An Inconvenient Truth (of Parenthood)

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When does parenthood get easier? This mom discovered a somewhat inconvenient truth when her youngest child turned 4: Age 4 seems to be the magic number.

I was putting my newly 4-year-old to bed last night and all of a sudden it hit me. Once she is down, I snuggle up with the older girls, read, tuck them in, and then I have time. Like, for myself.

When did this happen? Apparently, very quickly over the last eight years.

Just four years ago, Josie was a newborn, Maddie was 2, and Izzy 4. When the older two were finally in bed, the tiny tike took up my entire night. And even after she was sleep trained at a ripe old age of 9 weeks, I had to stay up doing all the things I couldn’t do during the day because of suicide watch, the inability to glance at a gnat because in that moment your child will trip and fall and stab the spoon they were holding into their palate (if you are a mom, you’ve thought it—or at least I hope you have so I am not the only crazy, overly anxious mother out there).

Two years ago, after Maddie turned 4, things got noticeably easier. One less child with tantrums. She could follow instructions reliably. She entertained herself for chunks of time long enough to prepare a meal.  She was…on autopilot. And now, Josie, and again it seems things are exponentially easier.

It brought me to really think about all changes we have gone through to get to this sweet spot. How much sacrifice and help was needed. And looking back, I can tell you the truth: If you have a child under 4, or multiple under 4, life is hard and will not get easier until they are 4.

Interestingly, even from an evolutionary psychology standpoint, divorce rates tend to peak at about 4 years old. The theory is that by this age, the father is no longer needed for the child’s survival. That is how easy it is! (Insert hysterical laughter here, as no matter what age your child, we know it can never, ever, truly be easy—go back to the paragraph about stabbing the spoon into the palate and other such worries).

I read all the advice books, talked to my girlfriends, cried with my girlfriends, talked to them some more, looked to other mothers and perhaps, it feels this way because now I’m “an expert” at being “mom” (insert more hysterical laughter here, at the idea of being an expert mom).

But I don’t think so. You can read all those books, too, and I hope they help you somewhat and most of all, help you cope, like they did for me. What will really help, I think, is knowing that when your youngest child turns 4, things really will be different, better, less stressful, less chaotic, more predictable, easy-flowing, relaxing. It is an inconvenient truth but a truth nonetheless.

So hang in there. It’s coming no matter what. It will be there soon, and then of course, it is very bittersweet.

When does parenthood get easier? This mom discovered a somewhat inconvenient truth when her youngest had a birthday: Age 4 seems to be the magic number.

Anna Reed

Juggling motherhood to three beautiful, hilarious, and genius girls, wife to the absent-minded professor, and pediatrician to lots of cute kids. You can also find me on www.thenewsuperwomen.com.

8 Comments

  1. I really needed to hear this today as a mother of two year old. Thanks.

    • Me too! almost 2 and a half, and still waking up multiple times a night… fingers crossed it DOES get easier. 🙂

    • 2 is definitely hard! 3 is hard too, in a different way. I feel like those ages are hard because you’re throwing so much at them. Start potty training, move to a big kids bed (but we want you to act like a grown up and know to stay in bed all night), possibly a sibling, etc. It’s so easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with the kid, but every once in a while i feel the perspective peek through to remember how much they are going through!

  2. OK, I’m feeling a little jelly here. My almost 5-year-old boy is still giving me quite a run for my money! Maybe the magical turning 5 thing will make it all better soon 😉

    • Also have an almost 5 year old son, and I am seeing glimpses of what is to come. My daughter’s magic age was 4. I know it will come…all about patience 🙂

  3. I totally agree with this! I have an almost eight year-old, a freshly-turned 4 year-old, and a newborn (who happened to be born on the same day my was-youngest turned 4…yes, I’m that good…or bad?). There’s a reason my kids are all roughly four years apart. It’s…nice. 🙂

  4. yes i have a 2 year old boy. last night i had to clean up a baby powder explosion..drive around the neighborhood looking for “blanky” and then rock him back to sleep after a scary dream. and I thought that 2 was easier than 1! I can’t wait for 4!

  5. I was just thinking recently about how my 4 year old seems to be getting easier by the day – for the most part. Of course, he’s my oldest, so we have a ways to go, but the last 4 years have flown by, and somehow, knowing that someday it will get easier, someday I’ll have some time to myself that doesn’t have to take place at 1am makes it easier, and hopefully will help me to stop waiting for the future and just relax and enjoy the time now!

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