The list of jobs that we undertake as parents is infinitesimal.  In the early years, from baby through to pre-teen it is natural that the list should be relatively long, but once the teenage barrier has been passed there is an expectation (or at least there was in my case) that the load will lighten slightly.

The reality, however, is that as each life stage is passed on a child's journey to emerging as a teenager, the jobs you thought you had ticked off never to see again, are given a revamp and relaunched with a new name and job description attached.  Here are my Top 10....

  • Hotel Manager - previously known as the Housekeeper, the new role of the mother is as Hotel Manager.  This requires her to be ready to take a request for a room in her home cum hotel at any time of day or night and invariably at short notice.  She must be ready to welcome the guests when they arrive and show them to their rooms where they can be assured of a proper bed and fresh linen - a sleeping bag on the floor is unacceptable!
  • Nutritionist - no establishment worth its salt nowadays would be complete without an in-house Nutritionist on hand to cater for the varied requirements of its guest's palettes.  It is no longer enough to make sure you are meeting the 5 a day target.  The teenagers of today are very particular about what they eat and you are expected to be able to handle whatever they throw at you....vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, no dairy, no gluten, low sugar, low fat...every eventuality must be covered, even if this means preparing more than one type of meal at a sitting.
  • Chambermaid - a step above the cleaner, this involves a multitude of room management tasks including bed making, laundry collection and sorting, removal of general detritus, general tidying, filing of discarded exam revision notes and if you are strong enough the lifting and re-positioning of a multitude of gym equipment.
  • Valet - once the humble laundry machine operator and supervisor, the job of  the Valet is to handle not just the laundry washing but also the dry cleaning, now that they have moved from Teflon only coated fabrics to the grown up substitutes of suede and leather.  This role also requires someone who is flexible and willing to handle any manner of wardrobe hazards whether basic stain removal, mending torn garments, sewing on buttons or polishing shoes that have been used as replacement football boots.
  • Personal Shopper - working closely alongside the Valet, the Personal Shopper is personally responsible for searching out the "must have" wardrobe items of the teenage season.  This requires someone with a mix of good keyboard skills and a PayPal account in the event she needs to scour the internet for that elusive pair of Nike Air Max in just the right shade of black and pay for next day delivery.  On occasion the job may also demand the mother abandons her personal plans and travels to collect certain items, particularly if there is a party or a date night on the horizon.
  • Chauffeur - the humble taxi driver ferrying your children from one after-school club to the next is a thing of the past.  The position of chauffeur requires complete and utter dedication and selflessness on the part of the mother.  She must be prepared to abandon her own plans to have a good time on a Saturday night and not only drive the teenager and his or her mates to a party, but to find somewhere local to "hang out" and wait to bring them home.
  • Psychotherapist - in the bygone baby and toddler era this was the hug and kiss expert.  Now don't get me wrong, nothing beats either in terms of making your child feel better  BUT  hit the teenage years and it is all about providing another dimension of parental care which involves a lot of talking, discussing and providing advice on all manner of things from what to wear, through dream analysis to friendship issues.  Diplomacy is essential, as woe betide you if you say the wrong thing.
  • Sport Supporter - the former chief cheerleader on the side of the pitch, it is now a formal requirement to simply observe and support discreetly from a distance.  Teenager No.1 is a mean cricketer and in my dreams,  he is the future Stuart Broad, but I am not allowed to turn up and watch him with enthusiasm, I have to do it quietly in a deck chair with a bottle of wine.  The latter part of the deal is fine but the golden rule is that it is not cool to cheer! In the teenage years that is frowned upon.
  • Umpire - this is more than being a mediator and requires someone with significant resilience and negotiating skills.  Here's a taster to give you an idea!  "Mum, I need to clean my teeth and she is still in the shower". "Mum, I was watching Britain's Got Talent and he has switched to Geordie Shore!" "Mum, he has stolen my stapler again!" " Mum, he has not charged his Ipad and has taken mine".  "Mum why do her friends have to make so much noise?"
  • PA - the days of organising play dates disappear as soon as they enter secondary school, but what they do need is someone to keep on top of all the events related to school, university, sport or work experience, liaise with everyone as necessary and manage their diaries accordingly and of course like any good PA, find time each day to report back.
  • Beauty Therapist - I have left the best until last and the one that fills me with the most dread every week.  For this you need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every skin complaint known to man.  It is not enough to say "It's your hormones, don't worry about it, it will pass!"  Nowadays you need to be able to identify immediately (sometimes without your glasses on) the root cause of the problem and present a solution in the shape of a magic cream.  On occasion you may also be required to act as a personal make up artist.

