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The First Year Is Not the Hardest

“The first year is the hardest.”

I sit here writing this post five years into parenting. This is my take. The first year is not the hardest. Not even a little. It’s the easiest, by a landslide. Maybe I’m just lucky, and my kids were unusually easy babies. Or maybe I’ve conveniently blocked out each of those first years and am remembering them through rose-colored glasses. Either way, I am thoroughly convinced that, “The first year is the hardest,” is just a platitude. What people really should be saying is, “Just wait…this is just the beginning.”

No part of parenting is easy.

Yes, the first year is full of hard parts – sleepless nights, feeding struggles, days of fussiness and inconsolable cries. But the first year is also full of snuggles, naps, stroller walks, and errands with a snuggly baby nestled up against you in a carrier.

The real meat of parenting, the part that really test your chops, comes later. Kids stop napping and want to be on top of you 24/7. They whine, a lot. They have epic tantrums and meltdowns over seemingly nothing. When you need to get things done, mommy guilt weighs you down. They ask questions, many of which you don’t know how to answer. If they aren’t asking questions, they’re talking, and you’re obliged to respond, even if you’re desperate for quiet. They start school and begin learning about friends, and it’s your job to teach them how to treat everyone with kindness. They cry when their feelings are hurt or when they miss a relative, and you have to comfort them even if you don’t know what to say.

Half of the time, I don’t know what I am doing.

During the first year, you are celebrating the firsts – first tooth, first solid food, first step, first birthday. As I sit here writing this, my first child’s last year of preschool has come to a close. I found myself crying in the car as we drove away on that last day. As they grow older, along with firsts, are more and more lasts. And the hardest part is being at peace with these ever-increasing lasts.

Raising tiny humans is hard. Keeping them fed, bathed, clothed, and loved – that’s the easy part. Teaching them to be kind, to be empathetic, to work hard, to ask hard questions, to be confident and strong, to march to the beat of their own drummer, and for us as parents to be at peace with the fact that each day our children grow bigger and will one day not need us so much – these are the hard parts. 

Were your children’s first years the hardest?

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6 Responses to The First Year Is Not the Hardest

  1. Avatar
    M June 16, 2018 at 8:15 AM #

    MY baby years were the hardest. I love age 4 and up. To me they are much easier and so much mord fun. I try to encourage parents with miserable babies that it gets easier!! The elementary years totally rock.

    • Hilary
      Hilary June 20, 2018 at 4:44 PM #

      Thanks for the comment! I fully admit that this post is colored by my personal experience with my kids (especially my first, who was a unicorn baby and is now becoming very challenging kid). My second was not an easy baby, but he’s not an easy toddler either, so I definitely feel like my time now is harder than my time back when they were both teeny. I suppose it all depends on the cards you’re dealt (and none of it is “easy”).

  2. Avatar
    Kim June 20, 2018 at 1:05 AM #

    By far, the first year was the hardest. It just depends on the baby. I got a baby who never snuggled, hated the carrier and rarely smiled in addition to all the usual hard stuff.

    • Hilary
      Hilary June 20, 2018 at 4:46 PM #

      Kim, I totally agree that this post is colored by my personal experience. We are definitely in a behavior rough patch at the moment, and I am missing my snuggly babies. I also don’t think it helped that my first child was the easiest baby on the planet. Each year has been harder for us, and we’re waiting for things to level out (if they ever do…). Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    Gabby June 22, 2018 at 10:35 AM #

    It was so hard for me. Colic, struggling to keep weight on him, figuring out food allergies, my undiagnosed PPA. He has never been an easy kid, but I don’t have to hold him 24/7 anymore, he never let me wear him either. I think it’s way easier now at almost 3, because at least now I can get good sleep as long as he’s not sick and he even plays by himself for a few minutes at a time! He potty trained at 2.5 and can get his own snacks and water from the fridge now lol. Oh and he falls asleep on his own and stays asleep, which took almost 3 years to get to that milestone!

  4. Avatar
    Becky S July 7, 2018 at 3:34 PM #

    The first year was without a doubt the hardest for us for both our children. It doesn’t even come close! Our kids are 8 and 6 now, and we would have had a larger family if babies weren’t so difficult for us. We felt our sanity and/or marriage wouldn’t be able to survive another baby. Things get better around 15 or 16 months old, but they’re honestly a kind of living hell before that.

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