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Should Moms Stay Home if They Have Teens?

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Oh yes, I am going to add even more material to the working outside of the home versus being a stay-at-home mom debate. I never intended to add to this already vitriolic debate, but a very interesting questioned was posed to me. And, as always, I can't resist an interesting question,so here goes.

We hear constantly about whether or not mothers should stay at home to raise their babies and young children. After all, we were told by Freud that this is when their personalities are developing -- personalities that will stay with these kids forever and that may be unalterable as these kids get older. So, the question posed to me was whether mothers stay home when their kids become teens. After all, that is when many say they are at risk to make bad decisions and are most vulnerable to peer pressure. Let me tell you that I was up all night last night thinking about not only this question, but what the teens that I work with would say about this. I went through my mental Rolodex of teens and what they would say.

This question creates quite a conundrum. Yes, on the one hand, it would be good if a parent was home to monitor the activities of these lovely but impulsive creatures known as teens. Yes, it would be swell to be at home to get to know their friends. And, yes, if a parent was home, that parent would be in the wonderful position of knowing just how much time that teen is spending plugged in to the various forms of social media. On the other hand, I imagined mothers staying home and getting too actively involved in the lives of teens who are struggling to become independent. I worry that these mothers might be prone to infantilize these budding young adults. In my head, I saw a group of teens begging for some space to decompress without a mother asking them "how was your day?" the moment that they return home from school. This question, by the way, is interpreted by teens as, "Did you get good grades?" Besides, at 3 p.m., their day is not yet finished, and I pictured a group of teens and moms getting frustrated with each other as the teen is looking for some decompression time and the mother is looking for some meaningful conversation.

My thoughts rambled on. I ruminated some more. Fret no more, though; I think that I have come to a conclusion. I see no reason for women to quit their jobs when their kids become teens. Similarly, I see no reason for stay-at-home moms to rush out to find work when their kids become teens. Here, however, are some pointers for women from both groups. If you are a stay-at-home mom, keep your eye on your teen, but please try to foster the teen's independence without appearing intrusive and overly-involved. They are not toddlers and do not need to be treated as such. For working mothers, I do suggest that you text your teens so that you can monitor their activities. They should check in with you and let you know where they are. An occasional stopping by home to check on things is an excellent idea so that they know that there is accountability.

I am sorry that I don't have a single and simple answer. Like all things in life worth discussing, there are many sides to a good and controversial question. I believe that mothers on both sides of this debate can do a good and solid job of raising teens. It won't be easy for either group but hey when did anyone every say that raising teens would be easy?