My middle child turned 13 yesterday. I am now the mother of two teenagers. That feels strange to say out loud. I've successfully transitioned through the crunch years when my three babies needed so much from their mother and guilt was a way of life. I remember how tough I thought it was to juggle deadlines and diapers. My first two kids are a year apart and it was the pre-laptop days. Driving home after a long day at work, stuck in traffic, knowing they might go to bed before I saw them was heartbreaking. Even worse, I remember walking in the front door, greeting them and getting a phone call from my editor with questions about my story that I filed on deadline. A toddler just doesn't understand that mom is home but needs to go to a quiet part of the house to talk on the phone. Oh, how I wanted the balancing act to get easier.
The good news for us working moms: It gets a little easier in some ways and more difficult in other ways. At some point our kids can drive themselves to the various activities they want to participate in. Teens understand that mom is on deadline and needs to shut the door to her office. But I realize now that being there for a teenager at the precise moment he or she needs you or wants to open up about a day's event is critical.
As a working mother, parenting teens and finding work life balance is a completely different ballgame and it isn't the easy street I envisioned. I have to make pockets of time to push myself into my teens lives to mold them and have those conversations about texting, talking to adults with respect, and being a good friend. I have to worry about what classes my kids sign up for and whether their grades will be good enough to get into the college of their choice. I have to hold my ground about them seeing R movies when "every one else's parents let them." This is not easy stuff. Many days, I wish my son was on the floor having a two-year-old temper tantrum instead of fighting with me over whether he can buy a violent video game with his own money.
Yet, with my daughter entering high school this year, I can see the day in the near future when one by one, my kids leave the nest and my work life balancing act enters an entirely different phase. So I plod through these teen years, trying to tip my energy in favor of my kids as much as possible, and be there for them, even when they don't act like they want me to be. I no longer feel guilty over being a working parent. But finding balance through the teen years is difficult. I wonder what the rest of you parents of teens think. Is finding the balance between work and family more difficult when you're raising teens or do you think the baby-toddler stage still ranks as the toughest?