People are often quick to tell you that you haven’t reached the most difficult stage of motherhood yet.
As a first-time mother you devote all your time and energy to your newborn baby. It’s a steep learning curve and being responsible for a little baby is all consuming. I remember shortly after the birth of my first child someone declared, “Babies are so easy. Just wait till she’s mobile – that’s when things get hard.” It’s not the most encouraging thing to say to a new mum but unsolicited advice (and sense of entitlement) is part of the motherhood experience.
When you have an infant and you spend most of your day cleaning the high chair, family room floor and saving them from choking hazards, someone will impart the following words of apparent wisdom: “Oh you haven’t reached the hard stage yet, toddlers are the hard ones.” And the mothers with more than one child can’t help but chime in with, “One child is a piece of cake – just wait until you have two.” It doesn’t end there.
When you have pre-schoolers, people are quick to tell you that you haven’t hit the rough stage yet. “Just wait until they reach the fighting stage, that’s when things are really unbearable,” they say. When you have school aged kids someone will undoubtedly tell you that they’re easy compared with tweens. And apparently tweens are a piece of cake compared with teenagers!
Very rarely do you hear that things get easier. Perhaps things don’t get easier – they just get different.
I try not to comment on any stage that I haven’t been through. I have no idea what it’s like to raise school-aged children, and I really can’t speak with any authority on raising boys, although I tend to think that at a young age the formula for raising them is pretty much the same.
Every child is unique and no two mothering experiences are the same. Comparisons are not always helpful, or welcome.
Here are a few of the common comparisons I hear:
“Girls are much harder than boys”
This is a ridiculous statement. Girls are possibly more emotional than boys and they seem to possess a manipulative gene that boys don’t, but that doesn’t mean they’re harder.
“Boys are more physical”
This is a generalisation. My one-year-old daughter is VERY physical and I reckon she’d take on any boy her age (or older) for a tackle. She mastered the most efficient judo-like move recently where she managed to flip her older sister to the floor in one clean sweep. That said, I do know of several mums who you’d swear have a personal trainer they look so fit and healthy. But no, that body is achieved by chasing boys all day long and breaking up wrestles.
“Babies are easy compared to toddlers”
Ask a mum whose baby has silent reflux and spends 22 hours out of every day crying just how easy it is. Or similarly a baby that is a serial cat-napper and never manages more than a 15-minute sleep cycle. A baby is only easier than a toddler if the baby is a dream baby and the toddler is vying for the Terrible Two’s award.
“It’s so much easier with your second”
NEVER say this to someone. Don’t assume that they are having an easier time simply because they have done it before. My second-born daughter was an entirely different baby to my first and if one more person had told me it’s supposedly easier I would have shot them.
“The third just falls into place”
Again – not true. Just because they are born into a family with siblings doesn’t mean they learn to raise themselves. A third-born baby might not take too kindly to being at the bottom of the pecking order and will make their presence abundantly heard and felt.
Moral of the story? Don’t rain on anyone’s parade. Don’t tell them that another hard stage awaits them. The truth is that everyone will have a unique experience of each stage and some are more challenging than others.
What has been the most challenging stage for you as mother? What are some other common myths about motherhood that you find absurd?