A Thick Skinned Mother

I went to bed last night shedding a few tears of frustration. Why? Because sometimes I get tired of being The Bad Guy and carrying the weight of my children’s worlds on my shoulders. If my kids don’t care about their personal development, why should I?

This all came about because of a my not so successful attempt at a family meeting to go over the new summer schedule. Being the mother that I am, I get excited and maybe a little too ambitious about all the potential fun and learning that comes with having my children all to myself for three months.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm isn’t always mutual.

Sure, my kids like to be at home and have time off from school and homework, but they aren’t quite as excited about my ideas of reasonable bedtimes during the week and “taking care of business” in the mornings. (Translation: instrument practice, household chores, and summer workbook pages.)

Now that I have a full blown teenager (and a pre-teen who frequently follows in her footsteps), I get a lot more flak, push back, and attitude than I did when all my children were “little” and thought I was the bestest, nicest, smartest mother on the planet. Back in the day I could get them to do anything as long as I used a happy, sing songy voice and a smile. They aren’t so easily persuaded now!

I think when all was said and done last night, I may have muttered something under my breath to my husband like, “Fine! They can just sit in front of the TV all summer, eat junk food, and turn into WALL-E people!” Don’t get me wrong. I have great kids in every way, but they are still kids. And that’s the part that wears me down: feeling responsible for helping these four undisciplined individuals grow up to be healthy, well adjusted, hard working, responsible, and happy adults. It’s a big job! And I’ve found it requires a pretty thick skin.

Catching flak for trying to encourage responsibility and self-discipline is just the beginning of a long list of things in motherhood that require thick skin. From patiently enduring the crying and tantrums of younger children to absorbing the eye rolling attitude of teenagers, moms have to learn pretty early on not to take anything too personally.

In fact, sometimes it seems like there is a direct correlation between the effort exerted to try and help our children and the amount of grief they give us back. It is not unlike training a puppy or pruning a young tree. As mothers, if we really are intent on our children succeeding in school, learning how to work in the home, developing their talents, and knowing how to care for their bodies and their stuff, we may just as well count on being The Bad Guy sometimes.

Do you remember being a young child? A teenager? Did you like cleaning your room? Doing your homework? Practicing the piano? Saving your money? No! Most of us wanted nothing more than to eat, sleep, play, repeat. (As my husband likes to say, “It is the way of our people.”)

Believe me, I’d love to wake up in the morning and not have a single thought for anyone other than myself, but since I chose to have four children, I chose to have my heart walking around outside of my body for the rest of my life. How can I not want to help my children be the best they can be? But we all know that the harder we try and the more that we care, the greater it hurts when our “love” isn’t immediately received as we would wish by our children.

Have you ever been told “I hate you!” because you wouldn’t let someone go to a sleepover you didn’t feel good about? Have you ever had to drag a child out of bed to an early morning obligation while they shot daggers at you with their eyes? Have you ever stood over a child doing their homework or instrument practice as they begged incessantly to go play outside? Congratulations! You are a thick skinned mother, and you’re doing a great job! (Even if –maybe especially if–you went to bed in tears feeling like a horrible mother!)

Yes, it would be easier to let them eat Cocoa Puffs in front of the TV all day every day this summer (and we may have some days like that), but because I want more for them, I will continue to push them despite my own natural inclination to let us all just drift along.
And that may mean push back. And tantrums. And attitude.

That’s okay. I’ve got pretty thick skin.

QUESTION: Do you ever feel like The Bad Guy? Do your kids ever give you flack for trying to help them be the best they can be? How do you handle the push back and the attitude?
CHALLENGE: The next time you have an “unpleasant” interaction with one of your children as a result of your efforts to teach and to train them, try to remember that being a good mom requires thick skin. Keep trying and don’t take it personally!


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    • Allyson Reynolds says

      Dad is TOTALLY on the same page, but he is at work all day! (And often into the night . . . ) He is also a little more realistic in his expectations of crazy family life and doesn’t take the bumps so personally since the specifics of “the plan” are by and large created and executed by me while he is hard at work bringing home the bacon. We both support each other 100%.

      • says

        I presented our summer schedule last night and the kids were less than enthusiastic about it. Dad is on the same page, but works LONG hours as well. I’m willing to be the bad guy and have them give me flak because I know this little tiny bit of structure is better than rotting their brains away with TV and video games.

  1. Deb says

    Oh boy Allyson! Can I relate to this one! Just this morning I had to be the “bad guy” and put my 9 yr. old son on the school bus despite his crying desperately to be able to stay home. The bigger part of me wanted desperately to oblige him but the better part of me knew that I had to make him go to school (btw, he was not sick). So while I remained “thick skinned” throughout the morning ordeal, I did shed some tears walking back to the house down the long windy driveway…after watching him wave to me in tears from the window of the bus as they drove down the road. Here’s to us Moms who do our best to raise our children while inside we’re cryin’ inside!! Thanks for the great write up…you go Mom!! :)

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      That’s a tough one!! I am totally feeling your pain on this one. I may have been clinging to the back fender of the bus. 😀

  2. Rachel says

    Thank you so much Allyson!! I needed to know I am not the only one!!! I loved your article!! So many times I feel like the bad guy. Last night tears flowed as I mumbled under my breathe as my husband kept saying “You are a good mom and your boys love you. It was just a bad day!! ” It would be easier to give in all the time and be the super awesome mom all the time that my kids dream of but that’s not what being a parent is. Sometimes being a parent means going through growing pains just like the kids go through growing pains. Thanks again!!

