Pregnancy vs. Newborns vs. Toddlers: Which Parenting Season is Harder?
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Pregnancy vs. Newborns vs. Toddlers: Which Parenting Season is Harder?

Parenting comes with different parenting seasons. Each present their own challenges. But which is harder? Here's one mom's experience.

Updated April 19, 2024 Opinion

Becoming a new mom is daunting, and you may wonder what lies in store. There are many parenting seasons and many debates over which is the hardest. What may be the hardest for you may not be the hardest for someone else. There are definite differences between pregnancy exhaustion, newborn all-nighters, and toddler meltdowns. Add in another kid, and things will change again. Each new season is a new phase of life, and we work through it the best we can.

Pregnancy Exhaustion

Pregnancy exhaustion is the first parenting season of becoming a mom. When you first see that positive pregnancy test, you are excited and possibly scared. You may be completely freaked out, but you probably do not have that many pregnancy symptoms yet when you first take it. You may notice that your breasts are a bit achy. But once you hit week six or seven, nausea kicks in. I had a hard time dealing with being nauseated all the time for a few weeks. The severe food aversions I had were hard to deal with. I only wanted to eat a limited number of things during this time. And I just felt crummy all the time.

Thankfully, nausea lessens for most people by the second trimester. The second trimester is the magical time when you are no longer sick, not yet huge, and when you start to feel little baby kicks. During the third trimester, you are tired—a LOT. In my third trimester, I just went to bed earlier. It was easier the first time around because it was just my husband and me. I was exhausted but could sleep whenever I wanted.

When I was pregnant with my second, it was more challenging since I had a toddler to take care of. As you get bigger, it becomes harder to sleep, and you can only lie in certain positions. It can be tricky getting to sleep with the big belly and looming anxiety over when your baby will arrive.

Newborn All-Nighters

On the other hand, the newborn parenting season was more challenging the first time around but easier the second time for me. A significant factor was that I had a much harder labor and delivery the first time than the second. My recovery the first time around was longer, plus getting to know my newborn. I had torn badly, was on pain medication, and it took weeks for me to heal and feel like myself again. I was also extremely exhausted between breastfeeding and the segmented sleep.

Getting woken up every few hours with a newborn was something that my body had to get used to. It took a while. It was hard, and I felt like I was in a daze most of the time. I was also learning how to take care of a baby and breastfeed. So there was a big learning curve to deal with, too, since everything was new. Breastfeeding also makes you hungry all the time. I would often have a snack during the overnight breastfeeding sessions. The nice thing was that I only had one kid to focus on, and I could concentrate my energy there.

The second time around, I was used to getting woken up every few hours. So it was not as hard on my body to just continue in that same pattern. I also had an easier recovery and bounced back much quicker than with my first. I breastfed throughout most of my second pregnancy, so that came pretty naturally as well. The hardest part was finding enough time to devote to my firstborn. The second baby guilt with that is pretty heavy too, which makes that time even harder. I feel like I missed my firstborn transitioning from a toddler into a big kid since I was so busy with the new baby.

Toddler Meltdowns

As your newborn grows into a toddler, you are presented with an entirely new set of challenges. One of them is the toddler meltdown. Toddlers are a bundle of conflicting emotions that they cannot control. They can’t fully articulate what the problem is sometimes. They want what they want when they want it. You can’t always understand what that is or get it for them fast enough. With my first, I gave into her a lot. I was also pregnant with my second during this time, so my energy level was not optimal.

I have found the toddler meltdowns to be the most challenging parenting season because now they can talk back to you. They have their own thoughts and opinions—that can change instantly—and they aren’t afraid to share them. It is also hard to calm them down sometimes when they fly into a rage. Add in fighting with an older sibling, and parenting is harder than either pregnancy exhaustion or the newborn segmented sleep. That said, everyone is different. No matter what season of parenting you are in, it could be the hardest at this moment. Babies are constantly changing and growing, but you, as a mom, are too.

Which parenting season have you found to be the most challenging?

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  • Author

Kristen N. Winiarski spends much of her days battling her kids' hangry moods with bacon and Cookie Monster impressions. She also encourages dance parties as P.E. whenever possible. Kristen started… Read more

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