Being a parent makes me feel so relieved. Teenagers, not toddlers. Our kids are 16, 14 and 11 now—and I’m learning how to be a good mom to teenagers (and one tween) despite years of feeling inadequate when they were little.
Raising teens can be difficult. Teens are often afraid of social media and have concerns about their mental health and relationships. I have learned from my mistakes as an older mom, recollect my needs as a teenager, and recognized my strengths and weaknesses as a parent.
Related: 7 things people won’t tell teens about raising them
I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t a “baby person.” And then I felt guilty that I didn’t want to “hold onto every moment” with my small children. Older women would say with a tone of sorrow, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
When my children were young, there was no internet. did feel long. The months Also felt long. It felt like the years were a long time. There were moments of joy, laughter, and wonder. I felt impatient and inept. Every day.
Each of us bring our individual strengths to the table alongside ours. Very Real Parents should be aware of their limitations
When our youngest was three years of age, the shift began. Her birthday was the day she would be able to sleep in a big-girl bed, give up diapers, and get rid of her pacifier. These declarations worked and soon we had three children who were semi-independent. They could eat, sleep, and even use the toilet by themselves. Every year that followed, I loved being a mom more and more.
I believed these facts showed my selfishness for a while. I believed that I was not willing to sacrifice the way mothers are expected to. My dissatisfaction with being a parent to young children made me a poor mom.
But as our kids have grown, I’ve moved from guilt to gratitude. I’m grateful not only for who they are but also for what they have taught me about who I am. I learned from my early experiences of inadequacy that we all have our strengths and that each person has our weaknesses. Very real Parents should be aware of their limitations
When our kids were younger, I tried to conform to a theory I had about an ideal mother—a mother who did handcrafts and decorated for the holidays and cultivated an extensive vegetable garden. Although I hadn’t ever sewn, planted a carrot, or hang twinkle lights, I believed that my domestic instincts would emerge once I had children. It took many failed attempts, much seething resentment towards myself and a few tearful breakdowns for me to realize that I couldn’t conform to the idea of motherhood that I had created.
Related: My daughter has entered the tween years—and I’m not ready
As my children grew up, I realized that our limitations could be opportunities to connect with other people and rely on them. Seeing needs as opportunities for relationships helped me realize I didn’t need to do it all and helped us connect to our community.
Our children visited our aunt and uncle for years to help them with their vegetable gardens. They look forward to their grandmother’s house at Christmastime, with its extensive decorations. They now have webs of relationships and support—coaches, teachers, youth group leaders, friends’ parents.
I am glad their dad and I can’t be all that they need. For me to accept my own limitations has meant we all learned that we are humans who can’t do it all—and who especially can’t do it all Alleine.
It is possible that parents experience periods of feeling incompetent.
I don’t need to be good at every season or aspect of parenting in order to be the parent our kids need. I’m just not great with physical care, but I really enjoy engaging with the emotional needs of teenagers. I’m impatient with two-year-olds, but I can sit next to a thirteen-year-old for an hour and take delight in asking questions about their life. I am no baby whisperer, but there’s nothing I love more than one of our kids keeping me up past my bedtime with stories about their day.
I understand their struggle with relationships and how easily they are distracted by social media. I still vividly recall my teenage years, and have great empathy for my perfectionist, overachieving self. Now I have the opportunity to speak with my children in words that I wish I could have understood as a teenager. Loving yourself for who you really are is more important than what you do.. Now I have the opportunity to add my words of support with actions that are more focused on being with them than just checking in on their assignments or watching their performances.
All parents experience periods of feeling uninspiring. Mine came early, and now I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful not to be changing diapers anymore—but I’m also grateful that those years helped me understand that it is a gift to be a limited, fallible, inadequate parent. These limitations led me to community and connections. Those limitations helped me recognize my own strengths. Eventually, these limits brought me more love.