so does it or doesn’t it?

June 7, 2016

THE QUESTION:  Does parenting (or life with kids) ever get easier?

If so, when?
If not . . . well, maybe I don’t want to know right now! But you can tell me anyway.

A few weeks ago I was contemplating #3*.  Yesterday I could barely handle 2.  And my #2 was (is) definitely the major challenge right now.  4 is actually a delightful age, thus far.  Toddlers however are no joke.  They want what they want when they want it (now!), what they want is often insane, and there is no way to reason or explain — they just aren’t developmentally ready to get it.  Last night, Cameron had the most amazing realization (to him) that hey — no one was making him go to bed!  So it was optional.  And he just wasn’t in the mood, so he didn’t.

For about 2 hours.**

It absolutely could have been worse.  It may get much worse, in fact.  I am not saying that things are overall miserable — they are not.  There are so many great moments.  He is so cute . . .  but he is hard right now.  As a result, even though I am excited for a summer filled with activities and adventures with the kids, I do become envious when I see how carefree parents of older kids seem in comparison.  Relaxing family dinners out!  No diaper bag (and no diaper contents to deal with!).  Kids that are not attempting to run into the street/pool/etc at any moment.

I will admit it gives me hope to think about how things were harder 2 years ago.  Annabel was Cameron’s age, and instead of a 4 year old, I had . . . Cameron.  So we had one toddler, and one infant, and I remember looking at parents of 2+4 year olds on the playground and thinking . . . “Wow, they can just sit there and let both of their kids play?  Unbelievable.”  And now I’m there, and they do!  (And it is great.)

SO: parents of older kids***, I would love your input.  Thoughts?  Was there a ‘tipping point’ when things become easier for you?  Are there others (like me) who suspect they may be better at dealing with big-kid problems than toddler drama?  I know, there are school projects and tests, playground politics, and responsibility/values to teach, all of which have got to be stressful.   But it’s different.

And maybe . . . easier?




What a contrast.

* And I still go back and forth whenever the wind changes.  Or my hormones.  Or both.

** No long nap or clear reason why this was the case.  Hopefully it was an anomaly . . .

*** I’m not really talking about adolescence here.  That is an entirely different realm that sounds equal parts exciting and terrifying to me.


  • Reply gwinne March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, I’ve found that 5+ is much easier than toddlerdom (2.5-4 were the WORST for both).. But mine are currently 4 and 12 and I’m not so keen on those ages, esp. in combo! Totally depends on the kids, though, and kids separate are not the same as kids in combo…

  • Reply Leslie March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Mine are 6, 3 1/2 and 5 months. The "work" of parenting definitely gets easier as they get older. I have enjoyed each stage so far but definitely have days or moments when I’m burnt out! I will say I appreciate how easy and sweet the baby stage this time around. 😉

  • Reply Christi March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Yes! Most definitely. I think everyone being 4+ is much easier, and I have really enjoyed the conversations we have been able to have(and things we’ve been able to do!) since everyone has been over about 6. Truly gets better- and stays better for a while. Mine are 10/13 now and we have been in a comfortable sweet spot for the past several years. And I do miss the toddler/preschool ages…

  • Reply Sally March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Mine are 46 and 40. It changes. challenges remain. Misunderstandings happen. I can still feel like a failure thought my children are amazing and wonderful (despite me). Grand children are the greatest treasure the world ever invented… yes, even better than children. And it is ALL WORTH all the crazies and worries and fears and laughter and joys and tears and AWE.

  • Reply Hilary March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I was just having this conversation with my mil re: #3. How it seems so hard to pull the trigger (for dh) since it all seems so hard now. Extremely rewarding but hard. She said this is the hardest time of your life. I believe her :). I’m sure each age has its challenges but as they get older and the problems become real I think it will be more heartbreaking but easier for me to handle. The irrational nature of toddlers and in my case even 4yr olds is just tough. My friends with multiple kids say 5+ is awesome with some bumps in puberty obviously

  • Reply Kate March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    I’m right there with you on whether or not to have a #3… and, like you, I swung to a "NO WAY" after a hard day yesterday. (We’ll see how today goes.)
    My kids are 4 and 7 and yes, it is absolutely easier in all the ways you described above. In fact, reading this post reminded me to be thankful for where we are. But I think it depends on what kind of challenges you prefer. I do NOT miss the physical challenges of having to run after a very active two-year-old. I also don’t miss how hands-on I had to be when the kids were younger. Now, my kids can play on their own and are quite independent (they can wipe their own butts and they can freaking buckle themselves in with just a tiny bit of help — amazing). HOWEVER, this age comes with its own sets of challenges: whininess, sibling fights, bad attitudes, etc. It’s more emotionally exhausting, I think.
    My strategy dealing with all of this is to try to focus on the excellent things about each stage (knowing that there’s better/worse ahead).

