Being a mom is one bad-ass job.
I worked with the mom of two teenagers last night. She came in alone, with nothing in particular on her mind, no pressing issue, no crisis to resolve. She wanted to talk about the way in which she parents her kids, a gut check to ensure she was making good calls, parenting in balance. Her son starts homework too late, for instance. While dad's impulse here is to set up a consequence, this mom wants to add a discussion. She seeks to better understand why he waits. Is he lazy? She doesn't think so. Is he afraid of failure, or maybe success? Probably. But she wants to talk to him about it. In fact, I find that moms want to talk to their teenagers a lot. They want to understand their world, so they ask a lot of questions, do a lot of listening. This mom is a listener, and her children have, sometimes reluctantly, become talkers.
And man, do they talk.
They talk about music and relationships. They talk about diet and exercise. And then there's that harsh side of communicating, the side many parents would just as soon ignore. They talk about drinking, drugs and smoking. They talk about sex. So many variables to take into consideration, and this mom takes it all in, calmly, thoughtfully, usually smiling. Pretty bad-ass.
So, she checked in for an hour, and had to hurry out. She had to pick up her son at basketball practice, and she wanted to catch the tail end. She didn't want to miss it.
Now, this session was no anomaly. As I check out my schedule for the past week, I've spent no fewer than seven hours with moms, all with the same basic agenda: how am I doing with this parenting thing?
See, mothers consider their parenting. Moms think about parenting, a lot. They make adjustments in their approach. They read parenting books. They talk to, and confide in, each other. They attend lectures. They take notes.
Moms take this stuff seriously.
And it's tough being the mom these days. There are countless roles a mom needs to play, and they shift, often unpredicatably, sometimes within the course of a day. One mom of a client of mine described a recent, fairly ordinary weekday. In that one day, she served as cook, chauffeur, tutor, makeshift counselor and, for a distraught daughter, temporary BFF. Then, she said, she would go to work.
Such is the life of a mom today.
It's complicated stuff. Moms work out of the house more than ever these days, but research shows, all too clearly, that they also do the lion's share of raising kids and housework. I wrote my dissertation on this topic almost 15 years ago, and it hasn't changed much at all. Come on, guys! We have got to step it up here, or I'll be stuck writing a half-assed Father's Day blog in a few weeks!
Let's face it. When things get tough, when something happens in life, when something goes awry, most teenagers I know still want mom. A break-up, they want mom. A bad test, they want mom. A good test, they want mom. Problem with a friend, mom. Bad day on the court, or the field, in the pool. Mom, mom, mom.
Even if they're in conflict with her, they want mom.
Mom remains the ultimate comfort, the consolation, the shoulder. But there's so much more to the mothering thing. Moms have to be strong -- really strong -- as well.
Moms make those countless real-time calls: can she go to Lynn's house, or this awesome party, or hang out with Adam, or go in late tomorrow because she didn't finish the paper? Mom is also the one who typically decides whether their child is okay, whether some help or intervention is required.
To add a little something to the plate, moms remain the bedrock, the very foundation, of the family. For many families I know, there are no family dinners without mom, no traditions to look forward to, no surprise outings, no birthday cake. Behind the scenes, moms keep the train on the rails.
So yes, the job of mom requires some real soft, emotional intelligence skills. But underlying that, moms have this foundation of steel.
So, here's to you bad-ass moms out there. Thought we may not say it until the next Mother's Day, we really appreciate all that you do.
In an initial session, I worked with a 14-year-old boy and his mother recently. We talked through the issues that brought them to my couch and, in the course of the interview, I asked about their relationship.
"Oh, I love my mom. She's awesome. She does everything for me."
Mom brushed away a tear, and moved on. After all, there's bad-ass work to be done.
Follow John Duffy, Psy.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drjohnduffy