There is a strange phenomenon with parents where we find ourselves in situations that are hard, like really friggin hard, and we feel isolated and desperately want to seek help.
But then say nothing...
Or we ask but do not take solace or heed of advice, dismissing what we are told for any number of reasons.
I used to think it was just me, but I am not sure anymore.
There is no disputing that every stage of parenting has it’s own set of challenges and breaking points for us all. When my eldest was 6 months of age I was fortunate to find a group of women with their first babies and we formed a very tight bond. That bond was based on the brutal honesty of how we were and were not coping. We laughed together and we cried (often) together. As our babies were all of very similar ages (only a few weeks separated birthdays), pretty much all the shitty milestones happened to us all at the same time. The knowledge that I was not the only one with no sleep due to teething was one of those threads I hung on to as a lifeline rather than a noose.
Strangely though - and here is the bit that is really messed up - I found that when parents of older kids gave me advice or words of wisdom, a barrier went up within me. I even found the advice to be a bit patronising. I always found myself bracing for “ugh! If you think this stage is hard, you wait until he turns three!” There is also a kind of ‘smugness’ (or so it seemed to me) from some parents offering advice that they had already gone through that so it is not important anymore, or worse, they never went through it at all!! I would always go into shut down.
This did not seem to change for me as my children grew up. The group of mums that was once so important to my every day survival eventually grew apart and the social isolation of raising children kicked in. I, hand-on-heart, will attest that I found being a mum really hard. I look back now and realise I did actually do a really good job (hey, lets start acknowledging this shit everyone!). But whilst living through the 4-12 year old stage, I often felt very alone and that I was in fact the world's biggest failure as a parent.
My cries for help fell on deaf ears – as often happens when those cries are silent.
The realisation hit me that no could help me because I would not ask for it, or take it if someone recognised the signs, or even on those rare occasions I did reach out I would refute it based on a misguided assumptions. How messed up is that? And apparently is not just me. There are a great deal of parents out there who desperately want help but do not ask and/or do not take. Is this some crazy deep-set martyrdom?
I used to joke that there is not a whole lot other than the bottle shop for parents of teens.
Not really a joke actually.
Talking Teens was made to share stories of my real life experiences, and often raw but honest views. Not to boast about how I have raised my teens (credit), but to connect to those who are wanting help but do not want to ask. If a parent connects with a funny story I might share - great! If a parent finds connection when I share something that I fucked up completely, even better still. I respond to everyone who asks questions as honestly as I can in the hope that they might take on board some help, you know… because they asked.
I implore to parents of all ages and stages: the only cry for help that is ignored is the one you do not say out-loud. There is no shame in reaching out and saying ‘this sucks and I can’t cope today’. Today is today, and we all know that tomorrow, hell probably next hour, will be a whole new thing. Do not get to the point where you ask yourself ‘why did no one tell me how hard this is?’
Take heed of the arrogant me and do not dismiss those who have walked this path before you. Do not ask for help and then ignore what the wise ones have to say. The notion that there is too much advice these days I think is folly. Dear followers, please do not stay silent. There are parents out there who are silently screaming for help, you may be one of them. Your share could be the thing that 'saves' another today. You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief when someone has the guts to say out loud "I can't do this today"or "I rocked at this today!".
Let’s keep that support and understanding going for one another right through this stage of parenting. There are some pretty special people in our care that benefit from parentals having their shit together.