Released On 1st Sep 2022
Julia's blog: New Parents All Over Again
This summer, we have been exposed to the beginnings of what it feels like to be the parents of a teenager, and it’s left both of us feeling exactly that: utterly exposed, totally lost and rather like we felt during those early days of being newborn parents. Uncertain, confused and panicking that we’re getting everything wrong, sideswiped as we have been by previously unseen mood swings, as our new adult-in-the-making careers between a need to be hugged and endlessly reassured, and seconds later rolling her eyes at even the most innocuous comment, followed by shrieks for us to “LEAVE ME ALONE!”.
While the stakes felt - and surely were - high during the newborn phase (keeping our precious new human alive was of course the most basic, but also important, of all parenting tasks), now they feel not just high, but so risky, so dangerous, so enormous. Every comment feels like it might get lodged in a teenage brain, taken the wrong way, form the subject of years of therapy, grow, weed-like, into a tangle of mental health crises. Was that the right thing to say? Did I emphasise that enough? Did she listen to what I actually said, or just hear what her teenage brain is telling her?
To help me navigate, I have turned to books, as I have always done - and none so helpful as Lorraine Candy’s “mothering manual”: “Mum, What’s Wrong with You?: 101 Things Only Mothers of Teenage Girls Know”. Early on in the book, Candy writes: “This stage of mothering can sometimes feel like living with the worst boyfriend you ever had but with whom you are still crazy in love. He’s rude to you, criticises your appearance and absentmindedly pokes holes in your deteriorating self-esteem just as you hit midlife, BUT you can’t leave him and you won’t hear a bad word about him from anyone else because in the sunlight of his rare approval there lies the deepest love of all”. This so aptly encapsulated the brewing storm in which we find ourselves, and was so deeply reassuring, so utterly comforting, that I wept with recognition (not the first tears I have shed this summer at my efforts to mother my darling child, let me tell you, and surely not the last….!)
Armed with the above, which will be my bible and comfort, I’m practising patience and tolerance. I’m reminding myself to celebrate the little parenting wins, the moments that I feel like I actually get something right, to remind myself that actually teenagers are really just a bit like toddlers, to find the humour in the trail of destruction, to not sweat the small stuff, to have another cup of tea and remember that one’s bed is an excellent hiding place. Against the tsunami of adolescent emotions, I’m reminding myself to hold firm, to listen not judge, to be a safe harbour in the storm of teenage angst, and above all to let most of it go, to try and see the funny side of the teenage quirks, and to talk - to talk to friends (though not those who tell me their seven year old feels like a teenager…HA. Just. You. Wait….!), to share the anxiety and worry and fear - and remember there’s always blue sky behind the clouds. Wish me luck…Following a career in the City, first as a solicitor and then in an investment bank, Julia now runs an executive search firm focused on flexible roles. She lives in London with her husband, a Trauma and Orthopaedic Consultant (who will hopefully, given his line of work, never work from home…!) and who works full-time. They have three children, aged 13, 11 and 7.