Does Motherhood Become Easier? We Asked Four Mums of Teens - The Grace Tales

Does Motherhood Become Easier? We Asked Four Mums of Teens

When our children are little and we are drowning in a sea of sleep deprivation and tantrums, sometimes the only thing that gets us through is the thought that "it will get easier."

… But does it? 

We spoke to four mothers of teens to hear what we’re in for (and to pick up a few tips along the way). Here’s what they had to say.

Image by Bridget Wood

Isabella Schimid, Makeup Artist and Mother of Two

What has been the most challenging period as a mother of a teen?
The most challenging period for us has been Year 9 and Year 12. With a daughter who is both a high achiever and very sensitive, it made these two years very challenging with bitchy girls, friendship breakups and boys! You never want to see your child upset, sad or heartbroken, so I felt helpless. All I wanted to do was to hug my daughter, to tell her it would all be over soon, and that we could look back on the hard times and laugh. We got through the hard times with lots of patience and lots of chocolate!

What has been the most difficult time trying to juggle work and motherhood?
In terms of juggling work with motherhood, I always thought when they were babies that leaving them to go to work was really hard. But I soon realised that if they felt loved and secure, it didn’t matter who was looking after them! I actually found that when they reached year 3 and headed into puberty, that was when I was really needed. To be there after school, to guide, to listen, and to generally just be there. So for me, this was the hardest time to go to work. Plus when my daughter was doing the HSC. Her exact words were, “Mum, you’d better not take any away jobs while I’m doing the HSC … I need you here.”

Is being a mother of a teen what you imagined?
I knew that being a mother of teens wouldn’t be easy, but my daughter is a dream child who was never a handful. So my expectations were pleasantly surprised. My son, on the other hand … Let’s just say I am a little worried!

What tips do you have for other mothers of teens?
Be there for them and provide lots of love, nurturing and hugs – even though they try to fight you! They need to feel loved and in a safe environment (then they will tell you everything!). Also, pick your battles!

What is your approach to social media with your children?
Social media has not been a great thing, especially for teenage girls. The feeling of needing to fit in, to be popular, to be liked or to look a certain way is the norm. I always say to my daughter, “Don’t follow anyone that makes you feel insecure or bad about yourself. Hide posts that make you feel like you’re missing out and don’t worry about the likes and comments others are getting.” It’s not easy but I am all over it and try to follow and see everything she is doing on social media! 

What are some of the biggest challenges teenagers face today?
Social media, feeling like they need to be accepted or liked and to look a certain way, and online bullying.

Does motherhood get easier or harder as your children get older?
Someone once told me “little kids, little problems. Bigger kids, bigger problems.” I’d love to say it gets easier, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s definitely more challenging, but so rewarding.

Tracy Baker, Brand Strategist and Mother of Two

What has been the most challenging period of motherhood for you and why?
The most challenging period of motherhood was when my eldest daughter was a newborn. I was young, quite immature and lived interstate away from my family and friends. I was totally unprepared for the restrictions to my freedom and the total dependence my daughter had on me. Also, I found the physical stuff – weight gain, breastfeeding, mastitis, total exhaustion – pretty awful. I utterly adored my daughter and felt terribly guilty that I resented it all so much. Having had this experience I made sure that I was better prepared when I had my second daughter.

What stage was it the hardest to juggle your work with motherhood?
There is a period that was so difficult I have blocked it. The children were aged 9 and 2 years old. I was recently divorced, the primary caregiver and working in a very high profile job as Director of Public Relations and Events for a national department store chain. My work required me to live between two cities, work extremely long hours and attend and host events several nights a week. On the surface, it looked glamorous and superwoman-esque but underneath I was a wreck. I was a single mother who had to bring home the bacon and my kids were being raised by the nanny. We all suffered.

Is/was being a mother of teens what you imagined?
I loved the teenage years. It’s the time when your child’s personality cements and you become best friends. There are so many coming of age moments that I will cherish forever – starting high school, seeing my daughters so excited and beautiful at their school formals, watching them achieve academically and in sport, the pride and joy that every parent experiences during the HSC year, starting university, travelling overseas by themselves for the first time. So much joy.

