I have been hearing a lot about this topic recently so please weigh in.
Dear Dr. G.,
I know that your column is about problems with teenagers but I have a problem with my wife who is trying to act like a teenager. I met my wife 18 years ago and married her because she was fun, attractive, and we had a lot in common. Things between us have been pretty good until recently. Since my daughter turned 13 my wife has changed.
I am no fuddy duddy but I am embarrassed by my wife's behavior. She shops with my daughter and buys the same clothes in the same stores. She looks more like a high school kid then a sophisticated woman. And trust me when I tell you my wife looks beautiful in adult clothing. She doesn't need skin tight jeans and a belly ring to look good.
I have spoken to my wife about this a little and she said that this helps her bond with my daughter and her teenage friends. She says that she doesn't want to be one of those mothers who the kids are afraid to talk to. She says that she wants to be seen as cool and hip, not as an out-of touch old lady.
Dr. G. -- I married a woman, not a teenager. Am I out of my mind? Should I just be thankful that I have a wife that is in good enough shape to wear teen clothing? Or, do I have a real problem on and in my hands and house?
A Confused Husband
Dear Confused Husband,
Yep, I think that you have a problem in your home. I also think that your daughter and wife have a problem. First, I can assure you that teenagers do not want their moms to look and act like teenagers. They tell me all the time that this embarrasses them. Secondly, a mother who acts and dresses like a teen is most likely trying to be her teen's friend. This is very risky. This is an excellent but unfortunate way for your wife to lose her status as an authority figure in your daughter's life. Friends don't set rules and enforce consequences. Parents who embrace their parent role do this and their teens benefit from this sort of structure. Your teens won't tell you but they secretly crave structure. It makes them feel safe.
It is your daughter's turn to be a teen. Your wife already had her turn. By acting and dressing like a teen she is sending your daughter the message that being an adult is not something to look forward to. If it was then why would your wife choose teen style?
Your wife is,most likely, unaware of these issues. Remind her that you love her as an adult and are not looking for a younger wife. She may feel insecure about aging. In a loving manner, explain to her that teens need a parent to be a parent and not a friend. If she is a patient and loving mom then your daughter will trust and confide in her. There is no evidence that a teen outfit on a parent leads to more teen disclosure.
Good luck, and you have good intuition,
Crossposted at Psychology Today.