging from 2 to 9), I am here to call bullsh*t. I’d take a million more months of that early newborn period in exchange for the current chaos of parenting my older kids. Let me provide a thoughtful and honest warning: Older does not always mean easier.
Take our morning routine. Trying to get my 7- and 9-year-old kids bathed, dressed, fed, and out the door for school on time every morning feels like tackling a tough mudder in handcuffs. My littles are difficult, too, but it feels like an easier difficult. There’s less psychological warfare and the consequences for any poor choices they make are lower stakes.
I also understand that preschoolers and toddlers just need a lot, so I’m always prepared for it. What I was not prepared for how often my “bigs” require more from me. So after forcing socks onto my 7-year-old’s size-8 men’s feet while he tells me how annoying I am, I brace for impact as I present my 9-year old with his perfectly buttered and cut waffles, which are usually met with an eye roll, full meal refusal, or sarcastic comment about his siblings or something else. The attitude is real, it’s random and it’s ruthless, and it’s mostly directed toward me when I am (typically) just trying to be helpful. And it sucks.
And the high-stakes choices that come with older kids can be very stressful. Nap schedules and tummy-time exposure feel vitally important at the time, but the reality is that the decisions you’re making are fairly straightforward. I think everything took a turn for the worse when we started school. I now spend my days worrying that one is not enrolled in adequate out-of-school speech therapy, one is going to fall behind in the sports that he loves because I don’t sign him up for multiple activities per season, or the other isn’t meeting his reading benchmarks and may benefit from a tutor.
I’m juggling after-school sports multiple times a week with homework. I don’t know who cries more over the way they do math nowadays — my fourth grader or me. Once we get to bedtime everyone is exhausted and we still need to check 20 minutes of reading off our list. It just all feels so serious at such a young age. I thought this stuff wouldn’t be so complicated until the teen years.
The choices you make as parents can impact their physical health, their friend group, their ultimate success in school and activities, and their confidence. It’s a heavy load.
And even the not-so-structured stuff is hard. Their sudden realization of their place in the social pecking order amongst their peers leads to a lot of at-home conversations. They’re able to articulate their big feelings and we’re asked to listen and provide feedback — and while wonderful, it’s pretty emotionally exhausting. Then are the decisions and battles over screen time. Trying to balance their happiness, sanity, and health in an effective way has me feeling like I am running a marathon with no carbs and very little training.
Obviously, the fact that I have four of them is a big factor, here. While I’m dealing with my 9-year-old’s morning mood swing, I also have a toddler covered in syrup, throwing her waffles on the floor. I’m up at 6 AM and in bed by 10 PM but the entire day I’m constantly scrambling.
And I know I might be in the minority here as an introvert, but there’s actually something comforting to me about the isolation of newborn life, with its down time and grace to only focus on one thing. Now I’m pinging and ponging between school, practices, mom-and-me gym time, birthday parties, get-togethers, fundraisers. And my husband and I are often running in two different directions. And while some of my mom friends thoroughly enjoy the hustle and bustle of this stage of life, I much prefer the corner of my couch, even when covered in my own breast milk.
For me, these older years just hit different — in a harder, more stressful kind of way. So if you are wondering why the heck things don’t feel easier the older your kids get, you’re not alone. And if you see me on the sidelines looking frazzled and unkept, now you know why. I’ll get my mojo back someday. I hope.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.