A few years ago, I stressed over where to send my soon-to-be middle schooler. How would I find the school with the perfect combination of challenging academics without birthing anxiety and stress, a place that fosters independence without throwing her to the wolves, and a kind social setting that minimizes bullying where every child can find their place?!?!
In the midst of all that wondering and worrying, I never predicted that out of the two of us, I would be the one stuck in the middle of life feeling all the stress — and even a bit of loneliness I feared for my child. I would be the one weighed down by all the tough decisions caused by being sandwiched between aging parents and kids who still very much need me. My social circle had shrunk in half because I am straddling elementary school with one child and middle school with the other spending the majority of my time in my car. No doubt 2020 was a doozy for all, but moms should know whether there is a pandemic or not, adulting and parenting through the middle school years are tough. Here’s my advice to moms with clowns to the left of you and jokers to the right: Hang in there because there are a lot of us stuck in the middle with you!
Lighten Your Load
For as long as I can remember, I have been over-involved, serving on the board of the PTO, room mom, volunteering etc. When my out-of-state mom started having health issues, something had to give. It is especially hard for me not to honor my commitments, but when major problems arise, you have to prioritize. Your health, your stress level, and your family commitments come first. The things you lay down will allow you to rise up, and nine times out of ten will still be there when you make it to the other side.
Communication is Key
After I had my babies, I gained the best social circle of funny, talented, and caring moms. It was so easy because we had similar schedules, similar ups and downs, and the focus was on us and how to mother. As you enter the middle school years, things shift a bit. Gender differences are more pronounced. This parenting stage is full of hot topics like social media, phones, grades, and now vaccinations, making it feel like a more noticeable divide. Add those to any personal dilemmas and dealing with aging parents, things quickly escalate from busy to overwhelmed. When you need them the most, friendships start to take the back burner. When it happened to me, some of my besties thought I just went MIA. Without any ill intentions, I was simply too distracted trying to put out little fires that were popping up all around to return texts in a timely matter. Then came the endless carpools and pressing appointments that prevented me from attending social gatherings, let alone my professional commitments. I’m embarrassed to admit that I even missed some birthdays. Feelings were hurt, and I let my guilt push me further away. The simplest piece of advice is often the hardest to follow — just reach out in any way you can no matter how long it’s been. Women, we are a sensitive breed, but we are also empathetic and caring. Each of us will get stuck in this season, and we need each other even if we don’t get to hang out as often.
Find a Therapist
There’s a difference between doing it all and handling it all. We are so lucky to live in a time where mental health awareness is not only accessible, it is encouraged. Most people know me for my sunny disposition and positive attitude, but life can be overwhelming for anyone at any time. There are no prizes for holding the weight of your world on your shoulders. Sure, I have plenty of friends who are willing to hear me out but getting an objective opinion from a friend is harder than you think.
Middle school will be a transition for both you and your kiddo. Take heart — when it is all said and done, you will be a five-star carpool driver. You will appreciate and honor any time you have with your friends, whether it’s a ten-minute call between appointments or a happy hour once in a blue moon, more than ever. Next time you are alone shuffling your family from one place to the next, look over at another mom at the stoplight, smile, and wave because chances are she spends most of her social life flanked with awkward and hormonal teenagers like you.