When did this happen? Apparently, very quickly over the last eight years.
Just four years ago, Josie was a newborn, Maddie was two, and Izzy four. When the older two were finally in bed, the tiny tike took up my entire night. And even after she was sleep trained at a ripe old age of 9 weeks, I had to stay up doing all the things I couldn't do during the day because of suicide watch, the inability to glance at a gnat because in that moment your child will trip and fall and stab the spoon they were holding into their palate (if you are a mom, you've thought it - or at least I hope you have so I am not the only crazy, overly anxious mother out there).
Two years ago, after Maddie turned four, things got noticeably easier. One less child with tantrums. She could follow instructions reliably. She entertained herself for chunks of time long enough to prepare a meal. She was...on autopilot. And now, Josie, and again it seems things are exponentially easier.
It brought me to really think about all changes we have gone through to get to this sweet spot. How much sacrifice and help was needed. And looking back, I can tell you the truth : If you have a child under four, or multiple under four, life is hard and will not get easier until they are four. Interestingly, even from an evolutionary psychology standpoint, divorce rates tend to peak at about four years old. The theory is that by this age, the father is no longer needed for the child's survival! That is how easy it is! (Insert hysterical laughter here, as no matter what age your child, we know it can never, ever, truly be easy - go back to the paragraph about stabbing the spoon into the palate and other such worries).
I read all the advise books, talked to my girlfriends, cried with my girlfriends, talked to them some more, looked to other mothers and perhaps, it feels this way because now I'm "an expert" at being "mom" (insert more hysterical laughter here, at the idea of being an expert mom). But I don't think so. You can read all those books, too, and I hope they help you somewhat and most of all, help you cope, like they did for me. But what will really help, I think, is knowing that when your youngest child turns four, things really will be different, better, less stressful, less chaotic, more predictable, easy-flowing, relaxing. It is an inconvenient truth but a truth nonetheless. So hang in there. It's coming no matter what. It will be there soon, and then of course, it is very bittersweet.