When I was a new mom, struggling to breastfeed and not recognizing the woman in the mirror every morning, the hope that sustained me was the common refrain from experienced moms, "It'll get easier." And for a time, they seemed to be right. The baby would sleep through the night -- even one night was a reprieve -- or my milk production would finally catch up with her appetite.
But then it would get harder again. She'd go through a growth spurt and stop sleeping, and then she'd start moving or having her own opinions. Now that we've got a houseful of extremely verbal girls, the clashing viewpoints on a simple question like "pancakes or waffles" can be overwhelming. Getting from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. sometimes seems like a marathon.
So I was tickled to come across Claudine Wolk's Hybrid Mom Insider blog and learn the title of her book, "It Gets Easier! And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers." I haven't read the book but I would love to, just from the promise of the title and the important question it raises. Is it a lie? Does motherhood get easier?
Many mothers assume that if you're going to stay home with a child, you should do so during the baby and toddler stage. They're more vulnerable to an unfeeling caregiver and they're learning so much every day. Even Dr. Laura, champion of stay-at-home moms, concedes that it's okay to go back to work when the child is in school -- as long as your work hours don't exceed the school day. (Needless to say, I disagree with this universal pronouncement.)
But when I look at my teen stepdaughter and the older children of my friends and neighbors, I can see the work of parenting ahead of me. And the picture isn't pretty. The scheduling alone gives me a headache, between the many school closures during the year and the long child care drought of summer. But add in the need to stay on top of your child's classes, homework, activities and social life -- it's hard to imagine doing that on top of a 40 to 60 hour work week.
That's assuming that your child's development proceeds normally, that she doesn't encounter medical problems, need extra help with school work or fall in with a bad peer group. The magnitude of issues that can arise with school age kids is daunting. I know several moms who worked when their children were babies but quit when they started school in order to stay on top of everything.
I'd love to hear from parents of older kids about which stage was the most time consuming and emotionally draining. At the least, I'll feel prepared!
By Katherine Reynolds Lewis