Am I Ruining Our Good Parenting Streak by Having Another Baby?

Image Source: Heather Neal
Image Source: Heather Neal

Never did I think I’d be sitting here at the end of a childcare-free summer, telling you that my 3-and-a-half-year-old rambunctious boy is, knock on wood, easy.

He’s completely chill, easy going, adaptable, and entertaining. He may only be 3, but he’s truly my little sidekick and not only keeps me company, but has me laughing and amused all day long.

Lest you think I’m totally psycho, I’ll admit from the start that we do have our fair share of “threenage” moments — rebellion, defiance, tantrums, sleep issues, and food battles — but for me, that’s nothing compared to our struggles in his earlier years.

Our days now can be pretty much anything we want them to be. We can go on an adventure or stay home and play. We don’t need to follow a strict routine to prevent utter chaos from occurring, and if bedtime is off by 10 minutes, the world doesn’t collapse.

Daily tasks are no longer something I struggle to get done while also caring for my son; they’re things we can accomplish together. We take turns vacuuming and sweeping, and he thinks it’s hilarious. Even better, more often than not, he doesn’t make a bigger mess than when we started. He knows not only how to carry his dishes to the sink, but on occasion he’ll actually wash them without being asked. (Seriously — I had to take photographic evidence of this for my husband to believe it.)

He’s old enough to entertain himself playing in the driveway while I unload groceries without me fearing every second that he’ll run into the street, and on some days he thinks helping bring the groceries inside is the best game I’ve come up with all week. I can trust him to stay with me in a store instead of protesting being in a cart, which makes errands all the more simple.

After years of succumbing to a baby’s delicate schedule, my husband and I have somewhat of a social life back. The best part is that it can include our son. We don’t have to choose an activity over spending time with our kid; there are now plenty of activities that entertain us all. Baseball games and boat rides, farmers markets and fairs. We don’t have to worry about squeezing things in between naps and feedings, or being away from the house for too long. We don’t have to leave activities early for fear he’ll fall asleep on the drive home and ruin bedtime for the night. I’m not constantly juggling a thousand things while holding an attached baby in my arms, and we’re not endlessly swapping childcare duty for chores — he can do them with us.

For the first time in almost four years, my son thinks playing by himself for a few minutes is fun. I’d heard rumors of such a phenomenon, but independent play wasn’t something that ever happened in our household until now. And while I love playing alongside my son, it’s amazing what five minutes of entertaining himself can do for my sanity and productivity. I’m not stressed, rundown, or exhausted at the end of every day. Instead, I’m ready for him to wake up all over again and don’t even mind when that’s at 3 AM to crawl into bed with me. There are more smiles than tears, more play than reprimand. More fun and less desire to just catch a break.

So here we are in this great place: parenting is more fun than stressful, more play than work. I fear actually admitting it, but most of the time, it’s pretty easy. And I’m about to ruin it all this winter (read: have another baby).

We’ll be going back to the days where it takes two hours to get a baby to sleep, where our schedules revolve around three-hour feeding windows and we’re slaves to nap time. Where we can only run one errand at a time and we need eight extra arms. Back to the days of potential debilitating sleep deprivation and the constant need to give attention and assistance. And while I knowingly signed up to return to this stage of our lives, now that my son has grown so fun and independent, I fear we’ll regret it. I fear we’ll miss out on this wonderful sweet spot with my son, for surely it too will pass and morph into something else. I fear parenting will once again feel like work, a job, a duty, instead of a gift, a joy, a time of beauty.

But while I desperately fear this, I also know that we’ve gotten through every phase thus far, and this is something too that we’ll learn to handle. We’ll adapt and adjust, persevere, and eventually, when we get enough sleep — enjoy it all over again.

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