You’re not imagining it, toddlers are actually harder than newborns

Baby Tips

Never, in the history of time, has a newborn tried to put on their own socks, push their own stroller or buckle their own car seat. 

There’s a line of unsolicited advice—usually offered by smug parents of multiple kids who are a little too eager to share their hard-earned wisdom—guaranteed to make any new mom seethe: Cherish the newborn stage, because if you think this is hard, just wait until they’re older.

I remember some of my friends and family imparting these exact words of guidance as they cooed over my freshly-birthed firstborn. Meanwhile, I was leaking several bodily fluids into an adult diaper, had maybe slept three hours over the past two days, and I had just cried hot tears of frustration because I couldn’t figure out how to tie my Moby wrap. It was not what I wanted to hear. 

At the time, I couldn’t wait for the newborn phase to end. I counted the days until my son would turn three months old, because I’d heard that was when things might get easier. And, in some ways, they did. I no longer had to set a timer for all those relentless feedings, and we all got used to the rhythms of life at home with a baby. 

But when I had my second child three years later, I truly cherished those cuddly, hazy, exhausted newborn days. Why? Because I had now become one of those smug parents of multiple kids—and I knew they were right: If you think this is hard, wait until they’re toddlers.

Here are five reasons parents of newborns should cherish every moment (sorry!):

1. Newborns stay where you put them

Oh, how I long for the days where I could put my children down and still find them in the same spot a few minutes later. Sure, they might prefer to be held (day and night, even), but I could at least run to the bathroom, stir a pot, or blink without having to worry what kind of sketchy shit they were getting into.

Last week, I turned my back to close the dishwasher door, and when I turned back around my 22-month-old was halfway up a flight of stairs, one of his 27 toy trucks tucked under his arm, ready to escape or die trying. How did he get through the baby gate? I may never know. I don’t waste time on such pointless questions about my children, as I am too busy throwing my back out sprinting after them.

Newborns will even stay put right there on your body, thanks to babywearing! I once took my eldest to a formal wedding reception as an infant and wore him the entire dinner. These days I don’t think I’d trust either of my kids inside a McDonald’s.

2. Newborns don’t have opinions

Newborns really only have three hobbies: eating, sleeping, and pooping. And, yes, meeting those needs is genuinely exhausting.

But you know what I find even more exhausting? Playing Russian Roulette with sippy cups because I’m not sure if the blue one will appease or infuriate my child. My toddler whipping his plate of pasta at the floor because I dared to add a green vegetable to it. Having to wrestle him like an alligator to change his diaper because he’d rather be playing. Or watching my niece, who is two, smack her mom in the face because she doesn’t want to wear snow pants.

Newborns are vocal, too, but usually a boob or a bottle, plus a cuddle, will sort them out. Toddlers have opinions. And they will make them known. 

3. Newborns don’t want to do things themselves

Remember being on time, or at least only fashionably late? I don’t, because I now have a toddler and a five year old who can do everything themselves, thankyouverymuch. 

A newborn is helpless, defenceless, and tiny—and that can be terrifying as a new parent. But it also makes it a lot easier to get from point A to point B. Never, in the history of time, has a newborn tried to put on their own socks, push their own stroller, or buckle their own car seat. 

And don’t get me started on the destruction to my house. Why is my couch covered in colourful splotches? Because my toddler can put the lids on the markers himself. Why is my floor sticky? Because my five year old can pour his own milk. Why is there a dirty diaper in the middle of the hallway? 

I… actually don’t want to know. 

4. Newborns are a great reason to accomplish nothing

In Canada, we’re very lucky. There’s a certain grace period when you have a newborn where little else is expected of you other than keeping the baby alive. It’s hard, exhausting work, and the all-consuming responsibility can feel so overwhelming that sometimes you wonder how you can possibly do it.

God, I miss those days.

Right after my babies were born I wasn’t expected to go back to work, or clean the house, or even bathe or get dressed. I barely left the house. Even when my second child was born, I was lucky enough to have my partner and my parents help me out with my eldest son so I could take care of the baby. 

I lived in a housecoat and a nursing tank, we ate takeout and pre-made meals, and I nestled into the couch with the baby on my boob, plus the TV remote and my phone charger, and barely moved for weeks, except to change both our diapers.

Nowadays, even if I tried to sit down for a few minutes during the day which I can’t, I don’t have the faintest idea where the remote is. Probably stashed in a rubber boot somewhere.

5. Newborns don’t stay newborns for long

Taking care of a newborn really is incredibly exhausting and hard work. But as someone who has been through it twice and come out (mostly) unscathed, I can assure you that every difficult phase eventually comes to an end.

As newborns get used to life on the outside, the stretches between their feedings get longer. Their reflux (usually) sorts itself out. Sleep becomes more predictable. Colic eventually dissipates. That funky cradle cap will go away. Your sore, battered body will start to heal.

And having that perspective with my second child made those newborn cuddles seem even more precious. I didn’t feel as much despair over the sleepless nights because I knew they wouldn’t last. We’d do skin-to-skin at 2 a.m. by the glow of the TV, and I’d listen to his snuffly little breaths and stroke his tufts of hair, and I really would cherish the moment.

Because before you know it, they’re toddlers, and you’re taking a blue sippy cup to the head.

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