Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.
I know two wonderful people expecting their first babies, and it’s taking me back.
I started this blog almost eight years ago, when I was three months pregnant with my first daughter, Anna. Some days, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was a new mom; other times, the emotions and experiences hit me in high definition.
I do remember taking the first photo for my blog — that sideways stance with an emerging baby bump showing. I know how the woman in that picture was feeling. She had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary and was full of love and hope and excitement. She had thought she wanted to wait awhile after getting married before hopping on the baby trail, but a few months later, she held her newborn niece in her arms and had one of those clichéd moments of realization that the time was right now.
As my belly grew, I smiled a lot, and I dreamed about snuggling a baby and pondered baby names and shopped and listened to advice from my new-mom friends and prepared the small second bedroom in the condo for the big arrival.
Then Anna was born. It gets a little blurry for me here. While I loved this sweet little thing without question, new parenthood brought me to my knees. I struggled to soothe her cries, to breastfeed her, to understand what she needed. I struggled even to get out of the house with her. I couldn’t figure out why it was all so hard and different that the rosy images I had of life with a newborn. A friend came to visit me and gave me the most simple, important advice of my life. “It gets better,” she said after seeing my utter confusion over what I’d gotten myself into.
She was right. But it’s not like it just “got better” and that was that. It got a little better after the first three months. Then again around eight months. But life with kids is full of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, at every age and stage. Anna was a spirited toddler (and preschooler) who fully wore me out physically and emotionally every day. Then Avery was born, and life got much, much harder for a long time. Then, as she grew into toddlerhood, things got easier. Then these two sisters fought like cats and dogs all day, which made life harder. Then Anna went through an anger stage. Then Avery went through a constant-whine-and-cry stage. Up and down, up and down, like a roller coaster.
Now, my daughters are seven and almost-five and, you know what? It’s better. So much better. Sometimes I feel like shouting out, “I survived!” I guess that’s what I’m doing here. Some people adore those little kid years and have a much different experience than I did (don’t get me wrong — we had plenty of good times), but I’m finding this stage of life our happiest by far. Our days are filled with more fun things, peaceful time, interesting conversations and light-hearted togetherness. I feel like a better parent. Anna and Avery are actually (finally!) getting along more often than not, having those sweet moments that I assumed would just be their natural state from the birth of their sisterhood. This is probably my biggest source of joy, because there’s nothing better than having a sister who can be your best friend, too. I will keep my fingers crossed. And while I’m aware that there will be more valleys, I’m fully enjoying the view from this peak.
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I never know how much to share with an expectant parent about what newborn life was like for me. On one hand, I would have loved to have people to turn to when things were hard and know they understood what I was going through (because you often feel no one does). But I’d never want to fill a person’s head with such foreboding. New-baby reality hits everyone differently, and I always hope for smooth sailing.
Of course, if asked, the best advice I can offer is that it gets better. And better. (Another great phrase I heard is “You don’t have to love every minute of it.”)
What do you think: Does parenting get easier as the kids get older?