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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carolyn Hax: With kids, it gets better

Washington Post

Hi, Carolyn: Mom of two kids here (4 and 10 months). What do I say to people who tell me that as the kids grow it gets worse? I’m already sleep-deprived, zero social life, zero personal time, barely time to shower and keep everyone fed and happy. How come it gets worse?!

I battled mild postpartum depression and it was awful (fortunately short). Every time I hear, “Oh, wait until X age!,” I panic. There are very few people who give me words of encouragement on how it will be better.

For what it’s worth: I’m happily married with someone who shares all, including every task short of breastfeeding. Does it get much worse than this? Like, how much worse? How are people not committing suicide en masse? – Way Out?

Well, your people are wrong. And for the simple reason that they’re using one blanket prediction for deeply personal events. Though apparently you all share a gift for dark hyperbole.

It does get better, way better, Andy-Dufresne-in-the-rain better. It improves gradually in ways you barely notice – can anyone pinpoint the very last time they had to try to eat dinner using one arm while the other bounced a squirming kid? – and next thing you know, bam, the only time you’re in a public restroom is when you actually have to go.

What your people have against X age, I struggle to imagine. The little years are cute, yes, and they’re a slideshow of tiny miracles as you re-see the world through their eyes. And some parents are geniuses at handling these stages. But it’s OK to believe there’s just so much charm in dealing with someone continually poised to go to war over whether to put on shoes.

I’d add, “Just my opinion, of course,” but apparently it’s your opinion, too. And the opinion of plenty of other people who aren’t evil, deluded or nuts. There is some truth to the saying, “Small kids, small problems; big kids, big problems” – but I’d also argue that being worn to a nub by little ones’ unrelenting needs is a big problem built out of small ones.

Fortunately, you’re you and it’s your kid and you get to argue whatever you want. I think you’ll find most parents (and others who spend a lot of time with children) have an age they enjoy being around the most, and it’s a good thing, because the baby people and toddler people are lifelines to the teenager people, and vice versa. You’re better with 7-, 11-, 15-year-olds? Certainly no shame in that.

So, what do you say to the baby people who regard your predicament as life’s pinnacle? A sardonic “thanks” would not be inappropriate, because who on our loving earth says to a strung-out parent that the heavy stuff hasn’t come down yet.

However, it might help you to be a little more life-affirming in your smackdowns, to prime yourself for optimism: “Huh – I like my kids better the more they can say and do,” or whatever you’re looking forward to. It always sounds best when it’s true.

You didn’t ask for this, but one more thing: Don’t be a hero. When you feel this burned out, call in reinforcements and take some time for yourself. A little can accomplish a lot.

Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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