They tell you “It gets easier.” They lie

So there she is, stumbling down the block—walking circles around the playground—sleepwalking through the mall. The mewling baby inside a sling—a car seat—stroller. Glassy eyes, cause she hasn’t slept more than 45 minutes—no wait, two days ago, she got three hours in a row, score!—in four months. Wearing ratty pants—because they fit. And her husband’s sweater—because all her tops have been puked on and laundry, she was going to do laundry yesterday, but then the baby had a fever and…

So there she is. The new mom, the first-time mom, and she’s so exhausted and she so clearly needs—what? A hug, help, empathy, reassurance. And you—you’re a good person, and so you want to give it to her. So there you go. Run up to her. Smile. And you want to say, you’re going to say:

“It gets easier.”

Don’t. Just fucking don’t. Because, fast-forward two years, three, and there she is. Running down the block. Maybe another baby in sling. Toddler in stroller or running away. And maybe she’s getting more sleep—but maybe not. Maybe the toddler has night terrors, and wakes up screaming for hours on end in the night. Or maybe, even if Morpheus has been kind to her and the children sleep—she doesn’t sleep nearly was much as she should, because when they sleep, that’s the only time she can be free. To… think. To read. To be… alone.

The toddler makes a break for it and tries to run into the street, and she nabs him, just in time, and pulls him back, and starts explaining how streets are dangerous and he must hold Mommy’s hand, but he really, really, really wants to be on the other side, and he’s two, so self-will is emerging with a vengeance and soon he’s screaming and tantruming, and you, you can see she’s on the edge, about to lose it, because maybe this is the seventh time today—this hour—she’s had to deal with this, and you want to help. You want to give her a hug, help, empathy, reassurance. And you want, you’re going to run over to her and you’re going to say:

“It gets easier.”

Don’t. Don’t. Because a year later, there she is, with her three-and-a-half year-old. Before they left the house this morning, he put her iPhone in the toilet, cut his dad’s headphone cord into shreds, and threw $30 worth of grass-fed beef off the balcony in the compost pile. And now, his pants around his ankles, he’s chasing a flock of pigeons, penis in hand, yelling, “I’m going to pee on you, pigeons!” at the top of his lungs. And she’s trying to decide—should she catch him? Or should she take advantage of the fact that he’s distracted for five minutes, so she can change the new baby’s diaper? Because she hasn’t had a chance to even check it for the last five hours… And I swear on any of the gods that you may or may not believe in, if, at that moment, you come up to her, and you say—because you’re an empathetic, loving person who wants to help—if you come to her at that moment and say,

“It gets easier.”

she’s going to rip that diaper off the baby and throw it in your face. Followed by the tepid remains of her coffee (you’re lucky that she hasn’t had a hot, scalding hot, deliciously hot cup of coffee in three and a half years). And then she’s going to sob. And she’s going to say…

“When? When the fuck does it get easier? Because I’ve been waiting for it to get easier for two three five six years.”

I’m sitting in the middle of my living room—11 years into motherhood—and I’m in a brief picture-perfect postcard (Instagram for those of you born post-1995) moment. I’m stretched out on the couch, coffee cup beside me, laptop on my lap—and, for a few minutes at least, I’m chilling. Three feet away from me, my 11 year-old is building worlds in Minecraft, and Skyping with a friend. My eight-year-old is running with a pack of her friends just outside—I hear their voices, hers most distinct among them to my ears, through the balcony. Tucked under my arm is the three-and-a-half year old, taking a break from wrecking havoc and destruction on the world to play a game on the iPad.

I’m messaging with a friend a few years behind me on the parenting path. And she asks me, and I can hear the tears in her words even though she’s typing them (people who think texting lacks nuance do not text enough; she is weeping through the keyboard),

“When does it get easier? People keep on saying, ‘It gets easier.’ When? When?”

So, I wonder, is she ready to hear this? Is she ready to hear: It doesn’t get easier. All the people who say this? They’re all liars, every last one.

