THIS MORNING I got to speak to a group of moms of littles! It's hard to believe I was in their shoes a decade ago (with my youngest two)...I remember it being a time on my motherhood journey when there were moments I thought I'd never survive.
These women are supporting one another in their quest to be the best moms they can be and they're doing so by listening to one another's challenges around lack of sleep, the division of labor at home, and the topic of my discussion "how to get my kid to listen without screaming like a crazy lady." They freely supported and affirmed one another during our time together and openly shared their unique family backgrounds and challenges in the process of learning that if they work on themselves now and work on building a mutually respectful relationship with their children while they are young, they never have to fear being the parent of a teenager.
What struck me most, reaffirming what I'd already suspected, was their willingness to be completely transparent in their struggles and to give one another feedback around whatever parenting struggle was being faced.
There was camaraderie in the room!
The difference I see (and hear) while talking with groups of moms of teenagers is that the focus of our discussion centers around grades and extra-curricular activities (particularly kid's accomplishments), keeping up with their crazy schedule and (of course) our social media fears. We tend to shy away from sharing or giving feedback to one another about the tough topics that can befall parents of teenagers (things like: rebuilding trust after your kid has lied to you, how to handle it if your daughter wants to go on birth control, what to do if your kid comes out, whether or not to get involved if you know your best friend's son is smoking pot) because we aren't willing to talk about it. Our not wanting to share the tough stuff then leads everyone down the comparison path in a way that moms of babies/toddlers/preschoolers don't experience.
we went from camaraderie to comparison!
I'm not saying young moms never wonder why their child isn't sleeping through the night when all of the other kids are, or worry if their child isn't talking as fluidly as the next three-year-old, but what's clear is when we don't talk about our parenting struggles moms of teens begin to fear their kids aren't measuring up and then they only share their kid's strengths which leads everyone to believe they are the only ones dealing with an offspring who doesn't listen, doesn't adhere to the rules of the house, or who talks back to them. The lack of parents raising teenagers connecting with each other about their struggles is only driving us further into comparison and feeling isolated!
Maybe you are thinking, "Sure Kim, it's easy to share when your baby isn't sleeping well or your nipples are sore from nursing all day...it's a whole different animal when you are dealing with a middle-schooler who wants you to give them permission to vape! Or, they don't ask permission they just go ahead and do it and you find out through the principal's phone call...or you catch them drinking...or they do something stupid like send their "boyfriend" a topless picture of themselves!"
What I see, and what can be so damaging to us as moms in the throes of adolescentdom (who could REALLY use some support and encouragement) is the fear of judgment by others is greater than being honest and open about the reality of our kids becoming more independent and often in the process of that making some mistakes or unhealthy choices.
moms of teenagers take very personally how well their kids are navigating the world because they feel it is a direct reflection of how they are parenting.
But here's the thing (and I hope it will encourage you to let down your guard and talk openly if you are the mother of an adolescent), our teenagers brains are going through MASSIVE changes during this time in their lives. Just like when they were birth to age three! And because they are changing in SO MANY WAYS (physically, mentally, emotionally) and we (moms) are trying to balance giving them additional independence and choices while this is all going on for them WE HAVE TO EXPECT THEY ARE GOING TO MESS UP.
IT IS NOT A REFLECTION OF WHO YOU ARE IF YOUR TEENAGER MESSES UP...HELLO, THEY DO THIS!
Mistakes and risky behavior are an opportunity (yes, I said opportunity) for kids and parents to learn!
The only place I've seen moms get very honest and open about the problems they have with their teenagers is in online parenting groups like Grown and Flown and that's a terrific resource but (just like our kids) face-to-face communication is much more effective and reassuring.
I'd love to host a gathering of moms raising adolescents who are willing to be open and authentic about the ups and downs they are experiencing because I'm right there with you in the process. I'd love to see a group of moms who regularly hang out and snack and BE REAL. If this sounds great to you, shoot me an email at realifeparentguide.com and let's figure out how to make it happen!
I (for one) miss camaraderie in motherhood!