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Dear First-Time Parents, Don’t Let the Veterans Get You Down

laurenhartmannA few weeks after having my second child, I was hanging out with a friend — a seasoned parenting veteran with two of her own. I was venting to her about how overwhelmed I was feeling with this new balancing act of caring for two tiny humans. She responded with some typical parenting encouragement, and then proceeded to tell me something incredibly validating that I’ll always remember:

“One kid is a hobby. Two kids is a job.”

YES and AMEN! Of course this is why I was feeling so overwhelmed; of course two kids must be exponentially harder than one! After hearing this sentiment, I began to feel like one kid was such a walk in the park. Oh the things I would do with all that free time I had back in the single child days! I would never lord it over my single-child friends or comment about how much harder things were for me with two, but I definitely thought it a time or two. People with one kid? That’s a cake walk. But then this week I was reminded that the grass is always greener …

Some of our good friends just had their first little one and we are over the moon for them. We had been waiting excitedly to come and meet the new baby, so Friday night we popped by with dinner and some groceries for the first-time parents. We stayed for a little over a half an hour, but in that half hour, a flood of memories came rushing over me. I was transported back to those early days as a first-time parent and I remembered just how hard it really was. As I watched our friends trying to figure it out — doing a wonderful job, but still treading, unsure, through new territory — I was reminded of myself as a parenting novice without a clue what I was doing.

With my daughter, my first child, the learning curve was HUGE and I totally struggled. The sleepless nights, unexpected hormonal craziness, postpartum healing, learning to be less selfish, learning to co-parent with my husband, learning to breastfeed … it was intense. After spending that half hour with our friends, both my husband and I recoiled a bit at the rawness that still remained from those early first-timer days and agreed that we wouldn’t want to go back there. Give me the craziness of two kids over being a first-time parent any day of the week!

First time parents: what you’re going through it no joke. It is hard freaking work and don’t let anyone, with their “just you wait” commentary, tell you differently. Sure, there are plenty of logistical things that are more complicated about having two kids, but over time it gets easier … just like it will for you with your baby. And honestly, I actually think I probably get out of the house more quickly now with two kids than I ever did during my days with a single newborn when I had no clue what to pack and didn’t know how to time everything (i.e. feedings, diaper changes, etc.).

Subsequent babies may make life more challenging in certain ways, but they have one very important thing going for them and that is the fact that they are born to people who are already parents. I certainly don’t know everything there is to know about parenting, but I definitely know more than a good majority of rookie parents since I’ve already gone through it. This makes my life infinitely easier. Yes it’s still hard, but not any more difficult than it is for a first-time parent. It’s just different.

I think in the end, that’s what parenting comes down to. It’s all just a bunch of ebbs and flows. Every stage of child development has it’s pros and cons, it’s challenges and it’s silver linings. We’re all doing a hard job … whether we have one kid or 10 kids. So first time parents, don’t let those parenting veterans get you down. You’re doing great!

Image courtesy of Lauren Hartmann

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