My Biggest Hacks to Surviving Motherhood Through the Teen Years
If you’re a fairly new mom, you’re dealing with a lot. Not only is it physically strenuous, but- the EXHAUSTION, the crying and being so effing touched OUT? Forgetaboutit. You, Mama, are a rockstar for showing up and doing all the work, every day.
Is it rewarding? Of course it is! Does it suck? Ummm, yup. And all the moms who’ve been there and done that are cheering you on. We know exactly how you’re feeling and we’re always happy to lend a sympathetic ear.
But what we more-seasoned moms don’t talk about a lot is how hard it is to raise teenagers. Why is that? Why do we all love our kids but not talk about the times when you don’t really like them?
As a woman who is currently raising teenagers #3 and #4 (plus a bonus teen who’s having some struggles at home right now), I can tell you why we don’t admit how almost impossible it is to enjoy being a mom to teens. I know why we pretend that we always love being around these humans who are still growing but think that they’re all grown up.
Look, Sister- we can be frank, here. We’re not new moms anymore. Deep down, don’t you feel like you should have this “motherhood thing” figured out by now? New moms everywhere are watching us and they think we’ve got all the answers. And we probably had a lot of them until our kids hit about 11, don’t you agree?
All of a sudden, the kids that we knew so well turned into different people. She loved to snuggle on the couch with you and watch The Voice yesterday but not today! Today that show is “stupid” and she’d rather hang out in her bedroom. Last week he lived for helping you bake cookies but today he’ll just grab a handful and walk away without even grunting thank you. Sound familiar?
Teenagers aren’t just young adults. They’re people who teeter between rational thinking and impulsive actions. They have hormones and pressures and our expectations all influencing every move they make. Add all of that to the reality that we don’t have a clue how to deal with them anymore and you’ve got a whole ‘lotta mamas who are back to feeling uncertain in our ability to “mom”.
After years and years (and more years) of living the teenage dream over here, I’d love to pass on a couple of tidbits to help and inspire you.
Teach Your Kid Everything Important Before the Age of 12.
Let me explain- up until now, you’ve been teaching and teaching your kid. How to act in public, how to make their bed, how to deal with homework and friends…but once a kid hits about 12, he’s not listening anymore. It makes sense, really. How can you teach a person anything when they know EVERYTHING? At this point, the only thing that they hear from you is consequences. The secret is to make the punishment fit the crime, not how angry you are. Keep your discipline effective while your kid learns from you without saying anything at all. Cause and Effect, Baby!
When my kid couldn’t manage to wake himself up for school (even though his alarm clock woke up EVERYONE else) I told him he’d need to bring his phone downstairs at 9pm every night until he could wake himself up for an entire school week. Five days later and guess who’s up early every day now?
Help Them Find Something They’re Passionate About so You Can Take it Away.
I know, I know- it sounds cruel. But here’s the thing: when you get into consequence-mode, it’s easier to get your point across if you have something to take away from them that they really, REALLY love.
I’m not talking about a cellphone ban, either. If we’re gonna be real here, let’s just admit that taking away your kid’s phone is just a punishment for you. Those assholes go rogue so fast and being in touch makes your job easier.
No, I’m talking about the hobbies and the video games. In our house it’s dirt bikes and a horse that keeps everyone in line. My kid has raised his mark in science by about 8% over the last 2 weeks because if he doesn’t pass he has to go to summer school and miss moto-camp.
Find their passion and then take it away. This is motherhood gold!
Take All Emotion Away From Every Interaction.
As a woman, this one may be tough for you. Quite honestly, it’s a skill that I’ve honed over the years. But here’s the harsh reality- teenagers are HUGE liars.
It really hurts when that sweet little baby you brought into the world and sacrificed your vagina for stands in front of you and bold-face lies. Nope, she didn’t take any money off of your dresser. Nope, she didn’t leave the cheese on the counter. Of course she was at Emmerson’s house last night.
If you remove your emotional reaction in these situations, things don’t hurt as much. It’s self-preservation and it works. Because constantly being hurt by a teenager is normal, but not necessary.
Stop Fighting Their Battles.
As a mom, you just want to protect your kid. I totally understand! I’ve made excuses for mine, stood up to teachers and other parents for them. But remember how I said that teenagers are liars? I’ve fallen into the trap of sticking up for them when they didn’t actually deserve my help.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your teen is to step back and let them screw some shit up. Let them get into trouble for not doing an assignment or for skipping class. Let them answer to the people in authority. When they realize that the rules and consequences don’t just come from you, they’ll learn a lot about how to behave in society.
It’s Time to Stop Micro-Managing, Mama.
Ooooohhhh….another tough one to let go of, right? Up until now, you’ve been the keeper of aaalll the things. How do you let go and let them manage their own time? Over here, it starts with school. I’ve already been to high school and I’m not interested in going back. My kids know that they are responsible for assignments and homework. I don’t remind them. I provide a tutor for them, but they have to let me know when to call her. If they skip a class, they’re the ones who face the consequences if they miss something important.
My daughter has a part-time job now. If she doesn’t let me know when she works she knows that there may not be a car available for her to drive there. And that would really suck for her, because she likes to have money.
Step back slowly and see what happens. Your teen might just surprise you!
When They Want to Talk to You it’s a Miracle- Give Them Your Full Attention.
Seriously. When all you’ve heard for days is a grunt here and a fart there, it’s like you’re living with a bulldog. (I have one, so trust me on that.) When they do FINALLY want to string some words together to tell you how they feel, you’ve got to give them your full attention. Usually it happens during the Handmaid’s Tale when a handmaid is just about to escape the Republic of Gilead. Or while you’re reading a book for the first time in a month and you’re at a really good part. The point is- these moments are few and far between now so give them your best.
Stop Making Everything Tabo.
Girl. Remember yourself in high school? Me too. I’m not sure how we survivied, but here we are!
The only discussions I had with my parents about sex, drugs and alcohol went like this, “Don’t do them. They’re bad.” I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up black-out drunk in someone’s bathtub at a party, the first time I ever drank.
Teenagers don’t think in black and white terms. There are a lot of shady areas, so don’t be afraid to talk about them! Sex, drugs and alcohol are in their faces every day. Not talking about them isn’t doing your kid any favours. They have questions and they’re getting their information from other kids. Or worse, from Google. If you talk to them about the hard stuff, they’ll get good information AND they’ll know they can trust you when they have concerns.
I wrote a post about leaving condoms in my teenagers' bathroom and why I do it. Check it out:
It’s All a Stage-Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humour.
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. With your kid or at them, take the humour anywhere you can find it because it will save you.
Hopefully I’ve given you a few tips to make your motherhood journey through the teen years a little easier. The more we talk about how hard this part of being a mom is, the better we’ll all feel when we admit that we don’t always like our kids right now.
I never shy away from the tough parts of motherhood because it's important for moms to know that they're not alone. If you're dealing with teenagers and drugs, you may find my journey inspiring:
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
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