Yes, We Really Do.
Try saying that to your child. “Moms have feelings too.” You’ll either receive the blankest of stares, (my teenager), or they may just walk away, like my four-year-old. Either way, When you become a mom it can feel like that becomes your sole identity. And as I’m sure moms around the world can agree, when you become a mom, you take on the role, of caregiver, therapist, cook, chauffeur, teacher, disciplinarian, clown, entertainer, etc, etc. And this is not a post against being a mom, I have three children myself, I love them all dearly. (I just may not always like them). (Link) But what happens when they are just darn mean. Speaking more specifically of my 13-year-old, and less of my toddler and my infant. How can you cope? How do you cope? Typically, when someone is mean to me I lash out in kind. Whatever it is they did to me, I make sure the responding offense is ten times worse. They will feel the pain I feel, to the tenth degree. My need for vengeance is real. (I’m working on it in therapy, I promise). But how do you handle it when the offender, is the sweet, little baby that you have cared for and nurtured into this menacing, tormenting bully? I have a few ideas.
First things first, teenagers are self-absorbed individuals with raging hormones that they can, and cannot control. They are also mean. And how can you blame them? They’re in that weird in-between time in their childhood, where they can’t stand Dora the Explorer, but are way too young for Shades of Grey (the book was better than the movie btw). Not to mention, they have a huge hankering for independence, persistent yet unpredictable deficits in their self-esteem, and they don’t even know what the word empathy means. Or compassion. Or understanding. Or tact. For example, my daughter is always on her phone, and it’s always to talk to her friends. ALL DAY. She looks up to eat, and sleep. That’s it. I asked her one day, who was more important to her, her mother or friends? “Friends,” she empathically stated, without missing a beat or looking up from her iPhone. Under the advice from my therapist, instead of ripping her head off and watching it roll down a hill, I decided to open up to her and tell her how that made me feel. “You know Aaliyah, that really hurt my feelings.” She stopped in her tracks. I gasped inwardly that something I said would cause her to put down her precious phone, paused for a second with an introspective look on her face, and said “huh?” I repeated what I said. “You have FEELINGS?” Sigh. Back to the phone, she went. How do You Handle It?
Don’t take it Personal
Well, the first thing you do, when your kid bullies you or fails to display an empathetic bone in their body, you try not to take it personally. Some of us can remember being a teenager. You loved your parents, but they weren’t at the forefront of your mind. Your biggest concerns at the age weren’t about sparing your mom’s feelings, they were more about your feelings. For Johnny, Sally, Sue, *insert name here* Your kid loves you, and just because they don’t think about what comes out of their mouth before they say it, doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they have a scope for empathy that is obstructed by their own feelings, oh, and their phone. Do like I do, close your eyes and take a deep breath, to center yourself before speaking again. Or when they go to sleep, a shot of Tequila. That works too.