Please let me know if you can think of any more!

Cuddle Fairy

 

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In December last year my husband suffered a stroke. I had seen the ads and read the leaflets countless times when waiting in the GP's surgery, you know the ones from the campaign, ACT F.A.S.T, but he did not display any of those symptoms.  He had booked some extra time off for Christmas and it was the first day of his holiday.  We had an action packed schedule that included buying and decorating the Christmas tree and meeting up with a friend for a birthday lunch.

However, as I zoomed around the house like a whirling dervish he went back to bed to "rest"  complaining of a monstrous headache and nausea.  He had had a bad bout of tinnitus a few years previously so we wondered if it could be that again, but after a while and driven at that stage predominantly by a need to "get on" with our day, he called our GP for advice, who suggested he pop in to be checked over.

In the five minutes it took us to get down to the surgery it was apparent it was something far more serious.  He could only move with help and by shuffling his feet, his left arm was numb and he couldn't move his head without feeling as if he was going to fall over. The transformation in just half an hour was shocking.

Transported to hospital in an ambulance he spent the day going through a series of tests and was admitted to the stroke ward in the early evening.  As the day progressed he regained mobility in his left arm but struggled to even raise his leg from the hospital bed and remained dizzy.

It transpired that this "funny turn" was what is known as a TIA or transient ischaemic attack which is also known as a mini-stroke.  It is the same as a stroke, except that the symptoms last for a shorter amount of time.  But although the symptoms may not last long, a TIA is still very serious. It is a sign that there is a problem and you are at risk of having a stroke and because of this, a TIA is often called a warning stroke. The first 24 hours after the first attack are crucial.

A diabetic with a family history of high blood pressure, Mr MoT naturally fell under the high risk category and under the expert care of the hospital underwent every manner of test, including a brain scan and MRI scan.  Since being discharged he is under the care of the neurology department at our local hospital who continue to monitor his progress.  He still suffers from dizziness but apparently this is normal and can take a while to disappear, but other than that he is well.

A stroke can affect anyone whatever their age and on a more serious note around one in eight people die within 30 days of having a stroke, so the quicker you act and the quicker you get treated the better your chances.  Motivated by our own experience as a family we have signed up to take part in a the Stroke Association's "Make May Purple" campaign and are organising a series of fundraising events throughout May to help give something back.

Just like everyone else we donate to the charities that strike a personal chord with us and that is normally because someone we know has been affected by it, whether it be Cancer or something directed at children or a local venture that has value in our community.  The stroke association is a new one for us, so with just one week to go before the start of May we are going into planning overdrive in our house starting today with preparing purple cakes for a Bake Purple sale organised by Teenager No.2. Please take a look and maybe you will be inspired to have fun Making May Purple for Stroke.

 

Friday Fabulous

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It seems like only yesterday that Teenager No.1 was taking his GCSE's, yet as our household braces itself again for the next hurdle of AS exams, one headline in particular grabbed my attention yesterday. Apparently, according to new research released by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), it is the parents who are responsible for the reported rise in stress experienced by pupils prior to their exams. A total 56% of heads polled in the survey said that pressure from home to get high grades was the biggest contributory cause of stress, resulting in 97% of head teachers inviting parents in to special advice classes on how to support their children.

Both my teenagers' schools offer superb pastoral care with regular health and well-being lessons, including best practice seminars on preparing for exams, supported with access to confidential counselling if needs be.  In addition, there is always a parent briefing evening at this time of year to give us best advice on what to do to support our children through the pressure cooker exam period.  I always go to these evenings if not for any other reason than to demonstrate my support for the school.  Also, I want to ensure that the messages I repeat at home are consistent with theirs.

All parents want their children to succeed and even more so nowadays, as we are all too aware how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd and secure those top spots at schools and universities. My parents were not fortunate enough to go to university, not because of a lack of ability but because their parents could not afford to send them.  My father's mother was a war widow so his priority on leaving school was to earn money to help support her.

When I was a child, I was frequently reminded how important it was that I passed my exams to get the golden ticket to go on to university and in turn guarantee my future success in life. My parents wanted me to benefit from the opportunities they didn't have.  Today, we are all discouraged from placing this kind of emphasis upon succeeding on our children.  We can think it but whatever we do, we mustn't say it out loud and particularly not before an exam!

