Week 7

does the mental load change as our kids get older?

Ah...16 year olds: You never see them yet somehow they take up so much mental space!

 

My experience has been that the older Jack gets the harder it is for me!

 

Ayla only just turned 3. Despite the tantrums etc that come with the age, I am finding things easier now than when she was really little. I feel really bad admitting this but I wasn't a fan of the baby stage so had to work hard to actually be engaged. I am under no illusions though that I will probably have my work cut out for me as she gets older. She's displaying a number of my traits ;-)

                            

- thanks. I think as a general expectation it is assumed that you will just LOVE the real little baby stage. I didn't hate it but I certainly prefer being able to speak with her and play and interact.

- I am the same. I can never quite relate when people talk about their baby ‘growing up too fast’. I LOVE seeing my kids grow up and become more like their own people. I don’t ever feel nostalgic for earlier stages. That said, I guess I’m still in the early days of parenting and it might change as they get older!

 

- I don't and never did get clucky. I'd happily hold a bub for a friend or play with them but no overwhelming need/want to have one of my own. In fact, up until about 5 years ago (and 14yrs together) it wasn't even something that we were going to do. The conversation went "oh we are 38, maybe we should have this convo just one last time". Decided we would try, give it 12mths and well Ayla! We wouldn't be without her but it used to really piss me off when people would do the whole 'oh lookout you are getting clucky' if I simply paid attention to a baby. Anyway whole other rant there ref pressure to have kids.

- I can't wait till she can wipe her own butt! We are still at the funny but awkward stage where she openly announces that she has done wee and poo to anyone in hearing range

 

 I don’t know if the load has lessened or just changed and because I get more sleep now it seems more manageable. My kids are 4 and 2 and mostly at home, but I much prefer this to the baby/toddler juggle. I think I’m some ways there is less stress with subsequent children because I personally don’t worry about half the stuff with number 2 that worried me with number 1. I think the first time around I was forever trying to change things and come up with a magic bullet strategy but this time around I know that some stages of development suck but it’s all temporary. I wonder do other people’s first children also occupy the most mental space because every new stage is uncharted territory?

 

Just today mum found a bag full of my three kids' little clothes and I instinctively started mourning their youth. I wished they were little again because they were so protected by me and so dependant. Now they're all teens and need me so much less in ways...but more mentally and spiritually. Dunno. Teens are complex. But great too.

 

Wow!! In my lived experience there have been SO many factors involved in answering this one. 
Single parentwise the mental load is huge, from physically providing all a child needs, to, particularly for me, the emotional weight of sole responsibility for and experience of a child. Then raising the next child seperated from their other parent and the whammys involved in negotiating that!! Whereas Raising children with a partner has bought seperate issues for me. Particularly issues around different parenting, and the classic meaning of ‘the mental load’ where partner doesn’t share this equally. But at the same time offers far more space for me to work on developing a life outside parenting. Vital I believe in giving balance to mental load. 


Individually (each child) through the different ages, the load ebbs and flows, concerns change constantly for better or worse, as others have suggested. Then, having multiple children, I could say the load can become less as parental maturity develops and learn from past what is worth focus/mental anguish, and what is not.... However each have vastly different personalities/needs .. and its back to square 1 learning who they are, and what they need.. Then throw in lifes turmoils ie. death of first childs father in his teenage years before they ever met, (feeling the gravity of that for him) - step children and mixed family dynamics, pregnancy and postnatal years, study, work, moving houses and schools and the balancing act... Cyclonic. No clear answer 🥴 except that the mental load hasn’t stopped - evolved, changed, refocused yes- but still heavy and compounded and years to go yet!

 

My little one is 18 months old, and spent the start of her life in NICU (she was 9 weeks prem). I found one of the biggest shifts that happened to my mental load was when she came home, and when her medical interventions ceased (eg getting her nasogastric tube out). 
In the early months, my mental load was entirely about ‘how do I keep this little person alive and growing well’. My brain was full of growth charts and feeding schedules and top-up calculations. My body was pumped full of adrenaline and primed for a three-hourly cycle of feeding, pumping and topping up followed by cleaning equipment, while monitoring respiratory rates and noticing the smallest fluctuations in her temperature or breathing. 
Then one day she finally got big enough to feed by herself, and her tube came out. And I saw her in this entirely new way, where I realized “she’s just a regular baby, albeit a really small one who had a rough start”. The weight that lifted that day was enormous.

 

Work, wellbeing, worries, shifts in ownership and collective ownership and parenthood for the entire adult family members kids or not.
Time relative though I can’t get enough… spending time with the grandkids.
The journey for our children has become more precious, more wonderful since the arrival of their own. The cycle of life when opportunities present ... grab it no matter what. Never make excuses. Rejoice.

 

At 2.5 and I think it's so much easier now he can communicate at least basically. I am feeling more confident about meeting his needs and being able to explain what's happening and less anxious about his fragility. It's a different engagement and I enjoy the challenging parts more. 
I too found the baby stage quite hard, totally sleep deprived until about 2 years so that doesn't help the brain or soul! At least I have a bit of mental space up there now to even be able to write into these sort of forums! And an hour TV at night is absolute bliss after 2 years of bedroom darkness times! 
I think the main thing is I feel more able to find space for a minimum level of self care that keeps me in check too. I found that impossible with a non sleeping, bf baby. While I've accepted it's much less than pre children, the has to be some personal space to nurture yourself too so you can deal with the challenges as im sure will keep arising! 
Im only early days though I know. 😊