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If you’re a first time parent, you may be wondering if it ever gets easier. Yes...and no.
If you frequent social media sites, you'll likely come across many posts about people who love being a parent - "best thing ever" or "happiest I've ever been" are a just a few of the phrases that you may see from new parents. If you've never had kids before, you might think that this person is living the best life ever.
Social media probably isn’t where you should be getting your parenting information though. Research seems to indicate that 50% to 75% lie on social media. It is simply not a reliable source to learn about how other people are actually feeling or doing in their lives. Sure, it’s easy to post that you’re the happiest you’ve ever been with a few keystrokes, but that doesn’t mean you actually are. Don't believe everything that other people post on so social media, actually you should question most everything you read.
In reality, there are lots of ups and downs as a parent. For most parents, there are more downs than ups. The first year of having a baby is going to be you getting less sleep than you want while taking care of a baby that can’t walk, talk, or do much else for itself. There will be no thank yous, I love yous, or any other type of actual gratitude from the baby. There will be no time off from being a parent either. If you are telling yourself it’s going to be easy because everyone seems so happy, then you better re-check your expectations.
So the real question is why do people become parents if it’s really so terrible. The answer is a bit complicated, but straightforward as well. When you have a child, your lows may be more consistent, but the highs that a child can bring you can outweigh all of those low times. A smile from your baby, a hug or kiss from your toddler, a big bear hug from your school age child. While they sound simple, they will often bring extreme joy. Being a parent is hard - the special moments are what make it worth it.
Does it ever get easier?
Once your child moves out of the house, yes. But by that point you’ll likely have grown used to having a child in your home that it will feel weird without them there. Most parents seem to agree that the first 3 to 4 years are the hardest of having kids. This is simply because you’re doing a lot of work to take care of them, and they are either not able or have not yet learned how to help.
Once they’re over the hump of being able to help out, tell you what they’re thinking, and being able to reliably feed themselves, your worries will begin to change. Some parents will tell you that it gets easier, but in reality the struggles that you go through with your kids will simply be different. For many it’s easier for them to deal with an older child, but for others it may be harder. There are so many factors that play into the dynamic that it's impossible to predict one way or the other.
As your child grows into their teenage years, a whole new set of challenges and worries will start coming into play. Depending on your values and desires for your child, there can be plenty of fighting and bickering over how a child acts, dresses, or carries themselves. As a child becomes more self-reliant, they’ll want to listen to you even less than they already do. While you’ll spend less time with your child, you may spend just as many brain cells in arguments with them.
One thing to remember is that every single child is unique in their own way. Some may be very easy when they’re younger, and grow into really tough kids later. The opposite is also true. There’s no one size fits all for how kids will grow. Don’t expect your child to automatically be an angel because they were so tough as a child. That’s not how parenting works.
There also isn’t going to be some switch that suddenly makes parenting way easier. It’s not an age that will determine if things get easier for you or not. You’re going to have to continue to do your best job parenting through all of the hard times ahead. It will likely not be obvious in the moment that things have become easier - you’ll need to step back and evaluate where things are at.
Being a parent is a lot of work. It’s not easy (usually). Parenting may become easier over time, but there’s no guarantee that it will. Take it one day at a time, and treasure the good times.