American mothers get a raw deal post-birth. These countries show it doesn’t have to be that way.
The sound of my youngest son’s wailing filled the air. It was a meltdown of epic proportions. As his screeches pierced my ears and my eyes rested on his angry face, a thought flashed into my mind: I wonder if I will ever reach a sweet spot in parenting.
I like to imagine that somewhere in my future is a magical age where the daily demands of parenting lessen and I will finally have it (mostly) all figured out. It seems I have been waiting for and wishing for this “easy” time since the first few weeks of motherhood.
When my oldest was a newborn and I was fumbling my way through sleep-deprivation, I just knew as soon as he started sleeping through the night, then motherhood would be so much easier.
When he finally did master sleeping longer stretches, he figured out how to roll over. He would roll one way and get stuck. I would flip him back, and he would be good for about five minutes and then get stuck again. I just knew as soon as he was able to roll back over the other way, then motherhood would be so much easier.
After months of nursing, and then pumping, and then bottle-feeding, I just knew that once he was eating solid foods, motherhood would be so much easier because he would sleep better, and I wouldn’t have the enormous mountain of pump parts and bottles to clean each night.
Then he started to eat solid foods, and meal times were so messy and I quickly grew tired of constantly cleaning his highchair and the floor and the wall. I just knew once he could eat on his own, then motherhood would be so much easier.
I carried him everywhere because he couldn’t yet crawl, and my arms and back would ache. I just knew that once he could crawl motherhood would be so much easier.
And then he did start to crawl, and suddenly nothing was off-limits. I just knew once he was older and I wouldn’t have to worry about him falling down the stairs or jamming a toy into a light socket, then motherhood would be so much easier.
Then he started to walk, then run, and I worried about him running away from me in the store, running into a parking lot, or tripping on his wobbly legs and doing a faceplant into the sidewalk. I just knew that when he was older and better able to listen and communicate, motherhood would be so much easier.
Then he started to talk and protest, and have very strong opinions about everything and the meltdowns began. I just knew as soon as we were done with this age, motherhood would be so much easier.
As my sons have grown, each stage has brought new joys, but also new challenges. Some aspects of parenting have become easier, and others have become harder.
So does this parenting “sweet spot” I have conjured up in my mind even exist?
Do I just have to be patient and it will arrive one day out of the blue when my sons reach a certain age or I gain the perfect amount of parenting wisdom?
I kept thinking about this as my son calmed down and pressed his tired little body into my own. I gazed down onto his tear-streaked cheeks. I brushed the wispy strands of his hair with my fingertips. I paused at that moment to really soak him up as he cuddled on my lap. I let the tension of the previous minutes fade away.
And a new thought entered my mind. “I’m already in a sweet spot, right here and now. I don’t need to wait for one.”
Parenthood will probably never be “easy.” But it is pretty sweet, nonetheless.
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