I wasn't surprised by the survey's findings.  It's a competitive world and as parents we fear for our children and from that fear naturally comes anxiety.  It is good that the schools recognise it and are putting measures in place to help us support our children.  Even if some of us think we know best, it is well intentioned after all, to help us help our children.

Whilst I want my children to do well, I want them to want to  do well for themselves and I have found with both of them since their entry into Secondary school in particular, that the way they are perceived within their peer group is their biggest incentive for working hard and doing well. They don't need me or Mr MoT to apply the pressure, silent or otherwise, they thrive on the competition among their friends to do well.  Is that a bad thing?  I don't think so.  It demonstrates a "desire" to succeed and I am yet to meet anyone whose ambition is to fail, but if they do, it won't be the end of the world.  There is a solution to everything.

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Over the years Mr MoT has had a love hate relationship with cigarettes. Whilst for me it was a social itch I liked to scratch sometimes, with him it was a part of his DNA. His mother, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer at 50 and similarly his uncle at 60, so he had witnessed the devastating results up close, yet this was not enough to deter him.

The birth of Teenager No.2, however, proved to be the incentive he needed. When she arrived 13 years ago he just decided that her life was too precious to contaminate. I don't remember it being a stressful process, more like a switch just going off. He was smoke-free for more than eight years.

Then he lapsed for a short while due to a stressful period at work but with the help of our GP's Smoking Cessation Expert and Nicotine Replacement Therapy he turned his back on them once more. That time it was horrific, he was grumpy, irritable and withdrawn and said he constantly craved a cigarette for up to six months. So having been there twice, imagine my despair when he picked them up recently for the third time. This time, however, I am prepared.  My tips for supporting your partner whilst quitting smoking are:

  • Don't nag.  Shouting and raging about their smoking is unhelpful.
  • Keep them busy.  Give them lots of jobs to do so they have no spare time to think about lighting up. They will also sleep well.
  • Tell them how fresh and clean they smell and hug them frequently.
  • Keep the home a stress-free zone.
  • Cancel all social engagements with people who smoke.
  • Make their favourite food.  Cake is always a winner in our house.
  • Heap on the praise.  We all love to be told we are doing well!

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Good Luck!

http://www.healthline.com/health/quit-smoking-spouse#Rightlevelofencouragement6

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Have I mentioned that Mr MoT spends a lot of his time away from home on business?    This is one of the reasons I have been firmly ensconced at home over the years, holding the fort so to speak. On the occasions he is in the UK we try to escape for a bit of us time.  The theatre is always a popular contender and where better than the Old Vic?  Admittedly, after the tumultuous day I had had, dashing up to town for a 7pm meet was not top of my agenda and I even considered pulling out. What a mistake that would have been!

If you don't know already, the play currently running at The Old Vic, is Pinter's The Caretaker with Timothy Spall. We had great seats up in the Dress Circle, perfectly positioned so we were informed by our chatty neighbour, who has been booking the same seats since 1972, to get a full view of the stage.  The central chandelier was pretty fabulous too!

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Although an English graduate I never touched on Pinter, so arrived unfamiliar with the drama.  The play is set in one location throughout, a shambolic London attic, piled high with junk, a bucket dangling precariously beneath a leak in the ceiling and lots of peeling wallpaper.  It is home to Mays' character Aston.  Spall is the hobo Davies, offered refuge by Aston and MacKay as Mick, is Aston's brother. Essentially, they are a motley group of misfits, isolated from the world and all with their own cross to bear.

Spall's appearance is that of a mix between Mr Twit and Steptoe.  His accent is thick and his speech on occasions faint, so concentration is key, particularly if you are up in the dress circle.  There is also a lot of racist language which 56 years on from its creation does make it challenging to listen to sometimes.  Balanced against this, however, is hilarious characterisation.  The script is very witty and there are some real "belly laugh" moments.  The play is three hours long with two intervals, giving plenty of time for sustenance, although you have to be quick to avoid being left with spicy tomato crisps - a hit with Mr MoT I might add but not so for me!

In Act 2 May delivers one of the most spell-binding moments in the play, with a monologue on his time in a mental institution when he was younger.  I would challenge anyone who watches it not to be completely enthralled by his rendition and having only recently watched him in Line of Duty as the dodgy policeman, it was interesting to see him in a different context and what superb acting.

Teenager No.2 is a big drama queen so helping her to learn her lines whether for a play or her next LAMDA exam is a common occurrence.  George Mackay, however, gives a whole new meaning to "line learning" with a couple of totally faultless deliveries of gabbling opinions most notably on his plans for redecorating the attic ready for letting, with teak veneer and cork.