But I won’t say that. First, because I do not wish to make her despair. Second, because it’s not true. It does get easier. It really does. But when people say it, what you, first-time mother, hear it is not ‘It gets easier,” but this:

“Things will get back to the way they were before, soon.”

And that, my lovely friend, will never happen. Things will never be the way they were before. Never. Things have changed forever. Things will never get back to “normal”—as you defined normal when you were single—when you were childless. Never.

And so I tell her this, and again I hear tears in-between the words she types to me.

And now I have to deconstruct the lie to her. I have to explain. That they don’t mean to lie. It really does get easier—sort of. The stuff that’s killing you now—be it the lack of sleep, the aching nipples, the endless diapers-laundry-is-she-sick-is-he-teething or be it the toddler tantrums, potty training regressions, “She won’t leave the house!” “Getting him in and out of the car seat is hell”–all of that, it will get easier—and, in fact, end. They all wean. Toilet train. Stop drawing on walls (unless they in this house). But see, then, other stuff happens that’s really hard too. Ferocious Five. Sensitive Seven. Bullies on the playground—social issues with friends and ‘frenemies.’ Broken hearts. Explosive anger at things and issues much, much bigger than all those daily rubs that cause toddlers angst.

“It gets easier”: yeah, I suppose it does, because you figure it out, and adapt, and get coping strategies. But every time you “master” a phase—they change. Grow. Face new challenges. And you’ve got to change, grow and adapt with them. If only you could do so ahead of them…

But you can’t. And so, you see, “it gets easier” … it’s a lie.

And it’s the most destructive lie, the most life-damaging myth you can buy into. See, because if you keep on waiting for things to get easier—if you put living, changing, adapting, figuring out how to dance this dance, walk this path as it is now, with all of its bumps and rubs—if you put all that on hold until it gets easier…

Well. You’ll be fucked. Totally. And completely.

So. My dearest. It doesn’t get easier. It changes. You get better. You grow. Learn. And that little squealer—that awesome toddler—that slightly evil three-year-old—he grows. Learns. Changes. It gets better. When you learn and change and grow and all that—it all gets better.

But. Easier? No.

So. There she is. Frazzled. Exhausted. So fucking tired. And she sees you coming, and you have empathy poring out of your pores. And you want to help her. Offer her empathy. Support.

What are you going to tell her?

Hey, all, wow, thanks for all the sharing and massive Internet love. Bad day for my RSS feed link to break — this is it: RSS Feed https://nothingbythebook.com/feed/ — and even though there are a bazillion comments, I am reading and responding to every single one. Thank you so much, beautiful people. You can also email me privately at nothingbythebook@gmail.com. Or find me on Twitter @nothingbtbook. You know the drill.  xoxo “Jane”

Two great things from my weekend in-box, from the #FTSF blog hop, that fit in beautifully with the theme of today’s post:

Kristi Campbell’s post on FindingNinee.com:  I blog because of you, I blog because of us, and

Katia’s post on I Am The Milk: Closest to Me

Flora Space Art

“I Give The World To You,” by Flora (May 2013)

103 thoughts on “They tell you “It gets easier.” They lie

  1. If this isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is. It sure as hell doesn’t get easier; it just gets…different! We become more confident in our parenting, we’re not afraid of breaking a baby, and the kids’ budding communication skills help a little. That said, I think I’ll trade the teen years for the baby years because God help me when my kids start driving and dating and doing the things that I did.

    • im going to be a horrible person and say, if having a kid is that horrible why have two? or three? i dont get that. i get new parents struggling and having a hard time and complaining, thats natural but i dont get people with many children acting like having kids is the worst thing to ever happen. that i dont get.

      • Jane doesn’t think it’s horrible, nor do I. I have two kids (I want more), Jane has three. If having an open dialogue about the bumps and bruises of parenting is something that offends you, please know we didn’t intend that. We simply intended to have an honest conversation.

