Personal Story

I Feel Like I’m a Better Parent to an Older Kid—Here’s Why

older kid"
older kid
Source: Mathilde Langevin / Unsplash
Source: Mathilde Langevin / Unsplash

My daughter is a first grader, and in the last year or so, I feel like I’ve finally really hit my parenting stride. I’ve found in my seven years of parenthood that I seem to enjoy each stage we get to more than the one before. The early elementary school stage we are in—where kids are excitedly learning and growing into their own person—has been really fun. Sometimes, I look back at old photos and miss the physical cuteness and adorable moments of the earlier stages. Overall, though, I’m really happy with where we are at now and what most of our days look like.

Here’s why I think I like parenting an older kid more than a toddler or newborn:


I have less anxiety about her health and safety

I was a nervous ball of energy with a new baby. I was constantly checking her breathing overnight to the point of complete exhaustion for me. Keeping everything babyproofed and wondering if there was something dangerous I accidentally overlooked brought a haze of anxiety over my days. I thought about choking all the time.

As much as I loved my new baby and watching her grow, as a naturally anxious person, this stage was mentally difficult for me. It’s been a relief to be at a point where my daughter understands general safety precautions, and I worry so much less about a tragic accident. It’s not a potential life-or-death situation if I unintentionally drop something on the floor and don’t notice, and she knows not to mess with certain things like the treadmill. Now that she can swim, going to the pool on a hot summer day is actually a fun activity instead of a high-alert afternoon.


There’s less pressure on the right versus wrong way to do things

Early parenthood comes with so much pressure on the right way to feed, sleep train, room-share, handle screen time and electronics, use a car seat, play, socialize, arrange care, take solo time, and so much more. I constantly felt nervous about my decisions: whether or not I was making the wrong one, and if so, what other people would think and say about me.

Now that my daughter is in elementary school, I’ve noticed that this pressure has decreased a lot. She goes to school or summer camp, participates in a few extracurricular activities, and plays with some neighborhood friends. Most choices about parenting at this point feel a lot more judgement-free.



The activities we can do together are more fun

I enjoy the ease of the activities we can do together and that we can do things targeted toward an older age group instead of a toddler-time activity. I love that we can spend time together seeing a movie, shopping, or going out to eat and actually have fun (instead of coming back home ragged and drained after an afternoon out). It’s much more relaxing to be out and about for a family weekend day when I don’t have to worry about planning around naptime, potentially dealing with a toddler meltdown, or having to pack a whole bag of snacks, diapers, and activities to stay prepared for the day ahead.


I love being part of the elementary school community

My daughter goes to the public school a couple of blocks away, and I love getting to join our local school community. Granted, so far, almost nothing about our school experience has been “normal,” but I know it will get there, and I’ve already had a lot of fun hearing about the school library, gym class, and lunch room and being part of the few activities that have been allowed to take place.


Mostly, I feel like I’m a better parent to an older kid because I have time to feel like me again

Babyhood and toddlerhood are so rewarding because you’re introducing a new person to the ways of the world, but it’s also so exhausting, consuming, and completely hands-on. Now, my daughter can be reasonably self-sufficient with many activities and can stay occupied independently for longer stretches of time. I finally feel like my identity is Brigette again, who is also a parent, instead of a parent who every once in a while has time to be Brigette. It’s so much easier to feel like you’re being a good mom when you feel like a good version of yourself.


It’s so much easier to feel like you’re being a good mom when you feel like a good version of yourself.


My husband and I also take more time for ourselves, since leaving the other partner behind with an older kid comes with way less guilt than leaving someone with a fussy baby. The guilt is usually unintentional—it’s just hard not to have some when you’re heading out the door to meet a friend for lunch while a 2-year-old is screaming.


mom and son

Source: @julesdenby


I love being at the point in parenthood where I can be both a mom and a version of myself I really enjoy.

And it’s not that I don’t like babies or toddlers—I am actually on the brink of my due date with my second daughter. I’ve just learned that I get more satisfaction out of each subsequent stage, but of course, you can’t get to the elementary school stage without going through the one before. I get so much joy out of my kid(s) and seeing who they will become, and getting there means going through every stage of life, both the ones I find difficult and the ones that are easier. But if choosing to have a family meant I had a baby forever, well, I probably wouldn’t be on board with that!

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