Welcome to the first of my ‘why’ series. Today we are going to tackle Why Being a Mum (Sometimes) Sucks! I felt compelled to share this blog topic because lately I’ve noticed that my little boy has kind of vanished. Seemingly overnight. He is thirteen so I suppose this is to be expected but he’s my one and only and all of this is new so I have to confess with complete humour and love that I am a little bit traumatised by teenager hood (already).
This blog posts comes with a complete Fashion Fox guide to why being a mum sometimes sucks complete with a cheat sheet at the very end. It includes lessons learned, how to get through and out and around early teeangerhood (so far).
So without further ado, let’s get into it, as much as we love our children, sometimes if we are being honest, being a mum sometimes sucks.
Where do I begin? I’ve gone from living with a thirteen year old boy to living with a 30 year old man. Only yesterday he would jump out of bed in the morning, give me a big hug and a cuddle and we would have really amazing chats about life and absolutely everything. He use to have such a cute little voice and it was such an amazing way to start the day for us both.
Now, he grunts, has hairy legs, is noticeably taller every single week. He says “no” to me all the time, everyday about everything. He speaks a new millennial language that I’ve never heard before with phrases that have my stumped, like “lit fam” and millennial jokes like,“when?......when did I ask?”. And sometimes he even smells. Talk about hashtag #notfunny and hashtag where’s my little boy gone? I would describe the jump from child to teenager like this: it’s as though someone has taken your child and replaced them with a moody, back chatting, hairy stranger.
I feel like as humans we take a quick look into other people’s lives from the outside.
(This is absolutely something I am guilty of too). Throughout the years I’ve had others innocently and sincerely share their warmest thoughts with me. They would say, “what a lovely boutique, what a great outfit, what a gorgeous family” and so on. I know that this is how it may look. The truth is that despite appearances life can be so far from perfect. If you’re new to this blog and we’ve never met I can hand my heart assure you that I’ve jumped over lots of hurdles in this life.
You wouldn’t know it from simply glancing at my Instagram or Facebook but life has genuinely thrown me and my little family some serious curve balls.
My son has an eye disease. He has been hospitalised multiple times with the condition, X-linked Juvenile Retinoschisis. In lay man’s terms it’s an eye disease specific to males where the central layer of the retina essentially splits into two. It damages the part of the eye required for sharpness of vision in detailed tasks such as reading, driving and recognising faces. To paint you a picture of what it’s like to see out of my son’s eyes, the specialist says it’s like wearing sunglasses with rain droplets falling and sitting on the lenses. It means impaired vision for a lifetime.
If I sit and think about the reality of this, the hospital visits and the slow decline of his eyesight for too long it really gets me down. It’s been a long journey with this disease. It first became prominent when he turned six. Between the two of us, my son and I have come to realise that humour is really what gets us through this. We can’t change the reality of the condition but we can make jokes, (my son and I absolutely love to be the butt of our own jokes) and in our own little way we have really redefined what this disease means for him and our family. As much as being a mum sucks it is worth it. I watch my son, Baxter, get a lot of his confidence from sport and swimming. His father is a former professional athlete and this is definitely a gift he has been genetically bestowed from his dad.
This is one of my most favourite photos of Baxter and I. He doesn't like it but I couldn't love it more.
I’m grateful for my son’s social skills. He is polite, kind and well spoken. Now that I think about it, he has grown up surrounded by adults and females. So he has naturally risen to the occasion and is now naturally socially able.
So in the boiling pot we have: hormonal changes, the start of highschool and all the academic expectations that come with it, single mum life (which means doing virtually everything on your own like you’re two people) and social media being such a prominent component in the life of all millennial high schoolers. Don’t even get me started on the teenage girls (this will have to be it’s own blog). To make a long story short these elements created the perfect storm at home. Things were really reaching a melting point due to Baxter’s workload increasing, the expectations of high school and the big jump between year 7 and year 8. And it is huge! It’s like going from year 7 to year 12. Especially at a prestigious school.
My biggest tip to you, would be that if you can afford it, please get a tutor for your kids. As someone who has attempted to assist with this home work (I’ve learnt the hard lesson that I am most certainly not smarter than an 8th grader), a tutor prevents a mother and her kids from clashing over homework.
It will save you the angst of having to learn the work and the whole push and pull of creating understanding and co-producing assignments. I’ve realised while there’s a tutor there I can be productive getting things done around the house (washing school uniforms, getting everything ready for tomorrow, packing lunch, getting dinner ready) and I can feel happy and light and spend the time with him post tutoring.
My other tip would be to keep your opinion to yourself if you can. Only because I think teenagers must be hardwired to disagree with us no matter what our opinion is. So if you say “that’s amazing” they will instantly disagree or “don’t do that” they will instantly want to do that and nothing else. I always try to make Friday nights (the end of the school week) special for us and Sunday afternoons too.
Mum hack: try and spend quality post homework and weekend leisure time with your kid. Being the mum to a teenager has really forced me to grow as a person too. I’ve learned that my son might be hormonal, grumpy and fickle but so much is going on for him biologically. I try my best to have empathy for him and remember how challenging it was to evolve into a teenager myself and really keep this at the forefront of my mind. And let me tell you that this is really extremely difficult when it’s a cold dark early morning and you’ve done absolutely everything on your own (lunches, school uniforms, bag packing, sports bag packing, electronics charging, groceries, your own laundry, dinners), and school work is due and the back chatting is constant.