        That said, new parents have it hard, but it only gets HARDER. I think most parents, especially moms, would agree with that.

  2. Totally said a mouthful here Jane and was laughing at the strong willed toddler trying to cross the street and mom/dad having to try to stop this. Just actually happened last night with Lily. Omg, so damn true about this one and just everything you said here.

  3. I don’t think I can find enough words to tell you how much I loved this. So I’ll share it-everywhere- because I think it is so perfect, and so painfully, beautifully true. Truly, one of my favorite parenting posts of all time. Great work.

  4. Glad to know I’m not the only one who sometimes trades sleep for alone time, hobby time or just quiet time. I always regret it later… but not really.

    Also, the pigeon chasing pee thing… that sounds like me as a kid. The circle of life, Simba…

  5. Beautifully written. I love it when I read something at the exact moment that I need it. I’ll be sharing this on my blog’s Facebook page.

  6. Askyourdad did share your post and I found it there – this is so true and so well written. And what *do* you say? Everything you can say sounds a little smug. I think perhaps the best thing is “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Although she wouldn’t have any free hands to hold it or time to drink it.

    The other day I was coming out of a beautiful kitchen shop with my double buggy (Toddler strapped in and screaming next to wakeful baby) and got one wheel stuck behind some artfully arranged witch’s broomsticks that were basically *in* the doorway. When I finally managed to get the twigs free from the wheels without wrecking the brooms (too badly) and started to wheel my screaming children onwards through the rain, two women came up behind me and told me to “enjoy them while they’re this little”. Could have killed them!

    • I have this “Look” I’e perfected that you should use on the old women; here’s the post about it: (https://nothingbythebook.com/2013/03/05/boy-you-sure-have-your-hands-full/)

      I like “can I buy you a cup of coffee.” Once, when I was wrestling a toddler and baby in Superstore, the woman behind me said–take them to the car and wait for me out front. I’ll pay for your groceries. After I finished crying I did what she said. And have been able to pay it forward twice so far.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  7. My mother used to tell me that it got better after three children. She used to say that after three it did not matter how many more you add to the mix it does not make any difference in the amount of work. She had 9 children in just over 11 years, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. I did discover that taking care of my children did seem to become stable after I had the third one and the fourth did not seem so much work. I will admit that the first years were a lot easier than dealing with the teen years. At least in the first years you would get the hugs and “I Love You” from the children.

    • I could see that, Janine. After my third, I decided a woman’s brain, anyway, counted thus: one, two, more. I can now take six, seven, 14 kids anyplace with ease. When I had one or two… god. Anything extra was too much.

  8. So much truth here.
    When I see the kind of chaos you describe, I tend to say something like “looks normal to me.” Meaning: “you’re not alone, let’s talk.” I found that’s what I really needed was a grown up to just speak a complete sentence to me and nudge me out of the frustrated throes of toddler-hood.

  9. I was fed a lot of lies during pregnancy, or post pregnancy (newborn stage) and ended up really bitter about it. “Its only uncomfortable being pregnant at the very end” “morning sickness only happens in the first trimester” “Aren’t newborns fun?” NO NO & NO. “Slow down and take your time, this amazing stage wont last forever, you’ll miss it” (funny, because the first 4 months of life, six year later, STILL feels like a lifetime of never sleeping in my memory).
    After that, I never sugar coated a thing about my experience to others. Most new or expecting moms seem to be OK with hearing the truth.
    Although I will say, for me, it did get easier. On that note, I know I got lucky there. Every passing month became more fun, easier to cope with, easier to handle after the daughter hit about 6 months and MORE SLEEP (as long as she wasnt sick). Sometimes I feel like I was dealt a pretty good hand, and traded 4-6 months of never, ever sleeping for more than 15min at a time for the calmest toddler/child.
    I think the thing to say to new moms who are friends is its always a journey, easy or hard. New struggles are always thrown at you once you’re a parent. However, it does get to be more fun the older they get.

  10. This is so true. This is my LEAST favorite piece of advice that new moms get. (I wrote a post about it a while ago too.) This was beautifully written! My post was a little more… well, bitter, maybe?

  11. as a mom of 3 (5 & 9month twins) I hear this every time I leave the house! I Loved this post and will be coming back to read more and get inspiration for my own blog!

  12. Omg someone who finally said what ive been feeling for the last 8 years but didn’t know how to say. As a mother of five children (ages 7, 5, 2, 1, and 6 weeks), a host of Monthly kids craft day for our homeschool group of 30+ kids, a full time college student, and struggling seamstress (I make everything my 5 kids wears pretty much), I constantly want to know when it gets easier. Thanks for this blog it made me cry but in a good way because im not alone.

  13. As the eldest of five, aunt of ten and besotted grandmother of one, I must tell you how much I appreciate and respect the total honesty of this post, and the wonderfully varied responses. My mother never said, “It’ll get easier,” because she knew better than to tell us fairytales that weren’t between the covers of a book (and by the way, even some of those are terrifying…). Raising people is hard, scary, challenging, anger-making, occasionally miraculously rewarding, and endless; parental life expectancies factor in here—you’re not done until you’re, um, actually DONE. My husband and I compliment parents in restaurants and Target when their kids are good, we try as unobtrusively as we can to be a buffer zone between a kid standing up in a grocery cart and the floor, and we tell our son and daughter-in-law, stunned parents of a recent teenager, to hang in there, eat something besides chicken fingers, feel what they feel and try to get a good night’s sleep anyway. Because misery DOES love company; moreoever, misery NEEDS company. No, It doesn’t get easier, but you will get better at it. And, while you may feel lonely sometimes, you’re not alone. That said, I won’t come babysit for you. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and recently wiped down a wet dog with it, right after I got all weepy about my Mother’s Day cards, especially the hilariously loving one from the sulky adolescent grandson. Bless you all, a lot.

    • Oh, wow. What a beautiful comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. xoxo Are you sure you won’t come babysit? The elder two will just play on the computers, and the 3.5 can be very, very charming… really… so long as you don’t let him play with scissors…

  14. It doesn’t get easier, and when you are past the teenage years, it does seem like it went faster than when you were living it. But the other big lie is that you are never finished. Not when they graduate from high school, or college, or get married. Parenthood is forever.

  15. I’m pregnant with my first baby….so you just made me laugh, cry, freak out, hold my breath in anticipation and just hope beyond hope that none says that to me.

    • Remember, the key message here is “It gets easier” ooes not equal “It will be the same as before.” Nothing will be the same. But the different–it’s so worth it. So worth it. But, you know. Easy? Not so much.

      And when someone does tell you “It gets easier”–and they will–throw a mug of tepid coffee in their face. Odds are pretty good, in your sleep-deprived face, you’ll miss anyway. 🙂

      Welcome to the journey.

  16. This is amazing. You are amazing. I cannot believe how perfectly you captured every single stage, every single emotion. I remember wondering (in tears) when nap time and going to sleep at night and breastfeeding and and and….just were. Then, we’re now. And all of that stuff seems easier, somehow. Not easy, but certainly easier than chasing, entertaining, not ever napping…easier. But so hard.
    And wow, I am so so honored to have gotten a mention here, on your post. Thank you. Huge. Thank you thank you.