  • Reply Natasha March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I have two teenagers and a 5 year old. I wish I could have a fourth child but I’m getting up there (41) so I think we are done. Teenagers are wonderful- they are fun to interact with on a more adult level and they enjoy the same shows as me, they like museums, going out for coffee, they travel well etc. However, there is NO down time. They stay up later than I do every night. When they like the same shows you do that means when you settle down to relax at 10:00 after a long day’s work , they want to sit right with me and ask how many beers I’ve had and discuss the show I’m watching on Netflix. Or they are in the kitchen baking cookies and jamming to music while I am trying to watch a show in the next room. It’s windrful to watch them mature I to these almost adult beings but it means no time alone, ever. I didn’t realize how that would change when they were babies and from their bedtime at 8:00 on that was "me" time. And while teenagers don’t need to be patted to sleep or read bedtime stories its a whole new set of issues- teaching them to drive, setting boundaries with dating, shuttling them around at night for sports (my 15 year old has gymnastics from 8-10pm) when I’d rather be home putting my 5 year old to bed.
    That said, I am so thankful to have my three and I love each stage. It’s pretty cool to watch teens turn into these mature human beings that know more than me about current events or want to take me out for coffee.
    I work full time and the late afternoons and evenings after work/school remain the most challenging, whether the child is 5 or 15. Sorry to ramble…

  • Reply akapulko2020 March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, it decidedly does! It makes contemplating kid #3 that much harder -life IS easier with 7 and 4 year olds than it used to be when they were younger… So it’s like "ok so if we have the third baby in a year, it’s then 3 more tough years ,again"

    The toughest part is letting go of control -of which there’s less as they grow up- and teaching them to be independent, and make their own mistakes.

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    OMG YES. absolutely it gets easier—in the minute to minute constant NEEDINESS way. I wouldn’t say there was a "tipping point" so much as a gradual increase in their being able to play independently, be reasoned with, and take care of their needs. Of course there are bad days and good days (and my kids are quite…spirited, which adds another layer of difficulty) but overall, at age 4 and 6, I think things are pretty good and I can only see them getting better (L is a very YOUNG 4, and still hasn’t grasped a lot of concepts that are essential for reasoning with him and also very much wants to act the baby of the family and have things done for him, like wiping his bottom). Relaxing family dinners? HELL NO, neither boy can sit still for more than 5-10 minutes. But playing independently at the park while I sit in the shade and read or daydream? absolutely. Telling them to "go play" so I can get dinner on the table, and them disappearing upstairs for 20 minutes? happened yesterday!
    I do think "bigger kids, bigger problems" is true—the stakes will get higher and I’m sure there will be many hours spent worrying about and discussing and second guessing how to handle things—but that doesn’t negate the joy of getting to take an uninterrupted shower or having a moment to THINK.

    • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      I often think about the future of "Bigger kids, bigger problems" and I think I’m so much more prepared for that because of all my own experiences, and older kids have more logic, whereas reasoning with a preschooler over his strict definitions of things drives me absolutely BATTY.

  • Reply SusannahEarlyBd March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Love this discussion. I feel somewhat the opposite….for me it is easier to do the physical "work" of parenting and it is much harder for me to figure out how to sail through the emotional aspects of watching your child become who they are as they get older. Mine are 6.75, 4, and 11 months. Perhaps my point of view is heavily skewed because my oldest is by far my most challenging child…parenting him in the big ways–decision making, accepting life’s unfairness, coping with his anxiety, helping him figure out how to fit in—these are all things that weigh heavily on my heart and conscience, and are much harder for me to navigate. That said, when he turned six, the "work" did get much easier–he can do all self-care, chores, etc, and is a huge help with the baby.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I am looking forward to the moment when it is possible to do something other than tend to the toddler when we are home and he is awake. From what I remember, my now 4 year old was about 2.5 when she could be left alone to play for a bit, or put in front of a TV show or computer game so I could shower or send an email. So I am one year away from that. The older two can literally disappear for hours at home.

  • Reply Bethany March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Nothing to contribute to this conversation other than girl, I am SO WITH YOU on 2 and 4 being a tough age combo. Last night’s bedtime was such a catastrophe (both boys crying for totally irrational reasons, both leaving the bed after lights out and coming out into the apartment etc – and they share a bedroom so when the youngest cries sometimes the oldest starts crying saying "too loud!!" and "I don’t like crying boys!" etc) that I swore I was done and done. I am honestly quite looking forward to them being about 3 and 5 or even 4 and 6. 🙂 But then again, what is just three more years of struggle in your entire life? 😛

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I talk to one of my coworkers about this all the time, as he has an 8 and 11 year old. He says that some things get incredibly easier, just day-to-day life and fussy stuff that drives us crazy: you don’t have to put on their shoes and buckle them in and out of car seats, they can cut their own food, you don’t have to pack extra outfits everywhere you go, NO diapers. so he says life feels less hassled so you have more reserves for the actual parenting, which steps up as your kids have more interpersonal issues, school responsibilities, and sports. He also says it becomes more rewarding when your kid becomes the person you’ve been trying to shape all these years 🙂

  • Reply Ellie March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Sarah, sorry that this won’t add anything to the questions in your post, but ‘ve been a long time reader – and now I’m expecting! My husband and I are currently going through evaluating daycare vs. nanny vs. whatever other options there are (not considering staying at home because both of us love our careers!).

    I know you put Annabel in daycare and then found a nanny before you had Cameron, but I think you had Annabel continued doing part time daycare sometimes? I would love to read a post on what worked for you regarding daycare/nanny and what you would do different during the infant ages (which I guess is 0-2 years based on my daycare searching). Or maybe just a reply to my comment if you can’t do a whole post? 🙂

    Thank you!

  • Reply Sarah March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I love your blog and found you through Lag Liv. My kids are 10, 8, 4, and 3, and everything is basically easy street right now. This is the longest I have gone without a new baby around and am going for #5 because I really think when the youngest kid is 3 or 4 is the age where life is good again– no one naps; everyone can wipe their own butt; sleep issues are a thing of the past; everyone can tell me what they want instead of screaming. It’s a dream. And 3 years doesn’t seem like a long time especially when I look at my 10 year-old, so it seems like a small price to pay for the pleasure of another baby.

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