At first, maternity leave was going pretty well for me. My second son, Simon, was born just four weeks ago, and I also have a three-year-old little boy named Henry. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I was hormonal. Yes, I was slightly irritated by the fact that my toddler was whining so much, but I had a great support system.
My husband and my mom, both teachers, were on summer break so when I needed a nap or a breath of fresh air it was only a phone call away. I had friends visiting to meet the baby and people bringing food over.
Then last week things changed. My husband and mom both went back to work. The baby wasn’t so new anymore and the visitors stopped coming by. It was also my birthday (33 years old!) and Henry’s first day of preschool. Plus, you know, having a newborn on top of it all.
I should have been excited right? A birthday and a milestone for my little man? Nope. The hormones were on high alert. Henry cried when I dropped him off at preschool. I had to pull the car over after I got out of the parking lot so I could cry. I picked him up later to find out he had an accident on his first day, which broke my heart.
I had to just sit on my couch let the tears flow. I sobbed almost all day long. I don’t know if it was because the baby was restless and didn’t want to sleep, or maybe it was because I felt guilty that Henry had an accident on his first day of school, or that I was just plain exhausted.
I let myself sit on the couch and cry into my third cup of coffee for probably four straight hours. I texted my mother-in-law and she offered to come get the baby. I said no at first. I needed to pull it together. But then I realized I needed a break. I needed rest. I needed to worry about me for a couple hours.
So as a birthday present to myself, I took a nap. And then I took a shower. Crazy how something that small made such a huge difference. I still didn’t feel like me—that will take a few more weeks—but I was no longer a hot, sobbing mess.
After I got some rest and washed my hair for the first time in who knows how long, I reminded myself that this stage won’t last forever. I had a bad day. And I will have more bad days. But there will be good days too. Hormones and babies and toddlers and birthdays that make you feel old will do crazy things to you.
So if you’re reading this on the couch on your phone at 3am while feeding your newborn, and you’re absolutely exhausted, just remember: It won’t be like this forever.
If you’re reading this while hiding in the bathroom from your toddler because they haven’t let you be alone for the last week and a half, just remember: It won’t be like this forever.
I know they say to treasure these times—that the days are long, but the years are short. Yes, sometimes the days are long. Really, really long. Because you haven’t gotten more than two hours of sleep. Because you don’t remember the last time you took an uninterrupted shower. Because parenting is exhausting and so much harder than I personally ever imagined.
It’s okay if you don’t treasure every single day with your little ones. Because being a parent isn’t easy, and sometimes your kids can drive you absolutely crazy. So walk away. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Let the baby cry for ten minutes so you can go in another room and take a breather. Go for a walk. Let your mom or neighbor or anyone who offers watch the kiddo for a couple hours. Have a good cry if you need it.
We devote our entire lives to our children. It’s okay to take a break. You deserve it. And just remember: It won’t be like this forever.