Its another TSIB interview…
Kate and I have very long chats the twice a year we probably get to see each other. She has one of those faces that makes you talk even when you didnt realise you probably needed to.
Kate has some great thoughts on parenting. She is raising teenagers and I guess always shows me that even though raising kids can be exhausting they really push you to think about who you are, how you respond and how you manage to retain you in the process.
Kate shared her reflections with me about that transition from being eaten alive to finding yourself slowly emerging out the other side. So grab a coffee (its christmas thought you might need the caffeine) find a comfy spot and have a read…
I sit here in a very quiet house – 7.30am and no noise, just the birdy-chirp outside and the ticking of the clock, husband snoring softly in a different space. Rewind 10 years and we would have already been up for 2 hours, noise, chaos, laughs and conflict abounding.
This week is a strange one for me, our first born left for Europe on Sunday on Student exchange for 2 months, so we are now a one teen house (though keeping up a steady stream of friend co-conspirators to keep her occupied). I think to conversations with my neighbour who felt terribly unmoored when her children left home. I’m thinking of this change as a practice run, so when it comes for real, I might be just a little bit prepared.
This is my space, though in fact I think there are 2 spaces – the one between the hands on “active” mother and the later “observant/supportive’ mother, and also the space between the mother I have to be (not always fun when dealing with teens) and the mother I would like to be. Herein lies the opportunity.
As your kids grow and move closer towards being adults where is the space in between caring and letting go for you?
This is such a time of adjustment, of making mistakes (all of us) and picking it up again and moving on. I’ve had to learn to let go of trying to control things, and on more occasion than one, to remember that I can no more control whether they study or spend the whole day texting, than I could control my babies’ sleep, or toilet train when they weren’t ready. Funny how you forget the basics when tangled up in the day to day. That said, boundaries remain essential, which makes me quite unpopular at times! It’s a much more background role, but no less important.
What does the emerging space feel like?
It feels quite sad, as it involves letting go of a special time and feeling often dismissed and redundant (teens have that special knack). It is a challenge to keep this in perspective and sometimes brings out the petulant worst in me! I’m just starting to explore this space, and this writing is very much part of that, to work out where I will choose to be, to live, to do. I’m hopeful that reflecting on this time will help me be more supportive of their independence and less reactive.
Is it like the old cliche of reclaiming your identity or is it about just being open to new things as you go?
I don’t really relate to the idea of “reclaiming identity” as I see that identity is something that belongs in the time that it existed, and changes over time. To try to reclaim my pre-baby identity would feel a little like the endless touring of 80’s botoxed music greats, still squeezed into the same gear with the same lines – sentimental, but actually quite woeful. No I believe we must change, to try and go back is self-defeating. I think I need to accept the changes, the lessons, my own growth through parenting and embrace that experience. I’m lucky to have chosen stable, socially contributing work through all my parenting years and reflecting on this, I’m sure it has helped me to be anchored in who I am. This then has stopped me from defining myself purely as wife and mother, which then cushions the new role changes.
Any tips for others? Do your kids understand the shift?
I don’t know if the kids understand the shift , because being teenagers, the world rotates around them and they want you to be what they want you to be when they want it , and this changes from minute to minute! I think my son (nearly 17) understands (sort of) how hard it has been for me to encourage him to spread his wings in terms of travelling, but this has brought us closer emotionally. My daughter is enjoying her first steps toward independent relationships, and I’m pleased that (when in the right mood) she shares some of this with me, and values my opinion. To allow them to experience their life without “mum” being a constant large part of their life is the challenge for mothers, and for them as well.
Tips? Hmmm, I guess several important themes come to mind.
- Maintaining your partner relationship independent of the children. This includes having shared time together but also developing not only shared interests, but being interested in each other’s work and independent activities.
- Nurturing positive friendships with old and new friends, both with and without the kids in tow.
- Making sure that you do things that make you feel excited, interested and alive, be it exercise, nature, arts, whatever.
- Keep communicating with teenage children, as dismissive as they can be. This takes thick skin and patience.
If you have more in your life than your children, the changes will be easier to navigate. Here’s hoping!
Thanks Kate…I thought about doing this interview when I started to consider what I would do with the extra time I might find as my kids grow and ‘need’ me less and how I’d cope with that. I think that Kate’s thoughts about it not being about reclaiming the old you and more about embracing the changes sits nicely with the idea of looking ahead rather than looking back.