You Don’t Have to Stick to the Blueprint Your Parents Gave You, Develop Your Own
When I was younger, my mom had a famous expression, “I’m not your friend, I’m your mother.” (Link). I absolutely detested it. Of course, I know you’re not my friend, for one, you’re too old. Secondly, my friends would be WAY cooler. (Of course, these were my thoughts, not words spoken out loud, I wasn’t stupid). I have spent so much time, in shame because I parent differently from my parents. I have been shamed, by my parents, and others from their generation, that I don’t know how to discipline a child. It has caused me stress to no end. When I was younger, when you did something wrong, you got a whipping. Period. No discussion, no trying to understand what led you to this behavior, whipping, go to your room, and it was never discussed again. I decided that I wanted to try a different route. My child is too old for corporal punishment, I don’t believe in it. I try to talk to her about why she chose to lie. Do you feel you can’t come to me? Why is that? Were you afraid? What was going through your mind? And once we come to an understanding, I then determine what the punishment will be and if it fits the crime. After having a conversation with my eldest, I found that she clams up and doesn’t answer my question, because when I raise my voice it scares her. I’ve found that talking to her in a calmer voice, elicits a better response from her, she’s more open and honest. She now comes to me more and tells me more. It has strengthened our relationship. Do what works for you.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I’ve also learned as a mom of three. If I spent time punishing them for every single thing they did. I’d lose my mind. And that’s the complete opposite of what I’m trying to preach here. When my son and my daughter are yelling at one another (even with the age difference they do, it’s mind-boggling), instead of responding in kind, I turn my attention to something else. 9 times out of 10 they resolve the matter, and I didn’t increase my stress over something they resolved themselves. There’s a mess on the floor. Close you’re door to it. Dishes in the sink? They will still be there in the morning, let them soak overnight. Yes, the tv is loud, my daughter is surely going to go deaf by how loud that music is in her ear, but everyone’s content. I’ve developed a keen ability to tune out the noise, but can somehow hear when someone is in distress. I’m sure all of us parents share this. Your kids are growing and trying to figure themselves and life out, it’s ok to let the little stuff go, let them learn from their mistakes, and just BE.
This is probably the most important thing I’ll tell you today. Anyone that tells you the best moms are the moms who put their families first, has either never been a mom, or is spouting “you know what.” I’m on my third newborn. I remember having my first, when she slept, I could. And the older she got, the more I could sleep and relax. Even when I had my son, it was somewhat easy because of the age difference (9 years) between the two. My daughter was a big help. But now on baby number three? My daughter has decided that she wants to try and ruin my life in her teenage years, by not listening, not listening, and not listening. My son, (the sweetheart he still is), just wants my attention, ALL THE TIME. The newborn just needs me. So when she sleeps? I’m not. My son is still at that age, where he wants to be sweet, and play and love on me. But my daughter? Causes me no small amount of stress and anxiety, I know in my heart she’s not out to kill me and loves me, but some days, I’m just not sure. And did I mention I was also married? My husband likes me to talk to him, sometimes. There doesn’t appear to be enough time in the day. And in the past, I’ve had the tendency to put all of them first, not once thinking about myself, or taking a quiet moment just to BE. Where did that leave me? With an emotional breakdown. Seriously. And a year-long bout with depression. Thinking about myself without thinking of my family, just felt WRONG. And selfish. I just felt like taking any time for myself was an indulgence, it wasn’t something I HAD to do. Enter my therapist, “don’t be an idiot.” Her words exactly. I love her for her realness, and if I wasn’t sure there was some HIPPA violation or confidentiality clause I’d be breaking I’d give her a shout out here. On the off chance she’s reading this, you’re the real MVP.
But get this, if we don’t take care of and nurture ourselves, who’s going to be left to nurture our children? Feelings of resentment, anger, deprivation, exhaustion, and who knows what else will consume, and possibly destroy us. And another thing, your kids watch everything you do. Even the selfish ones. (Ha!). Think about how you would feel watching your child in the future put themselves last, living in misery. Fighting feelings of depression, anxiety, watching their lives go down the drain because they want to be “just like you when they grow up.” We want to model good behaviors for our children right? Teaching them that taking care of yourself matters just as much as taking care of your family is a good model for them to emulate.
Let's Not Get Carried Away, But Take The Time
And this doesn’t necessarily have to mean you get a spa day every other day (oh how nice that would be tho), it can be something as simple as taking 30 minutes a day to read your favorite book. Or making sure bath time is truly ME time, and not family meeting time, (as it is in my house). Whatever it is make it non-negotiable, and be consistent. Your mental health is just as important as the health of your family, just as vital. Just make just the time. You’d be surprised how just twenty minutes for yourself can improve your whole mood and outlook. That selfish teenager may not seem as “selfish” the screaming toddler, may turn into an angel, and the crying newborn? Well still, a crying newborn, but just not as overwhelming. Take the time for yourself, you deserve it.
Thanks for Listening.