I was hoisting the enormous infant car seat onto my hip, juggling keys, a bag, and a water bottle, feeling the usual mix of “I’ve totally got this” and “I’m a hot mess,” when I heard an older woman say something to the effect of “She really has it easy now, just wait ’til they’re teenagers.”
I laughed it off at the moment, but inside I felt deflated and defensive. Had it been so easy for her when she had infants and toddlers? Was I failing by feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and a little bit afraid? I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. I think motherhood is more “yes, and then also.”
Diminishing the validity of another woman’s struggles and frustrations with motherhood diminishes you as well.
Certainly time softens the memories of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early motherhood (otherwise we would all probably stop having babies after the first one), but that doesn’t mean the fear and anxiety and exhaustion were any less real in the moment. I don’t doubt that adolescence and the teen years will bring new challenges, but different is not the same as harder. You trade dependence for resistance; perhaps, in the same way you will trade Legos for laptops.
I also don’t believe that it is “harder” to have any certain number of kids. Each kid is a start-over, not a do-over. We don’t get to repeat all of the same choices and actions that have worked in the past, or correct ones that didn’t. You still have to figure it out as you go, whether it’s your first or your sixth. We all know what we can handle; four kids requires more crowd control and pairs of shoes than one kid does, but that doesn’t make it harder. It just means we may struggle with different things on any given day. The most difficult transition for me was going from zero kids to one; I still remember how HARD it felt to have one newborn baby and no other kids. Now that I have four, I don’t think I was “wrong” or “foolish,” I think I was a different person and a different mother than I am now. It WAS hard. Sometimes having four is also hard.