Parenting

Can Everyone Please Stop Warning Me About How Much Harder the Next Parenting Stage Will Be?

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

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Eighteen months ago today our family welcomed our firstborn son. As I held our tiny squirmer in my arms, excitement overflowed from my heart. Excitement for the future, for all the firsts, for the many joys of motherhood, for all the adventures waiting for our new family of three. I had purposed in my heart to cherish each day of our little man’s life. The 2 a.m. feedings, the new smells in our laundry pile, the unexplained tears—they were all part of the package, and this first-time mom was trying to take it all in stride.

 The picture of our 2-month-old striving to roll over still plays in my head today. I was completely smitten by the look of determination on his face, the groans of exasperation as his tiny muscles strained. My job as coach/ head cheerleader was to encourage him every centimeter of the way until he succeeded. The neighbors would have thought my son had just won an Olympic medal with the celebration we threw that day. And I just cherished every second of it.

All too soon that joy was muted, silenced as the beautiful picture of our growing boy proceeded on to the next scene. I remember recounting the rolling over accomplishment to a more seasoned mom friend. Her reply still rings in my head today: “Oh, just wait, next he’ll start crawling and be all over the house. You’ll never get anything done again.” And just like that, all the happiness from this milestone was diminished. Suddenly my focus was on childproofing my house, terrified of the day my son would crawl into the perilous next room without me and wreak havoc on our home.

Another day a mom friend and I were talking about the wonders of naptime. We are both moms with just one kiddo–for now. Naptime with just one baby in your home means a glorious amount of opportunities. My favorites were a workout DVD, a shower, time to sit and be alone and listen to the quiet—almost too many options to count! Quickly thereafter a “just wait” chimed in. “Just wait until you have more kids and your older ones don’t nap any more. You’ll be happy if you get a shower more than once a week!”

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Those “just waits” in my early journey of motherhood really sent me into a tailspin. Fears about tomorrow, dread of the trouble my little one would find himself in, discontentment with today’s stages– they all competed to steal the joy of today. If the last 18 months have taught me anything, it is that time is most definitely fleeting! It is still a wonder to me that my child is out walking and running (well, toddler running, which involves little rapid steps and lots of giggles and tripping!) in the back yard, that he uses words and is starting to figure out that saying “please” and “thank you” have a way of endearing himself to the hearts of those around him. I can still picture his tiny body squirming helplessly in my arms, so how we got to this point is a mystery to me. In these last 18 months we have had some bad days. Some days included more tears and wardrobe changes than I ever knew could happen in one day. Other days had too much snuggling and giggling to get anything else done and some days we just barely survived to make it to the next day. Those five hundred and fifty-some days make up my tenure as a mom. While not every moment of those days has been a glamorous joyride, they all work together to make up our journey together as mother and son. In the midst of all the emotions, my newborn has transformed into an amazing toddler. All the “just wait”-ing in the world could not change that.

New moms, take heart! You, too, will probably experience your own “just wait” moments, so expect them. Take time and find something to cherish about each day. I find that even in the midst of a day full of the fiercest toddler tantrums imaginable, there will be a moment to cherish. A smile flashed at just the right moment, a nap in Mommy’s arms, a new ball that bounces just right, a baby who takes an extra long nap. Choose to dwell on those moments. Make it your mission to find ways to cherish each stage. Smile when you encounter the “just waits” because you know that even with all of the obstacles to come, you can find joy through each stage.

Well-seasoned moms, take note! Your words can build up the moms you know or tear them down. It only takes a few seconds to leave an impact on the new moms in your life. Remember that with each new stage, naturally, new challenges will come, but simultaneously, parents will experience new joys. Share those joys. The trenches of motherhood can be overwhelming, but the rewards that accompany them are evident if we take time to look for them. Find them in your own life and work hard at sharing these joys with all of the moms in your life. You can be the encouragement she needs to make it through today. Join me in my work to eliminate “just wait” from your everyday conversations. Let’s work to build each other up instead of stealing each other’s joy.

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