Being a mum sucks because sometimes I would sit in my parked car at night in the dark outside my house for 20 minutes to avoid the onslaught upstairs. The homework meltdowns, the clothes on his bedroom floor and in the bathroom, making dinner and checking that homework is done. And now it’s so funny because I forget that he can actually see me when he looks off the balcony. He calls out “mum why are you weirdo sitting in the car?” and I say “because you’re a little creep.” And we both laugh but this is what teenager hood reduces me to sometimes. To sitting in my own driveway for the complimentary peace and quiet.
Baby Baxer and teenage Joel. They still sit like this on the floor together now when Joel visits. Unrelated: Joel's nickname in our family is Bub because was the youngest when I was growing up. The cute thing is that now Baxter (Joel's newphew) calls him Bub too.
Right as things were reaching a new teenage boiling point my brother Joel came to stay. He’s 6 foot 7, a gentle giant, very intelligent, very wise and a good listener. He is patient but firm with Baxter. Joel takes the time to explain things, make sure he understands the work and also takes him out for runs and exercise to clear his head. It’s a bonding experience between the two boys which really makes them both thrive and feel positive and accomplished. I love this because Baxter has always looked up to my brother and my father and really responds to their style of communication.
I like to play pranks on him. Another teenage pivotal moment which made me really sad was when he said, “Look mum, your sandwiches in my lunchbox are great but please don’t cut them in half anymore because I’m a big boy.” So then I decided with my brother, Joel, that we would cut his sandwiches into little high tea squares. There were three of them so we cut them up and individually wrapped them. I put a little note in saying ‘Ha-Ha! Love mum and Uncle Joel’. Joel cut the crusts off like any good Uncle would. Baxter found it was so funny but was also equally mortified. My next prank is that I will short sheet him. Stay tuned. I think I’ll blog that one.
When Joel and Baxter were out on a run the other day they were talking about Baxter’s 18th birthday one day. My son told Joel that he should be Baxter’s wing man and quote, “you’ll have to do better than, oh have you met Baxter?”. A little bit later while they made their way back home, Baxter said to Joel, “Hey, do you wanna get a beer later?” He’s thirteen. And Joel looked at him confused and said,
“It’s a school night and you’re thirteen?” to which Baxter responded, “Oh yeah it’s a school night. Maybe we could just go halves-ies?” I couldn’t stop laughing. I am secretly so scared that my son just loves girls and can’t wait to get out there and party. Joel has agreed to shadow him for two years and I think that’s going to have to be essential.
Being a mum to teenagers can sometimes suck so remember to hug your little babies every day, treasure them specially when they are little, don’t wish they should grow up. Little boys are so incredibly special. I always wanted a girl while I was pregnant with Baxter. But as soon as I saw him and our eyes met for the first time I was just so elated that he was a boy and instantly fell in love. He was so small. His first word ever was “balloon”. He walked at 9 months which is early for a boy. I remember all of these things like it was yesterday and it makes me want another baby. Then I remember that being a mum sucks and I’ve got way too many blogs to write to have another kid.
But at the end every smelly armpit shirt you pick up and teenage back chatting session my teenage boy is so worth it. Even when I ask him if he’s “all mine?” and he says, “Nah. Lit fam. Cya Later.”
The complete cheat sheet Why being a mum (sometimes) sucks - the way ‘out’ and ‘through’
Why being a mum to a teenager sucks (the comprehensive list):
The constant back chatting
The hormonal changes
The grumpy fickle attitude
Girls, partying, drinks are added to their interests #stress
The lack of thank yous and appreciation
The high school workload increase (homework, assignments, tests)
Why I persevere and what I remember:
My kid is my best friend
For years it was he and I against the world
At his best he is kind, polite, caring, well spoken
We have an unbreakable bond
I know in my heart is is going to turn into a wonderful man
I love his little face to bits and can’t wait to see him succeed
What I’ve learnt:
Take the time to calmly explain things to your kid (deep down they are not unreasonable and understanding dissolves back chatting and fights)
Make simple, clear requests instead of complaints. This one is really tough. But also really important. Ask for what you want, calmly, clearly, with enthusiasm and consistently. (It’s kind of like how the fashion world works. Persistence, patience and good upbeat communication are key)
Explain in detail how the world works (bills, groceries, jobs, petrol etc) so they understand how much goes into their lifestyle and have a new found appreciation for all that we do to support their success
Spend relaxation time together with your kid: watch movies, chat about non-school topics, share jokes, humour is key, tell them you love them, be strong, keep the lines of communication open
Keep your opinions to yourself when you can. Teenagers are hardwired to want the opposite of what you think/say. So be neutral whenever possible.
If you can hire a tutor please do it. It creates a productive academic buffer between you and your child, it creates a space where you don’t have to personally learn the work then wrestle your way to the end of co-producing an assignment. It gives you time to get things done while they are with their tutor. Everyone wins.
Everyone who knows me knows I'm old fashioned at heart. I love real photos, the ones you can hold in your hand and touch. It's been a big leap for me to get digital so to speak. I wanted to open up my very big 'real photo' archives to you all and it was really important to me to be able to share the moments I treasure most in my blogs. So you'll see lots of vintage and archive scans coming through whenever they are relevant to a post.
Thank you for reading this Tuesday’s blog. I create a new blog every Tuesday evening (Brisbane, Australia time) centred around either fashion, mum life, homewares, lifestyle and travel. If you have any blog topic suggestions please feel free to email them through to firstname.lastname@example.org I will be here for you every Tuesday evening or you’re welcome to follow me at @the_fashion_fox_ or my boutique @misshenryboutique Fashion has always been a conduit for connection to me so I relish every moment we get to connect and talk about life and everything that comes with it. We have a really special post coming next Tuesday which I was so excited to be writing and creating. You won’t want to miss it!
Stay safe, be well, see you next Tuesday!
Nicole x The Fashion Fox @the_fashion_fox_ @misshenryboutique