There are playdates, pregnancy groups, and mommy groups of many kinds. I see them at parks or whenever I’m scrolling my newsfeed on Facebook.
I think that’s awesome, after all- giving birth is some WORK, y’all.
It takes its toll on the body, on the spirit, and on self-confidence. Afterward, we mamas have months of sleepless nights, leaky breasts, and crying babies.
We hear going into motherhood how HARD pregnancy can be, newborns can be, toddlers can be, and then we quickly discover that everybody was right as soon as our babies hit all of those milestones.
There’s just a part of parenthood that isn’t talked about as much, and I’ve yet to see any support groups for it…
RAISING TEENAGERS IS HARD AF.
Give me ALL the diaper changes again, the nap fighting, the sticky fingers in my face. I want my baby back.
Give me back my kindergartener who wore his Batman cape everywhere and cried to take it off on his first day of school.
I’ll be the one to say it if I have to say it, and I’m gonna say it as loud and clear as I can because after a roughly emotional night with my teenager this week, I realized I wish someone had been able to warn me or I had seen this coming:
Parenting a teenager is the most difficult, emotionally draining, LONELIEST phase I’ve ever experienced as a mother.
I think there’s this enigma surrounding the teenage years that they’re primarily “already raised” and that they’re pretty much “done.” They can walk, talk, bathe themselves, dress themselves, they’re fiercely independent, and so… it may seem that parenting them isn’t as strenuous as parenting a baby or a toddler.
I’m wholeheartedly admitting defeat right now for anyone who wants to hear it … Newborns ain’t got nothing on teenagers.
The newborn stage is physically draining for sure. Absolutely. However, I’d take milk breath and diaper changes over the emotional and mental exhaustion that I experience whenever my teenager and I enter one of our (almost daily) battle of wills.
If I take postpartum depression completely out of the mix and really think about it…babies are pretty simple. They’re difficultly simple, anyway. They need to be clothed, held, fed, changed, bathed. It’s a lot of work, but a straightforward effort. They offer smiles, coos, the satisfaction of learning new things constantly-with their long eyelashes, innocent looks, and gummy smiles as payback for our efforts.
Babies and toddlers might have a blowout on you (eww) or scratch you with their surprisingly sharp little people nails, but they’re not doing it on purpose.
They’re not going for the jugular.
Even my little elementary student, himself, hasn’t said things that have touched my deepest insecurities as a woman, as a parent. My infant has never pushed my buttons so hard I’ve wanted to call his grandmother and say,
“I’m done, maybe he should just move in with you.”
My teen is confusing and freaking complicated.
Sometimes there are days where my ENTIRE DAY is revolved around what he wants, what he needs, his schemes, his school life …and by the end of the day if I don’t do something that perfectly aligns with his idea of what he thinks he’s entitled to, he’ll look at me, roll his eyes and complain in his ever-deepening voice, that
“I don’t care enough about him” or “I love his brothers more.”
I might even get to hear a door slam, and I had better not even try to check him on his disrespectful attitude.
Then come the tears because everything I do during the day is supposed to be demonstrating my love for all of my children and I wonder if all of the sacrifices I’ve consistently made for them will ever be acknowledged or if I’ve made enough of them. Motherhood is all that I’ve had for the longest time, and in a matter of seconds, my teenager can make me wonder if I’m even good at it.
Even in a good mood, teens are A LOT.
They talk about themselves or don’t talk at all. They get worked up over the most immature things, argue with an 8-year-old, get mad at toddlers, become angry because the entire family didn’t pick the movie they wanted to watch. They leave you wondering if they’re 15 or 5 and wanting to holler back,
“Pick which age you want to be today or I’m gonna lose it!”
They NEED you like none of your kids have ever needed you and they don’t give a squat about the fact that you have to be at work on time. Sometimes I spend so much time on my teen, the little kids don’t get as much attention on a given day and the inevitable wave of mom guilt crashes. The merry-go-round of it all leaves me woozy and wondering if I messed up somewhere.
This isn’t everything.
Teens are these powerful beings that you can’t believe have grown so independent and strong, seemingly out of nowhere. They are a peek at our own impermanence. I look at my child, knowing he’ll be gone in a few years, and I think back to his newborn days whenever 18 looked like a distant fantasy. He’s pulling away, walking away, and the end is right there.
He can make me laugh like no other, cry like no other, beam with pride and hide in shame. All in the same day.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to parent this teenager. I owe it to him to stand my ground whenever he is wrong. I owe it to him to tell him when he’s right. I owe it to him to discuss the flaws that I know might cause him strife, to crush the entitlement, to teach him how to work, to teach him how to love.
This is why I feel so alone in this. To change from anger toward him I didn’t know was possible and then to a deep sadness at the thought of him leaving… over and over again…I just wasn’t prepared for this
and the struggle is REAL.
When our babies are babies, we look ahead and we see so much time. Now, I look into a finality that I never wanted to arrive. I wonder where all of our time went, I pray for it to come back, and watch him head out for a world that he knows nothing about, just as I once did. I see, in him, everything I could change about my own adult mistakes. I want everything good for him, no pain, no struggle and yet, to be the man he will become he will need to have problems and learn to grow through them…
on his own.
I will have to let go. I don’t know how to do this yet, but I feel the lesson creeping up behind me.
Check on your friends with teens, we are not okay!