Older mums are super fond of letting newer mums know how much harder it gets with kids. It usually happens when a mum is complaining about her ratshit toddler or her arsehole pre-schooler – an older mum will step in with a well-timed, ‘Just you wait! It gets worse!’ Because that’s exactly what someone wants to hear when they’re having a hard time: ‘there’s no light at the end of this tunnel, the next 15 years of your life are going to suck, please cherish it‘.
These people always want to let younger parents know they have nothing to complain about because what they’re dealing with right now is SUPER EASY, y’all! Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems etc. etc. How helpful and supportive, thank you so much. #sarcasmfont
So let me explain why their argument is wrong, in my opinion – and why you simply can’t compare the parenting ability/stamina of parents with little kids to parents with big kids:
When you first become a parent you are like a tub of lard, sloth person who’s never moved in his or her life but when that baby arrives you’re told to get up and sprint for 200 metres.
If you’ve never moved your body before, that’s going to be really hard. Impossible. You’re just not built to do it. There’ll be some people who’ll almost not make it, they’ll stop at the halfway mark, vomit their guts up, limp over the finish line and pass out. DONE.
Some people might cope better because they have more favourable conditions. They might have a nice tailwind, picking them up and carrying them forward. And just so we don’t get too confused here, when I say “tailwind”, I mean a kid who loves to sleep and eat. You know; a potato baby who lets you rest and generally enjoy life.
Eventually, when you’ve been doing the 200m sprint, all day, every day, it’ll start to become easier and you’ll start to feel almost competent at the 200m sprint.
But then your child will go through a leap or a regression, or something (they’re always going through something) and suddenly, you’re not doing the 200 metres anymore. Now you need to run 1500 metres.
That will feel impossible. You’ll cry, ‘but what about the 200 metres? I can do the 200 metres, no problem!’ and they’ll say, ‘nah babe, that’s over now, it’s the 1500 metres for you.’
All of a sudden, that 200m sprint will look like a leisurely walk.
Over the years the distance will get longer and longer and every time it changes, it’ll feel impossible but with enough training your fitness will improve and you’ll find you can cope.
But each time you face more track ahead, you’ll look back and realise the previous race was so. much. easier.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself dealing with a 16-year-old who’s facing all the shit of high school and just being a teenager and it’s all so draining for your whole family.
Congratulations, you are now running the marathon.
It’s exhausting, it’s gruelling, and you feel spent at the end of every day, but you’re ok because you’re fit and your body can do this.
But when you hear people complaining about the 200m sprint you want to smack their ignorant, naive little faces.
Which, my friend, is pretty bloody unfair. You are super fit because you’ve been training for years. Poor old 200m over there is a bowl of jelly on legs. She’s just starting out and it’s going to take her just as long as it took you to build up her strength.
If you have 15, 16, 17 years experience under your belt with two or three kids, you’re a professional athlete. And if you’ve got kids with a large age gap, you’re basically a CrossFit athlete, doing the marathon and the sprints at the same time because you’re a goddamn champ.
So please remember this when you tell a 200m sprinter on their second day of training that they shouldn’t complain because their race is so much easier than yours.
You will find there are some really gracious marathon runners who will freely admit that sprinting and marathon running are actually very different, and they’re pretty open about the fact that they wouldn’t go back to sprinting if you paid them.
They’ll tell you that yes, marathon running is hard but it’s not the same as the intense, full body, all-consuming, lung-busting sprint. They don’t miss it, they never want to go back to it but they’ll cheer on the sprinters while hard-passing on ever stepping back onto the short-course track.
Those marathon runners are beautiful people and we need to treasure them and thank them for having the perspective and graciousness to acknowledge that people at different stages of parenting can cope with different levels of intensity.
But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget the most important group: Ex-runners, retired runners who don’t run anymore, who sit on the sidelines and call out such encouragement as: ‘enjoy that run! Cherish it! It goes so fast!’
They’re sitting there reminiscing about their heyday on the track, remembering the wind in their face and the strength in their legs and they just don’t understand why us young runners don’t appreciate it more. They want to know why we don’t embrace the joy of running like they used to.
Because they forget about the gruelling training, the injuries to the body and the bone-crushing fatigue of the never-ending race.
The longer you go through it, the fitter you get, and the easier it all looks in hindsight.
I’ve been doing this job for five years now, and yes, I’d happily tell anyone that I’d take a newborn right now. All the newborns thanks! I’d SAY I want a newborn and I’d SAY that a newborn would be super easy for me BUT in reality, having that baby 24/7 wouldn’t be a walk in the park, no matter what. It also depends on the baby. You can get a super shit baby and they’ll make everything 10 times harder, no matter how experienced you think you are.
So there’s my theory on parenthood. If you’ve got some miles on the track, please don’t compare your fitness to someone who’s just strapping on the runners.
And in case that all wasn’t clear, what I’m saying is: little kids always look easier when you’re dealing with big kids because you’ve nailed the ‘raising little kids’ segment of parenthood. You have that experience up your sleeve and when you go back to do any job you’ve already mastered, it’s going to look like a walk in the park compared to what you’re doing now. So just remember this when you’re rolling your eyes at a new mum who’s really struggling with her baby who won’t nap or her toddler who throws epic tantrums all day long. And maybe try to remember the challenges you experienced back in the day.
P.S if you have a child who is a textbook child, who eats and sleeps and potatoes out like a champ. Don’t boast about this to people who’ve just told you how hard their child is.
A. Karma. Your child will not always be a potato so don’t be too smug or people will dance on your inevitable grave with fireworks and Bollywood music.
B. You’re literally comparing your child to their child and highlighting how your child is better than theirs. This is a dick move. Don’t do it. Ever.