Last weekend my husband was out of town on business and my in-laws took my two big kids for a sleepover. For about twenty-four hours, it was just me and the baby.
It was easy. It was almost laughably easy.
I’m so used to a house full of chaos that parenting one single child – particularly a baby who isn’t fully mobile yet – felt like a walk in the park.
However, seven years ago when my oldest was a baby, if someone told me that twenty-four hours alone with an infant was easy breezy lemon-squeezy, I would have punched them. Hard. And I wouldn’t have felt sorry about it afterwards, either.
That’s not because he was a difficult baby or anything. It’s because parenting is tough, and I was new at it. My parenting-an-infant muscles were not fully developed yet. Plus I was not a confident first-time mom. I questioned everything and second-guessed every decision I made and did way too much research on the internet. That, my friends, is a recipe for stress and worry.
But my firstborn survived and thrived, and then we had a second baby, and things were a little bit easier with her. And now with my third, I can diaper her without even really looking while I help my oldest with his grammar homework.
I want to emphasize: this is not because I am super mom or anything of the kind. It’s because by the third kid, my parenting-an-infant muscles are well developed. It’s just math at this point. Using a lowball estimate that each of my kids went through about five diapers a day, and assuming potty training at about two and half years old, by the time this baby is out of diapers I will have changed approximately 4,500 of them. Same thing with feedings. And bathtime. And bedtime routine. Etc., etc., ad infinitum.
It doesn’t get easier. You get better.
This isn’t to say that parenting isn’t hard (it IS) or doesn’t have challenges (of COURSE it does). It’s just that with every day that passes, you get a little bit better at navigating them. The challenges constantly change and evolve, and there’s always something new and scary on the horizon (I’m looking at you, puberty). But damn if we don’t learn a lot on the way. We pick up some truly impressive skills, my friends.
I’m serious. If you’re having a hard day today, I want you to think back to when your first baby was two weeks old. Do you even fully remember how overwhelming and scary that was? I don’t remember all the details, but I absolutely remember a visceral, raw feeling of terror that my husband and I were expected to keep this immensely fragile baby alive. He had no neck muscles! He kept falling asleep when he was supposed to eat! He woke up raring to go and ready to play at 3:00 a.m. every night and we had no idea how to get him back to sleep! Ahhhhhhh!
I bet your newborn experience was similar. And look at you now.
Did you pack a school lunch today? Arrange a playdate? Feed your baby seven bottles and change twelve diapers? Give someone a bath? Get them dressed in weather-appropriate clothes? Throw some chicken in the crockpot for dinner, maybe?
Look at you. You’re such a badass.
If you are ever feeling down on yourself as a parent, stop for a moment. Look back across the days and weeks and months and even years and fully appreciate how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned.
I respect you so much, and I sincerely hope you respect yourself too.
Parenting is hard. It’s a learned skill. And we are all getting better every single day.