Mothers of Teens, I'm Sorry
Where is the support for moms? I hear this question all the time. I ask this question all the time. And the answer is that it’s scarce. We don’t value mothers or mothering in this country. That’s just a fact. And so mothers have stepped up to create networks of support for ourselves. We’re doing the best we can and our best is beautiful.
Mothers of teens seem to be left behind when it comes to self-care, coaching, support groups – all of it. That is my fault just as much as anyone else and I’m here today to apologize and to begin to make it right. I was so caught up in my own pain and healing, my own story, that I didn’t see your struggles. I’m sorry. I see you. I will do better.
Because the truth is that mothers of teens report being the MOST stressed and the LEAST happy in their experience of motherhood. They’re hurting. And what they are hearing from the rest of us is a lot of clucking about how hard the teens years are for everyone. They are getting pats on the head when what they need are structures of support.
At the very least we can stop patronizing them. We can stop making jokes about how dramatic teens are and start talking about the rising suicide rates. We can stop making jokes about kids who will never leave home and start talking about how we can reform our high school and college systems so that kids have a place to go and a path to get there.
Parents of teens are worried about the same things that all parents are. How do I keep my child safe? How do I prepare them for this world? How do I balance my needs and theirs? How do I raise a good person? And while I know that every age and stage is a pressure cooker of worries and hard choices, for the parents of teens the consequences are much more immediate. The time on their “active parenting” clock is running out.
And because there is so little support for mothers from pregnancy onward by the time they hit the teen years many mothers have been ‘pouring from an empty cup’ for so long that they have no idea how it would feel to be full. They can’t imagine it. And so they look behind them and tell mothers of new babies, “Take care of you. Don’t lose yourself.” And no one ever asks if they are okay.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I was one of those who didn’t see you.
My friend Kelly leaves me in awe. That is not hyperbole. I have been brought to tears by what an amazing mother she is (I have a witness). Kelly has five kids, two are teens and the youngest is a toddler and people say to her all the time, “I don’t know how you do it”. And that’s crap. Yes, you do. She does it the same way that we all do it – with love and sweat and tears and doubts and pain and terror and hope and laughter and never, ever, EVER enough sleep. I have seen Kelly through the lens of a baby/toddler mom because my kids are just slightly older and younger than her littlest. It didn’t hit me until this week just how long she has been mothering. Years. DECADES. And just how little support she’s gotten.
I started The Mom Center so that mothers would have a place to be honest about motherhood. So that we would have a place to find support. So that we would have a place to focus on ourselves as people. I’ve said that I started it because I refuse to allow my children to leave m house and go out into the world and leave me wondering who I am without them. And that is true. But as I’ve been sharing it and as others have we have all focused on the new mom, the toddler mom, the pre-school mom. We haven’t looked into the eyes of the teen mom or the mom with college-age kids and said, “I see you. I’m here. What do you need?”
Maybe it’s because I was scared of what I would see there. Who really wants to look that deeply into their future? Maybe it was because I just couldn’t see beyond myself and my own experiences. Whatever the reason was, I am saying it now. For Kelly. For Gayle. For LaTonya. For all the mothers of teens that I didn’t see.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see you. I’m sorry that we all seem to have forgotten you. It is not only new mothers who need to focus on themselves and their own physical, emotional and mental health. You are important. You always have been.
I am inviting you, specifically, to join us in The Mom Center, we’d love to have you. I also want to thank the members of The Mom Center who are also moms of teens and who have been such a wonderful part of our community.
If our group is not for you, please know that I support you in finding whatever self-care works best. And if you need me, I’m here.
Take Good Care,