As my kids get older and are in school, I have moms of young kids longingly ask how it is to have some quiet time during the day and how I spend my “free time.” I remember feeling that exact way when I was swimming/drowning in toddler tantrums, sippy cups, breastfeeding babies, no sleep, and running after little ones all day. I was absolutely 100% physically exhausted every single day. I had to rush getting a shower, if I got one at all, and I longed for a nap nearly every day. I often cried from sheer exhaustion.
These days I do get a shower every day. I can take a fairly long one (if the teens have left me any hot water), and I can even shave my legs! I can have a nap occasionally, and I do have some quiet time during the day. However, I still have many of the same household tasks I had before my kids were in school, I just don’t have little helpers around.
I work as a preschool teacher, which leaves me only a couple of hours before the teens get home from high school. That “down time” is quickly taken up by laundry, dishes, errands, etc.
When the kids get home from school, my “real job” begins. I run from one thing to another, keeping schedules straight, attending sporting and choir events, fixing dinner, and helping with homework. I try not to over schedule my kids, but with five kids, even if they are only doing one activity each, it can be very busy.
I’ve been asked several times if it’s easier being a mom now than when I had little ones. That is one loaded question! I am really good with small children; I know it’s a gift I’ve been given. I love little kids and often enjoy their company more than that of many adults. I am confident about disciplining them and teaching them. I honestly have struggled more with them as they get older. On the other hand, it is nice to be able to leave one of the older kids in charge while I run to the bank or store. Now they get themselves ready for school (if I can get them out of bed). They are more independent and that can be very helpful!
However, my answer to whether motherhood is easier at this stage is “No.” It’s definitely not easier, but not necessarily harder. It’s just different.
I’ve traded staying awake with a newborn for staying up until teens get home. They don’t go to bed early, and I often stay up late with them while they do homework. In addition, I lie awake at night worrying about their choices and the impact it will have on their future.
I’ve traded potty training worries for teen driving worries. As I teach them to drive, I hope beyond hope they have the judgement and protection to not hurt themselves or others.
I’ve traded toddler tantrums for teen and tween tantrums, which are eerily similar except I can’t carry them to time-out or solve it with a hug and kiss.
I’ve traded worries about them not sharing with others at the park for worries that they will find good friends who will be kind and inclusive and help them become their best selves. I’m no longer in control of their social lives, setting up play dates with the kids I want them to play with.
I can honestly say I always have a prayer in my heart for their well-being and their choices. At the end of every day I am 100% mentally and emotionally exhausted!
You give up a lot of control as kids grow up, and that is hard. You have to let them make mistakes and deal with hard consequences, and that can be hard on a mommy heart.
Being a parent of teens isn’t all hardship and doom and gloom, of course. I really enjoy my teenagers; they are great kids and we have a very good relationship. They open up and talk to me often, and we have heartfelt discussions about their lives. They share their music and YouTube videos, and they have great senses of humor. I quite like these kids of mine.
My advice is don’t wait for things to get “easier.” It just doesn’t happen. Going grocery shopping is definitely easier, but shopping for clothes with teens is not! I hear that parenting adult children has its own unique challenges—I’m getting to that stage now.
Enjoy the ages and stages your kids are at. Every age and stage has wonderful things and definite challenges. Every child does things his or her own way, so even when you figure out one child, the next one will do things differently. Parenting requires a lot of prayer, meditation, and trial and error. I make mistakes daily. Motherhood isn’t meant to be easy, it’s meant to refine us and help us grow into the women we need to be.
QUESTION: What can you do to focus on the good parts of your child’s age and stage right now?
CHALLENGE: Don’t wish away time with your children. Focus on the positive and remember that each segment of parenting has its unique challenges. Make a list of the things you love most about the current stages your children are in.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Kimberly Price.
Image from Pixabay; graphic by Anna Jenkins.