Changing the size of your family is hard. But there’s a lot of debate amongst parents about which transition is the hardest. Is it harder to go from one child to two children? Or two to three? Or (god bless you) three to four? No doubt the amount of work you do triples with each additional child and the amount of sleep you get decreases, but having your second, third or fourth child might not be the hardest to adapt to.
In my work teaching child development and enrichment classes for families and in parenting my two children, I think I’ve realized that for many families, the hardest transition of all (not including parenting multiples, divorce/single parenting or parenting children with special needs) is from going from having no children to ONE.
Your ENTIRE world changes over night. Single or coupled, you are used to looking out for number one. Your needs were as important as your partner’s/family’s. You decided what you did based on what worked for YOU. Even the basics of when you ate, slept and peed were in your control and no one else’s, but now your needs are no longer at the top of the to do list.
Building your career has probably been your priority for the past decade or two. You put time and thought into your appearance. You had excellent hygiene and felt tired after getting only 7 hours of sleep as opposed to your usual 8-9. On weekends, you slept in, drank your coffee hot, took the dog for a walk, organized a little and then met friends for drinks around 2:00. You stayed up late because there was nothing that was going to wake you up before 8am.
When you go from this life to suddenly being responsible for another human being’s life, nourishment, sleep, happiness, entertainment, safety, education and health - to me, this was the hardest change. Of course it’s amazing, and while I think the change going from innocently selfish to completely selfless is ultimately good for our souls and enriches us beyond our wildest dreams, it is hard, exhausting, and often thankless.
So new parents, I want you to know that it’s normal to mourn your old, childless life. Don’t compare your situation to others who “have it harder” because this is one of the biggest life changes you have gone through. If you’re struggling, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child with all your heart - it’s actually proof that you do because you have changed everything for this little one. And it doesn’t mean you will always feel like this. It just means that your entire life has changed in the time it took to bring your first child into the world and now you have to carve out time (and accept help) in order to take care of yourself. And please hear me, moms and dads, when I say - you’re doing great ️