When Parenting Toddlers Feels Like a Lot

As a stay-at-home mom of two young toddlers, if I’ve heard the refrain “Oh, you’re busy!” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It typically comes from parents of older children or empty-nesters who have navigated the toddler years and come out on the other side—for better or for worse!

Most of the time, that sentiment confuses me. My kids are so great and while I’m definitely busier than I have ever been, I also don’t know any different. I barely remember what my life was like before this stage, and I don’t miss my life before my kids came along. I do laugh at my former self—she thought she was busy, but she was assuredly not.

There are days, however, where parenting two toddlers feels like…well, it just feels like a lot. When more seasoned parents tell me I’m busy, I understand. This stage is very hands on—physically, mentally, emotionally. I often find myself thinking that I don’t know how parents of more than two children do it.

On days where I feel at the end of myself, it’s helpful to remember things that keep my perspective in check and joy intact. Some of these things are broad truths, and some are specific and random instances that I’m sure were the Lord reminding me of how blessed I am.

  1. Listening to parents of older kids. Whether actively talking with these parents or passively overhearing conversations between them, it is so helpful to listen to those who have been through the toddler stage. It reminds me that this season is temporary, but it also helps me appreciate the simplicity that is parenting toddlers. When I hear parents of older kids talk about juggling their teenagers’ schedules and the challenges their kids face, I am grateful that we’re still in a season where my kids just go where I go, where a simple kiss mends a boo boo, and where their biggest problem is having to share their toys.

  2. The advice of empty-nesters. If I’ve heard “you’re busy” a thousand times, I’ve heard “Enjoy them” at least as much. This advice usually comes from empty-nesters, whose kids are grown and out of the house. It’s said in the manner only a seasoned parent could, in that wistful and nostalgic way of someone in their last chapter of life.

  3. Recognizing that everything is a season. I’ve only been a parent for three years, but the changes my kids have gone through in this short time is dizzying to think about. I barely remember them as newborns. So, on days when I am frustrated or overwhelmed with the toddler stage, it is helpful to remember that (Lord willing) tomorrow they will be in elementary school, that next week they will be in college, that next year they will be adults. This reminds me to be present and to enjoy them now.

  4. Random interactions with strangers. I have had some interactions with strangers at the grocery store recently that have made an impact on how I think about this season of parenting. Of course, I don’t actually believe these are random as much as a gift of grace from the Lord, gently reminding me of the joy of this season.

    There is the older gentleman who works at Walmart, collecting shopping carts from the parking lot. I don’t think he recognizes us but every time I see him, he is so thrilled to see me with my kids and says “Oh what a blessing they are” every time. Yes, sir, they are. Thank you for reminding me.

    There was the other gentleman who went by us in an aisle and made a dad-joke crack about my kids, “Excuse me, there is something moving in your cart.” Playing along, I joked about checking the return policy on them. It was not stand-up comedy material by any stretch, but the man laughed and then responded “You know you wouldn’t take a billion dollars for them.” I agreed, but as I walked away, the impact of his last statement got to me. Though the conversation was a bit silly, I was thankful to be reminded that I truly would not trade one single thing for my kids. Given any alternative, I would choose them every time.

  5. Looking at pictures of them. Yes, I am that mom that looks forward to my kids falling asleep at the end of the day, then spends that time looking at pictures of them. I’m still deciding if that’s creepy or not. But looking at pictures of them reminds me of how much I love and enjoy them, especially on days that have felt more challenging.

  6. Getting to see the world through their eyes. One of the most fascinating things about becoming a mom has been observing a new human experience everything for the first time. My son recently saw for the first time the underside of a flight of stairs and was amazed. To watch the wonder in their eyes over the most mundane things has been such a gift.

  7. Random things around my house. There are times I get frustrated because my kids are constantly undoing any work I do to keep my house in order. But a while ago, my mom said something that has stuck with me. We were visiting their house and the toys she has there for my kids were strewn about her living room. She said “my house is happy again.” And it struck me that I get to live in that kind of happy house right now. It’s loud and messy. It’s not always clean, but there will come a time that it’s clean and I will wish for it to be filled with toys again. So when I find stickers stuck on my bed, a ball in my closet, books thrown under the couch; when I trip over a tricycle or step on a block I can respond with gratitude for the precious little people who make the mess.

  8. The holiday season with them. My kids are at the age where this holiday season has felt like pure magic with them. They are old enough to be aware of the celebrations that surround the holidays and yet everything is still so new to them. This has been the most fun holiday season we have ever experienced because we are getting to experience it through the wonder of our children.

At the end of the day, it’s not the toddler stage that’s hard as much as it’s a problem with my perspective. When I make the effort to shift my persepective, I remember that there are countless ways the Lord has blessed us through our children. It’s then that the toddler stage becomes easy, fleeting, and joyful. What a privilege it is to raise little humans. They are truly a gift and I can’t believe I get to be their mom.

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash