Did you see the article in the Wall Street Journal about Middle School Moms’ Blues?
A new study finds the stress and anxiety Middle School Moms feel is even greater than that of moms of infants!
Well, with the bulk of my teaching career spent with middle schoolers, that is no surprise to me. In fact, I started my business, Joyful Parenting Coaching, because of a conversation I had with the mom of a 7th grader whose daughter was coming home crying every day. This mom felt at a loss, but to me the saddest part was that she did not trust she could share what was going on with other moms in the class. The feared being judged, looked down on or pitied kept her from reaching out.
That broke my heart.
But I don’t think she was alone. The more work I’ve done out of the classroom and directly with parents, the more I see how many of them are carrying the burdens of parenting in isolation.
I would never have survived parenting—any stage of it—if I hadn’t felt like I had trusted people around me with whom to compare notes—or to just let off steam!! I don’t know about you, but I have certainly had days when I could have killed my child. Or at least cheerfully sold her to the gypsies. Of course, I never would, but it sure helped to have close and loving friends who could give me their Amen to That, Sister! rally before helping me find constructive solutions.
The article does not really break down why Middle School Moms are so stressed.
Here is my theory on why Middle School Moms find parenting harder than other stages:
1. As our children go up in grades, the ways society measures their success gets narrower and narrower. Academic ease and performance become key. Sports and Artistic proficiency can provide some secondary credit, but in our get-into-a-good-college-at-all-costs society, measurable numbers (grade point averages, state testing scores, SATs) hold the most weight. Lots of parents start obsessing about those things and find it hard to stop.
2. As our children go up in grades, the percentage of moms who are working full time also goes up. That means as women we spend the whole day talking business, not kids and parenting. Last week I volunteered at the high school for a couple of hours stuffing envelopes (the beauty of working from home, being my own boss and living close to the high school). I realized it was pretty much the same moms I had seen the two other times I have volunteered this year. Their chatter was incessant and far ranging. These moms knew each other well and clearly had spent a lot of hours together. They felt perfectly comfortable airing their dirty laundry—and getting and receiving advice from each other.
But most moms don’t have that. Many moms drop their kids off at school in the morning and pick them up from childcare or after school activities in the evening. Not only does that not allow that mom much time for connecting with her kids, it really doesn’t allow her much time to meet up with a girlfriend and compare notes (and I am not saying you cannot or should not be comparing notes with your spouse, but it is really useful to get the perspective of what is going on with other kids in other households).
3. Perhaps the most significant reason parenting a middle school child is harder than other ages and stages is that the rewards are not as great. With an infant you are exhausted and lose sleep, but then that child smiles at you—or laughs for the first time—and in a moment you are totally in love again. The preschooler balances tantrums with ardent declarations of “I love you, Mommy!” In lower elementary, kids become a lot less work and at the same time still look to you for you insights and views on the world in general and their own worries in particular. But the middle school child? Well, I don’t know how you were in middle school, but I was miserable. I hated school, I basically had no friends, and I was an emotional wreck. On top of all that, I was convinced my mom (who always painted a picture of her friends and fun activities in middle school) could never in a million years understand what I was going through. 8th grade was the year my grades went down, I lied, and I even cut school! My poor mom!
So in middle school we have all the worry, doubt and work of other stages but few opportunities to be our children’s heroes.
Our kids may still need our advice and counsel, but they won’t admit it to save their lives. Furthermore, they need us to step away from our god-like positions and become the wise elders who walk beside them. One of my favorite analogies for teens is that they are on a roller coaster ride; Mom’s job is not to get on and ride with them but to stand on the platform ready to be there when they get off.
For all these reasons that make it especially challenging to parent kids in middle school, that’s why I have created the Middle School Moms’ Mastermind.
Are you familiar with the concept of a mastermind? I am in one for solo entrepreneur women. We are smart, motivated and we face similar struggles. While only our intrepid leader claims to be the expert, we still get a wealth of advice and good ideas from our fellow entrepreneurs. We have a community of people to ask, What do you think of this idea? Or Has anyone of you tried X before? I love this group of brave, creative go-getters. They are at once my role models and my friends, and when I get to share my own advice and experience, it makes me realize how far I have come as a business woman.
We use a Private FB group as the primary means of communicating with each other (though I have also had private phone conversations from time to time with individuals who have a lot to share about a given topic). In twice monthly group coaching calls, our outstanding business coach gives us concrete advice both through direct instruction and through answer our specific questions about our specific situations.
Imagine having that kind of support for your parenting!
That is exactly what I want for you. The Middle School Moms’ Mastermind will bring together a maximum of 15 moms of middle school kids. I will moderate our private FB group where moms can post questions and observations. Both moms and I will post relevant articles that we come across. Moms will be free to post advice for people who ask for it as long as they do so in a way that has no shaming, blaming or judgment. Additionally, I will lead two monthly calls (recorded so you can access them any time). On these calls I will spend the first 15 to 20 minutes educating participants about some topic specific to early adolescents and then the rest of the call is your chance to ask me about your particular needs.
Of course, I do not have all the answers (no one does!), but I do have three adult children and in my 25 years of teaching, I have dealt with more than 3,000 kids between the ages of 11-14. That means I have pretty much seen it all—all kinds of kids and all kinds of families. Working with such a large and diverse sample has taught me how many different ways there are to parent effectively. It is incredibly useful to hear the views and insights of fellow parents. Hearing a lot of different approaches allows you to get new perspectives and ideas for your own parenting.
Could you use a safe haven to share your woes, to compare notes, to get ideas on how other families handle things and to get access to my 25 years of expertise? Let's talk. Email me at email@example.com or call me at 650.248.8916 (Pacific time) to find out if the Middle School Moms’ Mastermind is the tribe you have been longing for!
I am gathering a group of moms who are dedicated to supporting each other in being the best moms they can be. I absolutely believe that you can love parenting your middle school child. I know that I love helping parents find the joy in whatever age or stage their children are, and while I cannot guarantee 100% that you are going to love parenting your middle school children as much as I love teaching them, I do guarantee the fellowship of other women, lots of laughs and unstinting faith that you are the parent your child needs.
Why don't you try a complimentary group coaching call? Our next call is Wednesday, October 19 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. (If this time doesn't work for you, let me know what does so that I can let you know when else we are meeting).
I can’t wait to talk to you.
Elisabeth Stitt/ Joyful Parenting Coaching/ 650.248.8916/ www.elisabethstitt.com