What’s your approach to raising teens/what’s your advice for raising teens?
These are the guidelines I have used to raise my children from toddlers to teens:

  • Create confidence. The most important gift you can give your child.
  • Create resilience and independence. While I am a hovering parent in many senses I have deliberately created experiences for both my girls to take them out of their comfort zones to build resilience and independence.
  • Social skills. It’s so important for teenagers to be at ease with adults as well as their peers. I always expected my children to respect adults and treat them as equals. Shake hands, introduce yourself, know how to start a conversation, be interesting and interested, offer a drink or a place to sit down. It makes life easier and more pleasant for everybody and will leapfrog your child’s success in the workplace.
  • Keep a close eye on who your children are spending time with and know what the values of their parents are – this will impact your child too. Enough said.
  • Don’t be afraid to change schools if things aren’t working. Select a school to suit your child’s personality and work to their strong points, not for snob value.
  • Give extra support during HSC. As a rule, I am not a pandering type of mother. During the HSC when stress is preternaturally high, I made an exception.

What’s your approach to social media with your children?
I am pragmatic about social media. The huge positive is that it allows kids the opportunity to expand their frame of reference and social circles profoundly. The downside, especially for girls, are the comparisons and belief in false worlds. I followed my girls on their social media accounts and called it out when I didn’t like something either they or their friends did. It all works back to the values you set as a parent.

What are some of the biggest challenges teenagers today face?
So many choices. When I was a teenager we had Countdown and MTV, Bewitched and Gilligans Island. It was all so innocent.

Does motherhood get easier/harder as your children get older?
There have been challenges at every stage but for me, as my daughters became more independent things became easier and more enjoyable for the entire family. Earlier this year my eldest daughter moved out of home. I was bereft even though she only moved to the next street. Now I don’t see her every day and she is 100% in control of her own life. It was challenging at first (for me!) but now we are both enjoying the latest evolution in our relationship.

Marie-Claude Mallat, Director or MCMPR and Mother of Two

What has been the most challenging period of motherhood for you and why?
If I’m being objective, each stage has had its own challenges and joys. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I found it a lot more physically challenging because of sleep deprivation and the non-stop activity (adjusting to juggling personal and professional life) but all the gorgeous hugs and love energised me.  The tween age stage was challenging because I could see the small child disappearing before my eyes as they start to separate from you even though they’re not quite ready. In saying that, it’s also an amazing time because you are getting a really good picture of the individual they are. The teenage stage comes in fast afterwards and for us that’s been a white knuckle roller coaster ride. We oscillate from horror and fear to absolute hilarity. I’m saving all the stories to tell at the most opportune moment in their lives to ensure I get maximum return on my investment.

What stage was it the hardest to juggle your work with motherhood?
The early stages were the greatest juggle for me, primarily because of the physical and emotional adjustment to motherhood. I wanted to figure it all out really quickly and get a balance in place so I could be a great mum but also continue the work I love. I’m still waiting for complete balance – some days work, others don’t but my resilience is far greater now than it used to be and on the days that things aren’t brilliant, I don’t beat myself up because tomorrow brings an opportunity to do it again with new learnings. I’ve adjusted to life as a parent and I don’t fight it at all – I give it my all and accept the highs and lows. I don’t have a picture of perfection in my mind ever, I focus on the love we share and that’s the thing that sustains every aspect of my life.

Is/was being a mother of teens what you imagined?
Honestly, it’s a lot more challenging than I ever imagined. In a way, I went into it thinking how hard can this be, I was a teenager once I know what goes on. In fact, I’ve found it far more challenging being in the parent role. Teenagers are testing their power, they’re working out their identity and connection with friends is super important to them. Meanwhile, their bodies are changing at a rapid rate and so teenage-hood is a cocktail of confusion, insecurity and boundary testing. They’re not thinking about being safe or sensible, they’re thinking about how to fit in. that can make them super impulsive and changeable. They take risks and hardly hear a thing you say – or so you think, until something you’ve been trying to get through to them pops out of their mouth and you realise the values you share are being imbedded in there somewhere.

What’s your approach to raising teens/what’s your advice for raising teens?
I’m not an expert at all but one thing I stay consistent in always is showing them love, understanding and always reminding them they are good enough as they are. I discourage them from comparing themselves to others and ask them to be grateful for where we are in the world, the privileges we have and I ask them to always be kind and caring. Start that at home and then take it out into the world as your confidence and experience grows.

