Every age and phase of childhood comes with its own set of difficulties. You sleepwalk through the newborn stage, you stumble through infancy, you skip through toddlerhood, you run around in circles through early childhood and the tween years, and then thankfully, just when you’re overdue and ready to catch a break from all the mind-numbing neediness, your kids turn into teenagers.
If You’re Not Enjoying the Teen Years, That’s Okay
Finally! But while it seems that everyone around you is completely loving the teen years-and the many new freedoms and parenting experiences they bring, you find yourself not so enchanted with this stage of parenting, and wondering, what is wrong with me?
Nothing is wrong with you at all, and just like some women adore the newborn stage, while others literally count the hours until their baby can do anything besides sleep, cry, and poop, there are mothers who just don’t sync up with parenting adolescents. And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Nowhere does it say you’re required and expected to LOVE every single stage of parenting, and from my experience, if there’s one stage that has you on your knees praying (and swearing) more than any other, it’s ages 13-18.
I spent the first few years of my firstborn’s teen years regretfully treading water in a pool of emotions that mostly kept me underwater and ashamed. Simply put, I was ill-equipped to handle the giant emotional swings and hormone surges my son was going through, and that kind of personality instability, combined with the fact that every day with a teenager can literally be like meeting a new kid for the first time, made for some very difficult days for me as a mother.
It was like being catapulted from the calm, sweet spot the merry-go-round of parenting the tween years had provided, to a hang on for dear life roller coaster ride. Here I was, craving stability, while being thrown around on a teen ship of emotional tsunamis, and my mental health (and parenting instincts) were having none of it.
To add insult to injury, it seemed like everyone around me was rejoicing in all the wonderfulness that having teens was providing, while I was lost under their never ending pile of smelly laundry and half empty water bottles. Of course I was overjoyed that for the most part, having self-sufficient teens meant more freedom for me, but did it really?
Because while having teens grants you plenty of more personal physical freedoms-no babysitters needed, teens can drive themselves to activities and run errands for you, etc., those physical freedoms are replaced with emotional burdens. By that I mean, parenting teens requires an enormous mental store of emotional chutzpah, and the ability to one minute be a teacher, the next a coach, the next a therapist, the next a friend, and the next an actual parent.
The roles you play mothering your teenager change faster than their Snapchat screen, and for me, that was a parenting change I loathed, while for some of my friends, it was one they embraced. Hey, some mothers embrace three year-olds and cooperative at-home preschools, while others find the first preschool where they can drop their kid off all day, and both are fine!
Eventually time, wisdom, and grace unlocked me from my mothering guilt chains, and I allowed myself to be OK with not liking the teen years, and on many days, not even liking my kid. (GASP! Yes those days existed for me, but if they didn’t for you, than yay you!) But just know there are millions of us out there who would happily take a tantrum throwing toddler over an eye rolling teenager any day of the week. That doesn’t make us terrible moms, it only makes us different, and there’s no shame in that.
What to Do If You Don’t Love The Teen Stage of Parenting
If you find yourself feeling mostly lost, unfulfilled, and anxious with parenting teens, the first thing you need to do is stop comparing your experience with that of others, even close friends. Social media newsfeeds may not be your friend right now, so unfollowing for a bit all your mom friends who appear to be doing everything perfectly (and also have perfect teens) should be step number one.
The next thing you can do is be vulnerable, and start sharing your frustrations with your peers, instead of making believe it’s all great. When you do this, I promise you’ll be met with plenty of head nods, hugs, and commiserating comments like, “I thought I was the only mom who felt this way.”
If there is a mom of a teen out there who hasn’t felt at least a morsel of frustration during the teen phase, than I have yet to meet that mom unicorn. Finally, know that this too shall pass, just like the other nearly unbearable phases did. Babies eventually sleep all night, toddlers eventually poop in a toilet, and teens eventually mature and become people you not only will like again, you’ll absolutely fall in love with the young adult people they become.
Hang in there moms of teens, because even if you don’t like them right now, trust me, you’re doing just fine.
Now, the Grown and Flown book, available with gift for limited time (Sept 3)
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