Before I got pregnant, my sister-in-law warned me bringing up kids was tiring.
She has two; her parents brought up her son. Raising her second one, my niece — a college graduate now, took a lot more effort on her part. She wasn’t used to the physical slog of raising kids, the invisible and repetitive work that goes into keeping a small person alive.
These days I wonder if my sister-in-law would find parenting more mentally challenging in an era where mom influencer is a job title.
Bringing up her child pre-social media she didn’t have to contend with judgy Facebook groups, filtered Instagram moms (#liveauthentic), and ever-changing advice from online experts.
Have fun; nothing else matters
But I digress. All I wanted to say is if only my sister-in-law had received this tip, I’m sure she might have enjoyed life more with her energetic toddler.
You see, when I was cradling my firstborn, a veteran mom told me:
No matter what, enjoy your time with your baby. It’s hard to believe now, but it won’t be long before your child will stop depending on you for everything.
It’s only with the benefit of hindsight I appreciate her wisdom.
Parenting blogs can’t prepare you for the rollercoaster of feelings you’ll experience. The physical pain, the sense of wonder, and the panic when you realize your little one won’t stay alive if you sleep like you used to.
But once you grasp how fleeting everything in a child’s life is–not just the squeeze tight hugs, and cute misspelled love notes, but also the tantrums, toilet training, and picky eating, you start to think you’d better enjoy these moments.
Because, before you know it, they’ll have dissipated in a fog of hazy memories.
Does having children make you happier?
Although, this sentiment probably doesn’t strike you when you’re dealing with a poonami (If you don’t know what this is, I will leave you in blissful ignorance) at 3 am.
And the effects on happiness of those parents suffering through sticky situations and other stresses might bear out in a recent European survey which suggests that having kids does make you happier, but only when they have moved out, and become a source of social enjoyment rather than stress.
It’s the same in the US, where empty nesters between 50 and 70- whose children have moved out are 5 to 6 % happier than parents with kids still at home.
So how can you inject a little happiness into your day?
The research makes for sad reading if you’re a caregiver and you don’t happen to live in Sweden, Norway, or Portugal.
After managing three kids in short succession through the physically demanding years, all I can say is try to laugh at them (on the inside!).
Young kids tend not to be self-aware and come out with the funniest things. Cute toddler mannerisms and funny sayings will soon morph into the endless crying, moping, and mood swings of (pre) puberty.
“One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.”
Hold on to those moments and treasure them. Once you view your kids as a source of entertainment, like the older parents in the survey, it helps lift the daily struggle.
Parenting small kids can be grating, but it’s also a brief period of your life. If you try to enjoy it, it might lift the daily grind.
With parents in surveys saying life is happier when their kids have moved out, it’s a shame they did not get more enjoyment out of raising their kids.
The period with small kids might seem endless, but here’s the thing my sister-in-law didn’t grasp, once they’re bigger, this time will never come back. Ask any empty nester, and they will tell you to stop comparing yourself with the filtered Instagram mom and just have fun because life is fleeting.