Parenting by numbers
Wishing away tricky stages may mean missing out, too.

As much as you may have longed for a baby, you may be caught off guard by the difficult, challenging and sometimes deeply upsetting stages you encounter in parenting. Here are some figures to (hopefully!) provide perspective to your life as a parent and your relationship with a child:

Nine months

40 weeks of pregnancy can feel like a lifetime. Morning sickness, swollen ankles, heartburn and wardrobe disasters make it hard to focus on the goal: the baby who will, like it or not, pop into the world leaving your comfortable body behind. There’s even a good chance that you’ll be exactly like other parents and do it all again one day!

Nappies and night feeds

Babies are wonderful, but they don’t do much. Well, that’s not true, they cry louder and for longer than a flock of hadedas in mating season and they poop. A lot. Your little night owl will make sure that sleep and the parties you used to have with friends are but distant memories. It can feel like life is moving on for everyone else while you’re still attached by an invisible umbilical cord to your little one. For 52 weeks. One year. Remember how you commented at your last birthday that you can’t believe how time has flown? That’s how fast your baby grows.

Teething, tantrums and more

Some parents skip right through another year or 18 months of toddlerhood simply by closing their eyes and repeating the mantra “make it STOP”, referring to tantrums and teething. Teething: look it up on the internet and see that “teething” is a catch-all word designed to mean the root for all evil in small kids. It causes everything from full-blown flu to extreme personality disorders if you read friends’ Facebook posts. 18 months. The time it takes for a rolling, babbling baby to turn into a dungaree-wearing human repeating the word “NO” ad nauseam.

Pre-school permutations

Let’s skip to the pre-school years. Many of you have had cell phone contracts and gym memberships that have lasted longer than this period. Although it feels like you have to keep your kid entertained and it’s hard to find new places to go and things to do, if you look at the weekends alone, that’s only a maximum of 150 weekends. Take it from those of us who have been there: you’ll suddenly be saying “I can’t believe my baby is going to Big School.”

School sanity

School seems like an interminable stretch of pressure and growth, but even the worst bits can be broken up into manageable chunks: 12 PTA meetings, a handful of uncomfortable parent-pupil socials and even the exam periods have a finite number attached to them. Rather than fretting in the moment, enjoy watching your child and your child’s friends grow, stretch and develop into young adults.

Chances are your child will not be moving out on the day he or she turns eighteen (despite their threats to do so!) but let’s take eighteen as an end-of-childhood goal. Then you get to parent a more adult version of your child.

So congratulations: you have survived 926 weeks of a child. 6 500 days. Fewer than a thousand weekends together. Years you may look back on and regard as the best in your life, but the ones that flew by the fastest.

Ask any parent of an older child: the years of parenthood are accelerated; make the most of the times you have.

What has been your favourite stage of parenthood?

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