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22nd Dec 2022

Can we stop frightening new parents about the next stages please?

Laura Cunningham


Please don’t warn us, we’re well aware.

There’s a TikTok trend doing the rounds of the cutest videos of these adorable newborns, doing nothing more than being exactly that.

The captions always read “when they tell you the newborn phase is the hardest”.

The music then changes from a sweet lullaby to some heavy metal and we’re hit with a montage of the toddler stage; bowls of cereal over their heads, pulling over televisions, running at top speed towards certain danger and the likes.

My son is now 14-months-old, so I know all about it. The difficulties of the newborn phase are a distant memory, replaced with heart-racing chases to get to him on time before he flings himself off something, pulls something down on top of himself, yanks a cat’s tail or ingests something he shouldn’t.

I’m tired.

childhood stage

Am I more tired than I was when he was a few weeks old? Definitely not. But only in the basic sense of the word. I’m getting more sleep, sure. But every waking hour is now spent on edge, waiting for something catastrophic to happen. It’s a whole new genre of exhaustion. Maybe I’ll write a book called 100 Varied Ways To Feel Tired and Other Things They Don’t Tell You About Parenting.

The thing is, they do tell you. And they seem to love doing it.

Since Ziggy was born I’ve been met with comments, both online and IRL, about how I should enjoy this phase because “it’s all ahead” of me. It’s unhelpful in so very many ways. (The follow-up to the first book will be entitled 100 Ways To Be Very Unhelpful)

Like most of the stupid things people say, there’s probably no harm meant. People, in general, are just trying to emphathise with you and speaking about their own struggles is their way of doing that. That said, here’s why they shouldn’t:

Because the current situation is hard enough, thanks Susan

By telling a parent they ain’t seen nothing yet, you’re implying that their current struggles aren’t worth complaining about. When you tell me this is a ‘walk in the park’ compared to what’s coming next, know that I’m feeling two things.

First, I’m scared. Thanks for that.

Second, I’m now worried that I’m not cut out for this, if I can’t even handle this seemingly ‘easy’ toddler stage.

Because it might not happen

Raising any child is hard work, but they’re all so, so different. Mine eats rings around himself and smiles from morning until night, but he might be an absolute pain in the arse when he’s a teenager. Others fling perfectly good dinners across kitchens, but they might be dream students at school.

Allow us to hope for the best and cross various bridges if and when we come to them.

Because, shh!

In general, just… don’t? I can’t think of a single good reason to scaremonger. It’s not like any of it will take us by surprise. We’ve heard all about the terrible twos, we know they’ll hate us when they’re 12 for approximately a decade, and we’re not expecting them to start cleaning up after themselves any time soon.

You don’t have to warn us. We know.

Just so you know, it doesn’t help when you say “just wait, it will get worse when they reach this stage.”
You are basically dismissing their struggles AND telling them thing will only get worse.
That’s an asshole move. Don’t be an asshole.

— Scary Mommy (@ScaryMommy) August 9, 2021

None of this is to suggest that you can’t bemoan your current struggles in front of a parent who happens to be a few steps behind. In fact, what I’m saying is the exact opposite of that. Sometimes, you have to let it out, and another parent friend is the only one who’ll really get it. Or who we’d bore with it, let’s be honest.

Let’s park the one-upmanship and just be there for each other with the solidarity that only parent pals can provide.

We’ve got this.