By the Skin of Our Teeth

Five years ago today, we flew to New Hampshire (by way of Boston) for our son’s high school graduation.

We really had no idea — right up until the last minute — if it would ever happen.

Not after he basically refused to go to school his freshman year.

Or after the months that he was on Home and Hospital by order of the high school he was attending.

Or after the many more months (years, actually) he was in Utah at a residential therapeutic school, and then an alternative boarding school in New Hampshire for his senior year.

He was sent home just a month before the end of the year. Here we thought we had made it — after years of the mantra “just get him through high school, just get him through high school” — and then, bam, it was in danger of not happening.

Thankfully, the school allowed him to finish his course work at home. Thankfully, he did it. Thankfully, we were able to take him to graduate with his class.

It was touch and go for years. But I’m grateful we hung in there. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned. I’m grateful that he’s doing as great as he is, and that we have a close relationship again.

Those years were tough, the hardest of my life. If you’re going through them now, I’m here to support you. Download a copy of my book (at www.survivingyouroutofcontrolteen.com) or give me a call and let me know what’s going on with you.

These difficult years won’t last forever, even if it seems like they will never end. You’ll be okay, mama.

Teaching Sons to Identify and Share Emotions

Moms, teaching your sons that they are permitted to feel their feelings is so crucial for their future happiness. This article from Harpers Bazaar, Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden, unpacks so much about what goes wrong when our sons learn that having feelings is not masculine.

  • They rely on their partners for emotional support, intimacy and even therapy. It can lead to burnout for their SO and end the relationship.
  • Men don’t seek out therapy when they need it. “Only five percent of men seek outpatient mental health services, despite feeling lonelier than ever before (in a recent British study, 2.5 million men admitted to having no close friends). What’s more, men conceal pain and illness at much higher rates than women, and are three times more likely than women to die from suicide. “
  • Shame for showing signs of weakness is the biggest cause of toxic masculinity, according to Brene Brown.

It’s not just men who buy into the idea that feelings are for sissies.  You’ve heard the moms that say things like “Football players don’t cry.” Perhaps you’ve said similar things (I certainly did), sometimes because of the cultural norms and sometimes out of your own desire to end the drama (dealing with children’s emotions can get tiring).

But if you want to give your son the best preparation for life, for having successful relationships, for feeling happy and secure, give them the gift of knowing that their very human emotions are okay. Help them learn how to deal with them both inside and outside the home. You’ll also be doing a great service to their future partners — indeed, the entire world.

“Normalizing the Hardships of Motherhood”

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, the day when the ideal of motherhood is celebrated.

On this day, the day after, let’s look at some reality: “Experts say the United States has the most family-hostile public policy of any developed country, and sociology professor Caitlyn Collins’ new research shows among Western industrialized nations, American mothers stand apart for their stress and feel the most acute work-family conflict.”

“Combine a lack of public policy with a culture that bullies mothers for everything from breastfeeding in public to sleep training, and the generosity of a single holiday starts to pale.”

“We celebrate moms who work to meet society’s demands, who overextend to fill in the gaps, who never cease sacrificing for those they love. But is this the version of motherhood to revere?”

These quotes stood out to me in this USA Today article, as did the following:

“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”

I definitely felt the pressure of this when I was raising my children. I knew I would never measure up. I always expected to be subjected to criticism. I also expected it to be hard and terrible and unrewarding, especially when they were teenagers (which became self-fulfilling).

If you’re a mom feeling a teeny tiny stressed, if you sometimes or always are waiting for the smack down, if you just can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong or what you should be doing more of — you’re not alone. It’s not you. Start looking at your expectations of yourself — see where you can lighten up a little, give yourself a break. Do you need to be part of every fundraiser at the school? Do you need to be at every sporting event? Do you need to be the one to do the laundry? So many questions to ask!

Feeling compelled to always be on, to always be the mom, to put the children before all else, can be set aside for a moment. Consciously reject this belief. Feel the wholeness of who you are, of which being a mom is just a part. Feel gratitude for the richness that mothering brings to you, and feel gratitude that you and your life are so much more.

For a free copy of my #1 bestseller Surviving the High School Years with Your Sanity Intact: A Guide for Moms of Out-of-Control Teens, go to www.survivingyouroutofcontrolteen.com.