PAREN(T)HESIS — Varying Speeds of Parenting

October 2, 2018

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

After parenting for about 10 years, I have realized that its intensity ebbs and flows.The way I think about the amount of effort required for parenthood can be compared to a speedometer.

Newborns need 10 to 12 diaper changes per day and need to be attended when they wake during the night so let’s say that puts that stage at 75 miles per hour. (Colicky babies might be 80!)

Toddlers still need diaper changes and require lots of supervision so they don’t harm themselves. They can make shopping challenging as they grab at things on shelves and displays and make noisy requests. That stage is 85 mph.

Next, some parents experience a smooth spot in the road sometimes called the “golden years.” I have heard other parents explain that it’s great because it does not involve any D’s, which are diapers, dating, and driving. They are potty trained and parents no longer need a stroller. Kids can get their own snacks and dress themselves. At this stage, kids still enjoy spending time with their parents. This age gets 35 mph.

That’s a comfortable speed, but parents and their children keep traveling the road together and do not have a pause button. Ages 9 and 12 arrive, the tween years, and children develop a stronger sense of independence. Parents need to talk about puberty and similar topics and monitor phone use and social media behavior. Friendship disagreements seem more serious. This age gets 50 mph.

My husband and I have not experienced parenting a teen—but I hear stories that make me think it will be a stage characterized by spikes of high speeds.

Romantic relationships develop along with stronger opinions about hair and clothes. Drinking alcohol and using drugs might be new temptations and at this stage, many parents and children disagree about time spent with the family versus friends. I’ll gauge the speed when we get to that part of the journey.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at


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