Parenting doesn't get easier
With a now 3-year-old child, I've been through enough major milestones that I've come to realize something. I had always thought that each major milestone would be a clear step function in terms of ease of life and parenting stress level. This really hasn't been the case. In other words, things don't get easier; and if they do, they are replaced by something else that is also hard anyway; and then you don't really get to feel that feeling of relief you were looking forward to anyway.
Before becoming a parent
For most of my life before becoming a parent, I've been pretty used to the modus operandi of gearing up for one big event, and getting a relief when it's done. The easiest example is final exams in school and college. The chart of happiness/relaxation over time obviously looks something like this:
After becoming a parent
There has been countless milestones in the first 3 years of life! I've been super excited for each one (sleep training, learning to sit, weening off milk and eating solids, learning to walk, learning to talk, potty training, etc.); it's truly a miracle of life. I'm genuinely excited and happy from the bottom of my heart seeing each step happen for the child. The latest milestone we just went through was starting of preschool.
Our daughter has been with us for the entire first 3 years of her life -- as in, we have not put her in daycare or in anyone's care really, besides my wife and myself. So this is a huge change.
With every milestone, I always feel like I would be looking forward to a step function increase of happiness/relaxation, because of all the things/burdens you stop having to do.
- Sleep training -- no longer have to hold/carry and rock the baby to sleep! You get back more sleep time and activity time and not have to break your shoulders! You can sleep through the night!
- Learning to sit -- they can entertain themselves a lot more now! Observe the surroundings and play with toys! No need to carry them all day throughout the day!
- Switching to solids -- Done with breast feeding (if breast feeding) (huge relief for mom), done with washing bottles (if bottle feeding)!
- Learning to walk -- No need to carry them from place to place everywhere whether at home or outside!!
- Learning to talk -- They can express themselves! The guessing game is done!
- Potty training -- No more buying and changing diapers!!!!
As mentioned, our latest milestone is the start of preschool. Naturally, I have the same expectation in my head, like this:
We will have half a day of free time back to ourselves for every weekday! What a crazy amount of burden off our shoulders!
For each of those milestones mentioned above, it really looks more like this:
- Sleep training -- it's a slow process, you'll go through the child first learning to sleep on their own, and every other night they'll cry and you have to woo them back to sleep. On top of this, you have sleep regressions pretty much every 3 months or so. You are not out of the woods at all. In fact, the 2-year-old sleep regression was so hard that I still have to sleep in her room now to get her to fall asleep.
- Learning to sit -- They'll still fall while sitting, so you have to watch them the entire time they are sitting. They'll try their best to reach for things they can't reach and make themselves fall. Nope, not out of the woods.
- Switching to solids -- Oh fun, now you get to test which foods they like and don't like, which ones they will throw back up, and for most of the first 3 years you're constantly worrying about them choking, and cut food into small pieces. On top of it all, you have to teach them to eat by themselves. Playful kids just want to be spoon fed while playing toys.
- Learning to walk -- Congrats, now the entire house is one big danger and you have to child-proof your entire home. Even after that, you'll probably have to watch them all the time for at least the first 6 months after they learned to walk, because they'll fall a lot and bump into everything. If you have stairs, maybe install gates. Work work work.
- Learning to talk -- Oh the guessing game doesn't stop. Learning to talk is a gradual process. They don't magically learn to say everything and talk like an adult. On top of it all, now you have a little talker who demands you to talk to them all the time.
- Potty training -- The beginning of accidents, peeing and pooping in pants, and constantly asking to go to the bathroom whether or not they actually have to. You're not changing diapers 5 times a day, but now you're wiping their butt 10 times a day instead.
And so naturally, the start of preschool is the same. The happiness/relaxation over time chart looks more like this instead:
And finally just when you think you're out of the woods and everything is settled at the preschool, new problems will arise. I guarantee it. The worries and stresses will never stop. Such is the life of a parent!