From the minute you tell someone that you’re pregnant until your child is grown, there’s this weird competition that drives parents to prove that whatever stage of parenthood they’re in is indeed the hardest. When you're pregnant, puking your guts out, exhausted but unable to get sleep because you either can't get comfortable or you can't stop peeing every 20 minutes, people can't wait to tell you how much worse you'll have it when the baby comes. When you have a baby that seems to think a proper nap is only 30 minutes long, communicates ONLY with loud wails and cries and leaks through every diaper that you buy, people can’t wait to tell you how bad the terrible twos will be.
Flash forward to the terrible twos, your toddler uses their newly formed language skills ENTIRELY to tell you what they don’t want or don’t like, makes a daily game out of refusing to eat anything that you prepare for them and waits until you’re in public venues to demonstrate what a proper tantrum is and people can’t wait to tell you how easy you have it because in a couple of years your life will COMPLETELY revolve around their activities and schedules.
It doesn’t seem to stop at the age of the child either. If you have one child, people with two kids can’t wait to tell you how easy your life is because you only have one and people with 3 kids or more laugh at people who struggle with only two. It even transcends across gender! Moms and dads with girls are so lucky because boys are so much “busier” and moms and dads with girls will be in for it when the teenage years come around.
We all do it, literally every one of us. Not because our goal is to invalidate another parents pain or current misery, but more so because after we’ve experienced a certain pain and seen the light at the end of the tunnel, we know that the parent we’re talking to will eventually see it too. Our words are meant to motivate and reassure them that this too shall pass. Our intentions are a pure-ish attempt to console a parent and let them know that things will eventually get better.
I’ve done it myself…many, many times with no ill-intent. It’s almost like a knee jerk reaction that you can’t even help but I do know that when its done to me, it doesn’t console me, it only irritates me because I’m trying to vent! So next time a new mom or mom to be is complaining about what she’s going to, I’ll simply listen (or at least try), no interjections, no advice, no warnings about how much worse I have it than her. I'll also try to take other parents advice to me less personally. Next time someone with an older child tells me how lucky I am that I haven’t reached their stage of parenting, I’ll be mindful that they mean no harm and keep in mind that they got through my stage of parenting unscathed and eventually I will too!
The truth is that it’s all hard! Parenting is extremely difficult no matter what stage you’re in and the hardest stage of parenting is whatever stage you’re currently in and have to figure out. Unlike other jobs, the role of mother or father doesn’t come with a manual and while we may have resources and people that we can lean on for help and advice, every situation, every parent and every child is different so there’s no guarantee that advice that you receive from others will benefit you.
It doesn’t really get easier or harder, it just gets different and if anything we as parents become better problem solvers, more resilient and less panicky. We become more confident in the decisions we make and we understand our children’s verbal and nonverbal cues more and more each day of parenthood.