My kids are teenagers, but I’m still a mom.
There are no more diapers to change or sippy cups to fill, but I’m still a mom.
My kids can feed themselves and pick out their own clothes (even buy them), but I’m still a mom.
There are no more boo-boos to kiss and make better and no more lullabies to sing at night, but I’m still a mom.
My kids are teenagers—one is a full-blown, 18-year-old adult—but I’m still a mom.
We gush over new moms with snuggly newborns, cooing babies, squishy toddlers, and rambunctious 6- and 7-year-olds. We say things like “oh, you have your hands full!” But the moms who have older kids seem to get forgotten in the mix. When our kids are young we are busy with mommy-and-me classes, mom’s groups, and play dates. We stay and have coffee and visit with other moms while the kids pull out every toy in the box. As they get older and our schedules get busier those play dates turn into drop-offs with a quick wave in the driveway and then to them driving themselves.
But I’m still a mom.
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I don’t park at the school and wait while chatting with other moms for my elementary school student to walk out to me. Instead, I roll through the pick-up line and give a quick wave to other parents I once spent so much time with. My older kids drive themselves to school and leave in a rush in the morning.
My kids may be teenagers but they still have meltdowns. Oh, do they have meltdowns! This time it’s stress and worry. Their problems are more than a toy that won’t do what they want or their shoes on the wrong feet. There are tears and sobs from new hormones, and like toddlers, they still don’t know why they are so upset. Except, now their problems can’t be kissed away or solved by distraction. They are preparing to go out in the world and their choices matter and weigh heavy on all our hearts. Now they ask “Mom, what do I do?” These answers do not come easy, and an ice pop or new toy won’t solve it.
My kids don’t wake up every two hours in the middle of the night, but I’m still exhausted.
Instead, it’s me who wakes up in the middle of the night, my mind racing about plans for the upcoming day. Have they studied for their AP exams, gotten their work permit signed, turned in their scholarship forms. Who has practice or a game or a meeting after school? Wide awake at 2 a.m., I wonder about the choices they’ve made and am I doing a good job and will they be OK?
Bedtimes are later and way past mine. Many nights are spent staying up late anxiously waiting for their headlights to light up the house letting me know they are home safe. The sheer terror that runs through my veins when they are supposed to be driving home and I get a phone call from them instead. The rare times the voice on the other end says, “Mom, I’m OK, but I’ve been in an accident” overshadow the normal, “Mom, can I go get a milkshake with my friend?”
The moms of teenagers I have talked to lately are exhausted, exasperated, and overwhelmed. We all seem to be in a zombie-like constant state of worry, over commitment, and exhaustion. More than one has lamented that they would go back to those days of dirty diapers and toddler meltdowns in a heartbeat. To have everyone home eating chicken nuggets and Mac and Cheese for lunch and sitting down at the table for dinner. To the time when bedtimes were reasonable, and you could exhale once everyone was tucked in safely in their own beds. To the middle of the night wakes ups because of a bad dream that just needs mom’s love and hugs and would lead to those sweet babies tucked in our bed.
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Those were tough times with a different kind of exhaustion, don’t get me wrong, I do remember. But it hasn’t magically gotten easier, and I’m not just skating through their final years at home in peaceful bliss.
Each phase of having kids has come with its challenges and rewards.
Each phase has been difficult, and each phase has had its wonders. I love these teenagers and hearing their thoughts and opinions and watching them grow into adults. I loved the baby and toddler stages and the cuddles and snuggles. I have loved every stage, but I’ve been exhausted, overwhelmed, and in a constant state of worry for over 18 years.
Motherhood is hard every step of the way. No matter how old your kids are—newborn, toddler, middle schooler, high schooler, or adult who has left the nest. We moms of older kids seem to get forgotten. But we are here, exhausted, and worried too. And we are still moms.