My workload outside of home was becoming more demanding, and I would come home at the end of the day wiped. I would make dinner and either catch up on some reading or watch a little TV and then fall into bed. My teenage daughter had been complaining for some time that I was not spending enough time with her, and it was beginning to grate on me, because I felt I was doing everything I could to just get through the week. After all, I was always still affectionate with her and did make an effort to see how things were going in school. I supported all her activities in school and out and attended all of them.
When she was younger we often had “Girl’s Day Out” where we’d go shopping, to a movie, to dinner, or just watch TV together, but as my life was getting more demanding and she was getting older and spending more time with friends, our “exclusive” time together was diminishing. She also seemed to be developing resentment that I had time for her step dad. It was he who opened my eyes. He sat me down and said, “She’s really suffering. She needs you.” I felt my own resentment building, because I was clearly overwhelmed and felt no one understood. I was also feeling guilty that I couldn’t meet the demands my daughter was putting on me, and feeling scared that she was growing so quickly and moving away from me. I knew it was only a few short years before she’d be gone to college and I’d be faced with an empty nest.
Once I recognized the conflict within me that was immobilizing me, I was ready and able to take action. My husband gets home pretty late one evening a week so I decided this was the night to devote to my teen. She has a favorite TV show that focuses on a great relationship between a single mom and her daughter, so we decided this was going to be part of our ritual. We watch the show, and then do whatever else my daughter wants. We dine together, sometimes on “silly food” and either watch TV shows she wants, or play games. If she has a heavy homework load, we sit together and I catch up on my reading, while she does homework. Sometimes she lets me help with some of the more fun homework activities!
The first night I came home and announced we would be doing this, she responded with “What’s gotten into you?” In the past she often noticed I was very distracted and accused me of never listening to her. I could hear in her tone of “What’s gotten into you?” that she was mistrustful of my new effort. I couldn’t blame her, because I’ve been guilty of saying I’d do something, and then let other priorities get in the way. I told her clearly, that I have heard her need for wanting more of my attention, and that I was very sorry I’d been so distracted, but if she’d give me a chance I’d try harder. Then I gave her a big hug. She was beaming! Of course, being a typical teen, she said with a smile on her face “You’re weird.”
Our first night was delightful, and by 8:30 she was politely kicking me out of her room – “Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I have to finish up this assignment and I want to call my friend back.” We laughed at how this turned around! Before she couldn’t get enough of my time, now she was getting too much! Every week we look forward to our night and have done a variety of fun things. One week my husband was home early on our night, and she said “It’s OK if you don’t want to do it,” but we ended up just kicking him out of our play space and had the night together anyway. I knew she loved being the center of my world at that moment. The whole family has benefited – my guilt, overwhelm and resentment vanished, and I now look forward to our time to get away from all the other demands of life.
- Mom of a Teenage Daughter