What’s your advice to mothers who are soon to be mothers-of-teens?
Put on your helmet, buckle up its wild ride. Pick your battles carefully and always try to be their biggest champion because their internal confusion can be very real at this time in their life. It’s a time in their life that they may not be doing as you say but they need you as much as they did when they were toddlers.

What’s your approach to social media with your children?
We have no real power in this area in terms of restricting its use because the isolation would be just as bad as the use of it. We try to moderate the amount of time on it. We have a social media blackout after 8:30pm so they can switch off ahead of sleep. We do remind them over and over that life on social media does not equate to reality and if something is upsetting you or disturbing you, choose to disengage. This includes switching off, unfollowing, muting or blocking, if necessary. This reminds them that the power is in their hands.

What are some of the biggest challenges teenagers today face?
Overload of information and choice makes for a complex life. The greatest challenge is that it’s almost impossible to filter age appropriate content for them so they are exposed to things sometimes that steal their peace of mind. A lot of content is heavy and negative which must weigh them down. It’s hard to be a carefree, hopeful young person when you have so much content being channelled into your hand all day every day. There’s no escape or retreat. It never stops so we have to moderate and remind them not to compare and to balance negativity with positivity.

Does motherhood get easier/harder as your children get older?
In my experience, everything gets easier with age. You’re more confident and accepting in yourself and they’re more capable.

Abigail O’Neill (@abigailoneill), Model, Mother & Author

What has been the most challenging period of motherhood for you and why?
You know, we become so much stronger than we know is humanly possible as we journey through the various stages of motherhood. It has been the best and greatest thing I’ve ever done with my life, and an education more than any university could’ve given me. But I will tell you this truth. The stage that we are in is always the most challenging whatever the age/s of our precious offspring (or ourselves)! It’s funny, when we have younger ones, it’s easier to bare all on the why’s of it’s being so challenging. You know, lack of sleep, life disruption, tantrums etc. When they grow up you can’t really delve too deeply, their reputation is at stake!

What stage was it the hardest to juggle your work with motherhood?
I may sound a little spoiled in this department, but we chose for me to be a stay at home mother quite early on. Our first baby, Charlotte is 25 now, and I gave birth to her when I was 19. Most days, apart from my part time modelling job, I’m still actually right here, at home, ‘house-wifing’ for my amazing family (our two boys are still living at home, 23, 20), but also for me, as I love this simple lifestyle I’ve chosen! That said, writing my first book ‘MODEL CHOCOLATE’ had me burning the oil at both ends! I almost feel like writing another book now. “Why I’m Still a Housewife” I’d call it! Thing is, I really do love and find it so fulfilling to have my rambling country home beautifully kept, grow herbs and greens and fresh fruit, keep a few bees (we live in the hinterland near Byron Bay), bake fresh sourdough loaves for my family, and restock our organic pantry with everything deliciously imaginable. It’s actually quite a full time job to nurture our now grown up kids (and hubby, and me) the way I like to! I’ve always placed quite a high emphasis on our nutritious, organic, mostly plant based meals too. Now you can buy sauerkraut and raw chocolate and so many other wonderful health promoting foods, even from the supermarket, but when my family were young this wasn’t the case. So I did all those things from scratch, learning, practising on myself and them all as I went. My little ones used to love growing and juicing fresh wheatgrass.

Is/was being a mother of teens what you imagined?
No. I suppose I was too young to imagine it much, but now, looking back, it was much, much better than I could’ve imagined! In some ways too, much worse. No one tells you what you’re really in for. Not even your own mumma, or hers before her. Now that I’m here, I’m trying to help mother’s younger than I with their little ones, even in this interview I sincerely hope. It’s what we need most from those who’ve gone ahead, their strength, positivity, love, and light. Faith that we’ll all get there in the end.