All in all if you like a trip to the theatre this is a must see and the Old Vic is always good for a bit of celeb spotting too - the lovely Anna Chancellor was at the bar whilst Mr MoT fought over the last bag of spicy tomato crisps - he knows how to impress!

 

Mother of Teenagers

 

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I would like to say that our family is normally restricted to one "life" crisis per day but to be honest that would be a white lie.  Teenager No.2 was waiting expectantly at the kitchen table for my return today.   The kitchen table is the nucleus of our home, providing not only an essential place for physical nourishment and conversational exchanges of our days, but also a therapy centre for all emotional "issues" small and large.

Talking is a big part of our family.  I have silently insisted on it throughout my children's formative years and have fought to maintain it into the teenage ones.  Sometimes I have had to tell Teenager No.1 that there is such a thing as too much information but between you and I, I would rather that than nothing at all.  What to wear to a party, how much revision to do, the meaning of life and the birds and the bees.  Nothing is off limits - apart from swearing and farting - unless of course the Teenagers and Mr MoT decide to wind me up!

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt as I have charted my Teenagers' progress through pre-prep and beyond is that you can't choose who they decide to be friends with and this is never more true than when they take the step to "big school".

Gone are the days of doing the school run, hanging out in the playground chatting to the other parents and wandering off for a coffee, clutching diaries to "book in" play dates for your kids.  At Secondary school, it is all about them asserting their independence.  They catch the bus or the train to school themselves, organise their own social diaries and introduce you to their friends once they have made them and they don't care what you think.  We have been largely lucky, that is until now.....

Teenager No.2 ended her last term on a bit of a low, having been told by a friend that she did not want  her as a friend anymore.  No argument, no warning just that's it.  Peculiar. The fact this happened two hours before her first music exam made it an even more poisonous pill to swallow.  We had tears of disbelief, frustration and even anger sporadically over the holidays but finished off in a place of calm acceptance.

Teenager No.2 has a large circle of friends and returned to school after a great holiday upbeat and positive, as well as resolute to be civil and polite to the ex-friend.  Unfortunately, it would seem the ex-friend was not quite so accommodating and went out of her way to ignore and be rude to Teenager No.2, two things she cannot abide.  Teenager No.1 ever-ready with his pearls of wisdom, reminded her that she had done nothing wrong, to stay strong, continue to be polite and it would improve.

Personally of all the friends Teenager No.2 introduced me to, this one aroused suspicions from the outset, but I stood back and reserved my judgement.  I think Teenager No.1 is right, but in the meantime as mother I will continue to discreetly monitor the situation, offering support and guidance as only I know how and most importantly keep talking.

"We don't lose friends, we just learn who the real ones are."

 

 

 

 

 

Mother of Teenagers

 

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Hello and welcome to my blog Mother of Teenagers.  I am Jo, a PR consultant for 20 years, now a freelance writer and mother living in a pocket of South London with my husband and two teenagers.

The eldest, my son is 18 and is from my first marriage and the youngest, my daughter is 14 from my current marriage, making us what is fondly known as a “blended” family.

Parenting is a deeply personal journey and since closing the door on my career more than 10 years ago to be a full-time mother, I haven’t looked back…well only nostalgically at least.

During this time, I have worn many parenting t-shirts and have experiences aplenty of all the junior milestones. I have learnt a lot, cried a little, certainly shouted a bit and laughed even more and I reflect fondly on a plethora of parenting episodes that have made me the mother and person I am today.

At the time of starting this blog, I found myself on the brink of entering a new chapter as a mother to two teenagers and all the new secondary parenting challenges that brings, whilst also embracing the mid-life challenges of turning 50.

This blog is not a diary of our daily activities as they are not really that interesting, but it is a glimpse at the reality of parenting teens and the challenges they face in this ever changing and pressurised world.  It is a forum for me to express my opinions, share my experiences and highlight issues of importance to our teens and young adults.

Interspersed with this you will find reviews and comment on issues surrounding midlife as well as things that interest me outside of my parenting bubble.

Why now? Well quite simply the job of being a mother is never complete

Parenting is not a perfect science and we all seek advice at some point whether from family, friends or online and we all have a valuable voice to add.  I hope that my voice will contribute in some small way to making a difference.

I hope you will enjoy reading parts or all of this blog and I really look forward to hearing from you during my and our journey.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

You can reach me via email jo@motherofteenagers.com, 

or message me on twitter and instagram @motherofteensuk

 

 

 

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