"It gets easier, doesn't it?"
Late nights, broken sleep, early mornings.
Crying (yours, theirs).
Are they eating enough, are they eating too much?
Are you in over your head -- whose bright idea it was to have a baby?
You feel like you've no idea what the hell you're doing.
Loving them so much it hurts, but missing your life before them...
Trying to find your sea legs in the fog... so much fog, forgetting what you were trying to say in the middle of your sentence.
Wanting to ask for help, not asking because you need to feel like you have it under control.
Asking anyone, everyone, when it gets easier.
It gets easier, doesn't it?
When they're a little older, a little more independent, a little less needy, a little better at entertaining themselves... when they're toilet trained, old enough to walk to school alone, old enough to take the city bus without you, when they move away for university, or college, or work...
It will be easier then, right?
I have five kids -- I've had a lot of time to think about this over the last 16 years (usually late at night, when I can't sleep) -- so here are my thoughts on that age-old question:
Those sleepless nights? You'll still have your 3ams, lying awake in the dark, wondering how your child is turning out. The difference is that your child will be sprawled across a bed down the hall in another room, and not tucked in beside you, nursing.
The tears? They'll still be there as you navigate your child through the minefields of friendships, budding romances, and middle school drama. You'll find your own forgotten childhood feelings and experiences come flooding back when you help them cope with their own.
You will wonder almost every single day if you are in over your head.
You will still feel like you've no idea what the hell you are doing.
Just as you find your parenting sea legs, your child will hit a new stage of development that changes the terrain and you'll have to find those sea legs all over again. All the things that worked before won't work anymore, and you'll be starting over from scratch.
There will still be times where you won't be comfortable asking others for help -- sometimes because you need to feel like you've got it under control, but also because your child is not comfortable with you sharing those details with others. Often when you most want to ask for advice, their privacy will trump your reaching out.
While the day-to-day demands become less constant as children get older, they become more complicated.
The needs of a baby are, for the most part, pretty simple: Are they hungry? Sleepy? Do they need a burp, or a change? Do they need to be cuddled or consoled? It is ongoing and exhausting, but relatively uncomplicated.
The needs of older children are layered, sometimes need to be excavated with careful questions, and are not always as easily resolved. The physical effort in caring for a baby is heavier than that of caring for a teenager, but the emotional work in meeting the needs of a teen is more intense than that of caring for a baby.
The pendulum shifts, but not from Hard to Easy.
It is a lot of work. It is a daily struggle in consistency, meeting the needs of these wonderful little people who rely upon you to guide them, and teaching them how to rely on themselves, too.
There will be days where this is a very rewarding experience and you feel like you're on top of the world, but some days it isn't very gratifying. Some days it is a lot of poop, vomit, laundry, meal planning, crisis management, screaming (theirs, yours) and making sure everyone is where they're supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
It's a constant promise to show up, to be there for them, to listen when they need an ear, and to love and support them unconditionally.