What’s Harder: Raising a Toddler or a Teenager?

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toddler or teenager - Boston Moms

I remember walking into a Starbucks, clumsily wearing my 3-week-old baby in my baby Bjorn. I was so exhausted and irritable from weeks of no sleep, and I had one mission and one only. Get the damn coffee, STAT!

While paying for my coffee at the checkout, I overheard two moms chatting about who had it worse — the mom with the toddler licking her foot under the table or the other mom who was worried her teenager might be doing some “other” types of naughty things with her tongue.

They went back and forth, both mightily making their cases about why parenting their “T” was harder. It was almost like a “FML” festival (Google it).

I remember thinking that what I was going through as a first-time mom with an infant was harder than anything I had ever done in my life! And this was what I had to look forward to?

More hard?

Hallucinating from exhaustion, leaking enough milk to make my own latte, and feeling completely overwhelmed, I grabbed my coffee and abruptly left to ponder my life’s decisions.

But that’s the whole point. 

With each stage, be it a little T, a big T or any phase in between (tweens, anyone?), there are going to be epically bad days. (Like that time I was having a mommy playdate in Boston and my baby decided to have explosive poop as I nursed her on a park bench. Ahh, yes, that one was for the books.) And you’re going to have these glorious days you didn’t even see coming. (Like that day when I finally understood what everyone meant when they said the love you’ll feel for your baby will be like no other you’ve ever felt before.) 

No one can claim some magical age or phase is harder than any other, necessarily. It really all has to do with each individual child and our own ability to handle the stressors and unknowns during each stage.

Every stage is going to suck. Yet every stage is also going to be glorious. From toddler to tween to teenager — and everything in between? Parenting is hard! 

When it’s your first child, you’re experiencing that phase, with them, for the first time. The unknowns and how to deal with situations you couldn’t have predicted happen in real time, and you are often lost and in the dark, just bushwhacking it as you go.

Same for the toddler years of your first child. Of course I had heard about the terrible twos (oh and the terrible threes that they DON’T tell you about), but you just really don’t get it until you are living it day in and day out.

Now that I have a teenager, I see myself going to bat for that mom of a teen at Starbucks. Is it because I am myopic and stubborn and can only see and experience what is happening in this moment? Or is it because I really did forget what it was like having a toddler?

Consider the following (since I’m trying to be empirical here):

Pros to teen stage:

Pros to toddler stage:

  • Nap time!
  • Is amazed by everything
  • Still your “baby”
  • Can go on outings together without eye rolls

Cons to teen stage:

  • I mean, it’s everything you’ve read about and worse…

Cons to toddler stage:

  • See above 

And where are there overlaps?

Teen/Toddler

  • Messy room? Check!
  • Sleep issues? Check!
  • Talks back and is stubborn? Check!

See? All hard and all glorious. Just like parenting is at all stages.

Over to you. What stage do you think is harder? The teen or the toddler? Let us know your thoughts and experiences!