  17. I have 10 children, eldest 16. My youngest 6 are 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 & 7 months! Also have 3 stepchildren that are now adults…I have 2 businesses too. Times like this where its half term im pulling my hair out! Yawning as im typing after being awake since 5.30, baby in the other hand, shouting at 4 of them to get back in here now they have scattered because spongebob has finished! Hard work but love them dearly xx

  18. When my (now 25 year old) baby and I were in Target one day… I was mindlessly shopping. And my young daughter, perhaps she may have been almost two… looked up at me and said :”I love you mommy.” I am sure that I (who had taught her how to say that cuz I said it all the time to her) said it back….
    A woman about my age now probably (argh seriously that is a scary thought cuz I thought she was pretty old back then) came up to me out of the blue and snapped me out of my daydream about what brand to buy) blurted out to me:
    “Oh honey, did she just say she loved your????!” Treasure these moments!” I kind of smiled and thanked her for reminding me to say I love you better…. I really wasn’t sure what I was thanking her for. As she walked away she turned around and said “I promise someday you will remember this conversation with some middle aged stranger and you will know how fast it all goes by.” And then she was gone.
    I hate to admit it. But I have witnessed a few “Calgon Take Me AWAY” moments of other young mothers and have stopped to tell her that story.
    Cuzzz now as a middle aged woman with my baby out of the house for 5 years now… I walk past that empty bedroom and realize that older lady was right. It the blink of an eye it is over.
    NOT that there isn’t another chapter that can be great. I remember looking in the backseat at the empty carseat and thinking YES! Freedom for an hour or two as I shopped alone… we all have felt that feeling of freedom. No kids… time alone… gonna get to try on clothes without a stroller in the dressing room kind of feeling. I remember and I GET it!!!! But had the risk of being that older mom at Target with the obvious Empty Nest issues…. It does kind of just flippen fly by! 😉
    LOVE your blog! Am following after the first post and that isn’t usual for me!

  19. Sorry about all the type-os I just reread what I wrote and saw the mistakes but had to add one more thing….
    Once when my kids were at school… probably Jr. High and High School. I was out shopping before I had to pick them up. And saw a little girl probably about my daughter’s age when were at Targe that day. I’d sat down to eat a quick salad at that mall’s food court and watched as this mom and her little girl ate lunch for afar. Who knows their story. But the little girl kept looking at her mama and the mom never once said one word to that baby. Like I said who knows their story. Maybe that is what that Target lady saw in me as I shopped and she didn’t think I responded to my little girl’s
    “I love yous” the way she thought I should…. Believe me she still gets her share of “I love yous” lol. So you are right… Even though we think our advice is needed… it isn’t always.
    Great post!!!! I loved this one!

  20. I can also tell you that even when they grow up, live on their own, get married, and have children that it still does not get easier! Just different! But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

  21. I loved this post. Great example of why cliches suck at getting your true empathy and feelings across to the recipient. “Normal” is gone, but that doesn’t mean “not-normal” is bad…especially on the days that the kids let you sleep.

  22. This is by far one of the best things I’ve ever read. I am currently navigating the terrible 2s while simultaneously rocking a serious head cold and getting ready to fly solo with said 2-year-old tomorrow morning. So this couldn’t have come at a better time. You are so right that new moms hear “life goes back to the way it was” when people tell them it gets easier. It never goes back to the way it was, and once you reach a place where things are “easier” again, something changes are you are left trying to figure things out once more. But it does get easier. It just doesn’t go back to the way it was. But…I’m not sure I’d want to go back to the way things were. Well, most of the time, anyway. 😛

  23. I am 6 1/2 months pregnant with my first child and I already miss sleep. I know that will only get worse. I haven’t gotten to the point where people tell me it gets easier yet, though I did get it in the first trimester while I couldn’t eat…anything almost. That wasn’t a lie though, in many ways the pregnancy got easier. I did not really have a romanticized view of having kids and never imagined that being a parent would be easy or would get necessarily easier once they were out of the infant still-not-sleeping-through-the-night stage or anything, but this post was still very enlightening to read. From someone who is about to be that frazzled on-the-edge-of-despair sleep deprived crazy woman…thank you for sharing this! I’m going to bookmark it as a reminder for when things get tough later!

  24. Yup! Our coping skills may get better, but as you point out, a new phase starts and then we start all over again! It doesn’t get easier but life is so much richer! 🙂

  25. This is awesome. Perfectly honest (I hope), because I just steeled myself for the next 10 years based on this approach. I love what you said to a poster also, “just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s horrible”. Lovely:)). I have few friends with kids my son’s age (2.3:), and so they all are going through the tween years now.. I can see that if I don’t let go a bit, and if I don’t use my (once amazing) sense of humor, I won’t make it there in one piece.
    One question.. We’re thinking of having a second child (gasp!!!), but not sure we can afford it or that I can handle two. My son still breast feeds and we cosleep. Any experience with that concoction, or do you just say “make it work”:)?
    Thanks for the great post… Perfection!

  26. OK now I know why I didn’t read this until today, The hardest day I’ve had yet and he’s 7. The one where he does something so boy, so horrifying you can’t relate and you don’t even know if there is a punishment and so you do nothing. Which turns out to be the right thing because silence is the one thing that is the hardest for him. You’re so right some of it get’s easier, some of it get’s harder, and some….some of it, is a brand new place.

  27. I would tell HER you will get stronger. Sounded like I was talking to you in my first comment. Jane you are one tough mama. Love your writing.

  28. I don’t know how my mama friends feel when I share my mantra with them, but I say, “This too shall pass. The good, the bad, none of it lasts.” It got me through a lot of rough patches and allowed me to really appreciate the sweet moments.

    To random moms struggling in stores, I’ve offered to entertain their little ones or hold a baby while they take a minute to themselves. It’s been well received every time. I’ve had some who take me up on the offer and others who seem jolted enough out of whatever hysterical cycle was happening that everyone (kids included) calms the f down.

  29. Pingback: “No, we were just being normal” | Nothing By The Book

  30. i will be sending this to my sister immediately. she’s two months into her 3rd – as one might imagine, in need of the romping therapeutic laugh this delivers. we all are really…..thank you

  31. Pingback: A Fairy, a Pig and Two Horses -The Week in Chaos | Adorable Chaos

  32. Pingback: The Authoritative New Parents’ Guide to Sex After Children, Redux | Nothing By The Book

  33. WOW. Just wow. This took me waaaaaay back to being a first time mom. I cried ALL the damn time. And when things were “good” I cried out of a joy and worry that it would end too soon. My youngest is now 14 and you’re right – it NEVER gets easier. I worry about my 24 year old because she’s a new mom and I have her daughter to worry about too. I worry about my 22 year old who can’t seem to hold his job and struggles with depression. I worry about my youngest as he enters high school and will be met with all kinds of new challenges. But I’m more confident in dealing with these issues because I’ve been in the trenches so long. The image of your son threatening pigeons with pee was hysterical and this post was so insightful. So glad I read it today!!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a beautiful comment! I am going to meander and visit your cyberplace ASAP, and I look forward to getting to know you. Any friend of Crazy…

  34. Yeah. It shifts slowly from purely physical caretaking to psychological. Diapers and crayons give way to kids who set the table and ask “what is dead”? Or better, “what is condom”?

  35. Pingback: Quote This: Bill Cosby on Fatherhood | Undogmatic Unschoolers

  36. Pingback: From Underneath a Pile of Poopy Diapers I Deliver Inspiration! | iamthemilk

  37. Pingback: Mine, but not mine: recognizing that our children do not belong to us | Nothing By The Book

  38. Pingback: Drama-trauma-shwama: the boys are just the same | Nothing By The Book

  39. Pingback: What defines you as a parent? | Nothing By The Book

  40. Pingback: Summer Rerun: They tell you, “It gets easier.” They lie | Nothing By The Book

  41. Pingback: Meditation for #writers, “Mom! I need you!” and struggling to stay on that tightrope | Nothing By The Book

  42. Pingback: “The child weaned from mother’s milk…” | Nothing By The Book

Made you think? Made you laugh? Made you scream? Tell me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s