  3. says

    Oh, how this resonates with me even though our girls are young adults. We instituted family meetings when our youngest was about 5. What a struggle it was to get through those sometimes.

    It was more difficult to be the bad guy, though. Consistency, with respect and consequences, was what got us through the days. And tag-teaming each other when one of us was just at the end of our rope.

    I was just talking about this subject with my youngest (she’s 24 now), and she was laughing about how she always would get mad at us for being tough parents. She said she looks back now and is grateful for the parents we were. Whew. It was a long and often difficult road with many twists and turns, but standing here now I can say it was so worth it to stay the course and not give in to the “Fine! Do whatever you want” mentality.

    Thanks for all the encouragement and useful information you share here. It is terrific!

  4. juliajacobsen says

    This felt so real to me. It is being known as the bad guy that breaks my heart sometimes. But this helps me feel resolved to keep them learning and growing and having fun while learning and growing! Thanks for your great article.

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      We will all have our hearts broken many times before this motherhood journey is over, right? It can be so hard, but that’s why we’re here for each other on this website.

  5. Sue says

    Lately I have been telling my husband that for the first time since I started having children (9kids over 18 years), I understand how some mothers can just walk away from their families and start new lives. I have cried in front of the computer reading Shawni’s glowing tributes to her beautiful children after I just went through another nightmare day dealing with a 26 year old daughter whom I have always struggled with, a son who has had difficulties his entire mission, and teens with snotty mouths and bad attitudes. My youngest children are 7, 9 and 11 and are still very sweet but I’m so afraid of the coming years. While I don’t wish tribulation on anyone and I don’t take joy in another’s trials, I am glad to know that I’m not the only mom with children who don’t appreciate my efforts to homeschool, plan meaningful summer activities, etc. I have Summer Camp all ready to discuss with the kids but I find I have been putting it off because I know that instead of input and ideas I will be met with sullen resistance. Obviously, I have made some serious mistakes in parenting somewhere.

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      First of all, any woman who chooses to have 9 children and home school them has her heart in the right place! Secondly, Shawni’s children are not as old as yours yet, so they have had less time to go through many of the bumps you are talking about with your older children. (None of us gets through totally unscathed, but people don’t usually share those kind of “disparaging” personal details about their children on their blog anyway.) I don’t know you or your situation, of course, but my guess is that you haven’t made any more “serious” parenting mistakes than the rest of us. Maybe you’re just having a “thin skinned” day, and that’s totally understandable. Please don’t take any of it personally, and just keep on trying with the same determination that has gotten you to this point. You can only do what you can do, and then your children will make their own decisions!

  6. turquoiserules says

    Yikes! That is exactly how I am feeling right now as I read this! Trying to instil the good habit of cleaning up after herself in my 11 year old daughter and she is resisting it with everything in her. I constantly feel like the bad guy as I call her back to clean up stuff that she’s used all around the house. Trying hard to remember that I am doing the right thing even as it feels like she will fight me forever. Thankfully my husband is on the same page and encourages me to stay the course when I feel like giving up.

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      And it also gets tiring because sometimes WE don’t want to have to care every minute of the day either, right? Learning self-discipline is a process for both us AND them in my experience. She may fight you forever, but she’ll also love you for it in the end.

  7. Laurie Brooks says

    I love that Brandon says eat, sleep, play is “the way of our people.” So funny and so true.

  8. ANNIE says

    Thank you for the supportive article. I find it especially trying to be the bad guy when surrounded by parents who aren’t on the same path. The “but Johnny’s mom lets him do (fill in the blank)” is wearying. I so appreciate the reinforcement and knowing there are some thick-skinned moms out there.

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      Such a great point about the other parents. I’ve heard many people say that their line for that one is, “Well, that’s fine that the so and so’s do it that way, but IN OUR FAMILY . . . “

  9. Cami says

    I have always struggled with this issue, especially those first weeks of summer. I have been so gung-ho at times that I know I wasn’t any fun to be with and have had to learn to lighten up a little – keep our routine simple and consistent, but leave plenty of down time too. It seems that things are getting easier as my kids get older so maybe some of that hard work is paying off? I hope so!

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      Things definitely get easier in some ways as they get older, but I also think you’re right about striking a balance and learning when to lighten up.

  10. Deanna says

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m always feeling like I’m the party pooper around here. I have an 8 yr old son who doesn’t usually say he hates me but his line is “You don’t love me!” of course crying heartily with tears flowing and all. I often turn away and wonder if I’ve messed up big to have him think I don’t love him. But, he does like to twist things around often to get out of things and to create some “chaos” anyway, so I try not to take it personally and have to stick with what I’ve expected. Am I consistent? Not always. Definitely not always. I don’t have a summer plan yet, but I did let the kids know that the won’t just be able to play all summer. There’ll be practicing, reading, and maybe even some learning and chores. Something to do everyday. And yes, I want to do alot of waterparks and play time they so desperately need right now. However, I don’t want to overdo it and I know it’s going to be a struggle. I don’t always like to be thick-skinned and I do cave in sometimes but we have to get back up and try again. Sometimes, everyday…..Thanks for this great article!

    • Allyson Reynolds says

      Hang in there!! You can do this!! He knows you love him now, and he’ll know it even more when he gets older as you stick to your guns.

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