Something I do know more than ever. I am so inspired by older people that have gone past ‘my stage’ and that still have an indomitable spirit (and even great legs!), I admire their laughter and wit and courage so much more than I ever did. Now I really know how amazing they are, for they were at my stage once and every stage before, and those yet to come, and it’s not easy, it’s so devastatingly downright hard some days, some months, even some whole years! Yet, I choose to believe in the love, like that my own amazing Portuguese mumma gave me. I choose to believe that the love I also give, though I don’t always see, will produce more beautiful love in my life and theirs too.

What’s your approach to raising teens/what’s your advice for raising teens?
I definitely loosened up in the teen years. Instead of this creating more options for the less desirable stuff, we got super busy having more fun, together! We surfed a lot as a family through my children’s teen years. Also it was close to the time of my life where the modelling door opened up, so my husband and I decided to pack up our country kids and bundle them off to Sydney for a year! That was really an experience! I suppose I was growing up all the while myself. Being such a country girl myself and quite sheltered from the world in my own upbringing, this was also such a journey for me into the unknown. My kids learned a lot about Australia, and it’s fast-paced city persona, along with its multicultural diversity, beauty and challenges. After the 12 months was up, we all moved back home, somewhat each the wiser! I still travel to Sydney a lot these days, back and forth; actually just last week my daughter and I were shooting a beautiful magazine cover together! That was amazing.

What’s your advice to mothers who are soon to be mothers-of-teens?
It is hard to keep boundaries in place, so make them ones you can stick to. It’s even more important to invest extra time in your kids during these years, doing stuff they love, taking time to chat, go on dates, eat together, take up new hobbies with, even sitting on the end of their beds at night, listening to them. Each teens personality is so different too, and responds to a different approach. Try becoming their best friend! It’s easier if you start from a little, but it’s never too late to invest love and time into your children, no matter how old they get!

What’s your approach to social media with your children? 
Fortunately, we were on the later end of things by the time it really got going. I do remember Charlotte having a ‘MySpace’ in her early teens and I didn’t like that! She’s opened up to me later about how it wasn’t good for her at the time. I pity parents these days with it all in such full swing now! I think I’d be trying to keep my teens as busy as possible with all kinds of ‘lessons’ such as dancing, swimming, sporting clubs etc, adventures into nature, and real social occasions, to keep them as occupied as possible so they wouldn’t have as much time on it. I used to have all my kids friends over at our house a lot when they were growing up. Still do!

What are some of the biggest challenges teenagers today face? 
I’m stressed for them. The amount of anxiety I feel, let alone a teenager or young adult regarding climate crisis, extinction of animals, beauty standards, and all kinds of less than uplifting entertainment, drug and alcohol excess and availability, etc, it would be so much harder now even than only 5 – 10 years ago when all of mine were in their teens. Even more reason to make sure your kids are your top priority from birth – till as long as they are under your roof – and beyond. That’s me anyhow, and that doesn’t mean you have to be a stay-at-home mother like me. At least no matter whatever happens in life, you’ll know you did your best! The time flies so fast and they’re all grown up. My husband and I finally did something we have always wanted to and went to Europe in their summer this year, and returning again next year. Just remember you have time, for all your dreams to come true! They don’t have to happen according to anyone else’s schedule. Never compare either. I had my children so very young, I didn’t even realise so much about life and the world I was growing them up in. This certainly had advantages, as every unique experience of motherhood does.

Does motherhood get easier/harder as your children get older?
Without going on too much, for me, yes. Motherhood has become both easier, and at times harder! Even with all the showering of love, time invested, reasonable boundary setting, and best-friending I’ve done as a mother, it in some ways on some days can feel more stressful and tiring than ever. It wouldn’t be easy becoming an adult and navigating your way into the 21st century! In other ways, on other days, motherhood can have my spirit soaring sky high with pride and satisfaction that we did it right, because, ultimately we did our absolute best, and there is so much elation that comes from having your kids become your best ever friends. This is the vibe that prevails in my heart. Because, I know Charlotte, I know Rory, and I know Ryan so, so well. They have become incredible, wonderful, responsible, talented and loving people. Lucky for us, they call us their best friends too, that means more than anything!

Truly they are my greatest gift to this world, and there’s still no one we’d rather spend our time with, than our amazing grown up, now-adult children. Remember, beautiful young mother, as exhausting as the days may seem now, we only borrow them, for oh, such a short while, in our arms, in our homes, but forever in our hearts.