Question and Answer

I'm convinced that mothers of preschoolers should stay home with them if finances and temperaments permit. But what about after they are off to school? Do you feel it is still important to have Mom at home, say, in the teen years?

Many will not agree with my opinion on that subject, but it is borne of experience with thousands of families. All things being equal, I believe Mom is still needed at home as the kids grow. Why? Because the heavy demands of child rearing do not slacken with the passage of time. In reality, the teen years generate as much pressure on the parents as any other era. An adolescent turns a house upside down literally and figuratively. Not only is the typical rebellion of those years a stressful experience, but the chauffeuring, supervising, cooking, and cleaning required to support a teenager can be exhausting. Someone within the family must reserve the time and energy to cope with those new challenges. Mom is the candidate of choice. Remember, too, that menopause and a man's midlife crisis are scheduled to coincide with adolescence, which can make a wicked soup! It is a wise mother who doesn't exhaust herself at a time when so much is going on at home.

Let me illustrate why moms are needed at home during the teen years. A good military general will never commit all his troops to combat at the same time. He maintains a reserve army that can relieve the exhausted soldiers when they falter on the front lines. I wish parents of adolescents would implement the same strategy. Instead, they commit every moment of their time to the business of living, holding nothing back for the challenge of the century. It is a classic mistake that can be even more difficult for parents of strong-willed adolescents.

This is my point: A woman in this situation has thrown all her troops into frontline combat. There is no reserve on which to call. In that fatigued condition, the routine stresses of raising an adolescent can be overwhelming. Let me say it again. Raising boisterous teenagers is an exciting and rewarding experience but also a frustrating one at times. Their radical highs and lows affect our moods.

The noise, the messes, the complaints, the arguments, the sibling rivalry, the missed curfews, the paced floors, the wrecked car, the failed test, the jilted lover, the wrong friends, the busy telephone, the pizza on the carpet, the ripped new blouse, the rebellion, the slammed doors, the mean words, the tears it's enough to drive a rested mother crazy. But what about our career woman who already "gave at the office," then came home to this chaos? Any unexpected crisis or even a minor irritant can set off a torrent of emotion. There is no reserve on which to draw. In short, the parents of adolescents should save some energy with which to cope with aggravation!

Whether or not you agree with my advice at this point is your business. It is my responsibility simply to offer it. Generally speaking, the working mother has a challenging task before her. Admittedly, many women are able to maintain a busy career and keep the home fires burning, some with the assistance of involved husbands or domestic help. Other low-energy mothers with unhelpful husbands don't cope so well. Each family must decide for itself how best to deal with life's pressure points and opportunities.

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Other Things to Consider

Transitions: Changing Jobs, Moving

Relationships: Communication Gaps

Parenting Teens: Communication Problems