Why This Mom of Teens Went on Strike (and What it Taught My Kids)

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Why This Mom of Teens Went on Strike (and What it Taught My Kids)

For the longest time, I was a type “A” kind of mom. I was on top of everything – the house, the errands, the meals, my three kids’ schedules – you name it. I had my family running like a well-oiled machine.

Most nights I had a healthy, hot meal on the dinner table. I kept up with the laundry, the house, and my kids’ homework, sports and schedules. I always knew where they needed to be, what time they needed to be there and when they needed to be picked up.

I volunteered at their schools, made pasta salad for teacher appreciation day, never missed a game, recital or teacher-parent conference, and I somehow always ended up as the designated driver for my kids and all their friends – all while holding down a job with an advertising agency.

I was by society’s definition, a Super Mom.

The truth is, I kept up with the daily demands of life, running a household and being the absolute best mom I could be (all while pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion) for all the right reasons.

I love my family.

I knew going into motherhood that it was a thankless job. I knew, deep down in my soul, that everything I did, every sacrifice I made, every late night I stayed up making cupcakes, every errand I ran to make their lives easier, every time I went out of my way to make my kids feel special and loved and adored was important and valuable and mattered.

When I collapsed into bed at night, completely depleted from the overwhelming physical and mental load of motherhood, I wasn’t looking for a standing ovation, a pat on the back or a “Damn, girl, you should be proud of yourself, you’re killin’ it.”

I inherently knew (even though I wasn’t getting the encouragement and support I sometimes desperately needed to keep going), the fruits of my labor would surely pay off in the long run. 

And so… I just kept selflessly going and doing and giving and trying.

But mamas, I’m here to tell you… you can only run at race pace for so long before you start to lose your steam.

Somewhere down the line, you’re going to hit a brick wall. Whether it’s your physical or mental well-being – eventually it all starts to catch up with you. 

Eventually, you’re going to start feeling like you’re breaking. You’re going to start asking yourself, “Why am I trying so freaking hard?” You’re going to get frustrated that your kids simply expect everything you do for them, that they don’t appreciate you, that they take you for granted, and that sometimes, they don’t even seem to notice anything you do for them.

For me, that “eventually” came when my kids became teenagers.

The Teen Years Are Tough

When you’re a mom of teenagers, while you’re fighting to be the best mom you can be making sacrifices your kids could never fathom, while you’re desperately trying to mold and raise good human beings with kind hearts, while you’re fighting for their future, trying to keep them from making crappy decisions they’ll regret the rest of their lives and teaching them life lessons with their very best interest at heart every step of the way – you get the lovely gift of a heaping spoonful of serious attitude.

Teenagers are such moody, sassy, self-absorbed creatures. I’ve honestly come to grips with the fact that they don’t mean to be, they just are. I’m also well aware that this is just a phase my kids are going through and that one day… God knows when… they will appreciate everything I’ve done for them.

Just not today…

Plus, not only are teenagers self-absorbed, they’re also really good at avoiding chores and housework like the plague, which is funny considering they’re the ones wreaking havoc in the house. (Can we all agree most teenagers are slobs?)

And, let’s face it, teenagers aren’t known (most anyway) for handing out heartfelt thanks, “Geez mom… I know how tired you are and still you made a great dinner – Thank you,” or “Thank you for picking my friends and me up at midnight – you really are a great mom.”

After years of selfless giving, I started to find myself becoming resentful. After all, my kids weren’t little anymore. They were older now. How could they possibly not know how much I needed to feel appreciated?

It felt like every waking moment of my life was spent focusing on my kids, while my own needs and dreams were placed on the backburner. It’s like everyone had a claim in my life… except me.

It wasn’t until I was venting to my aunt one day (a mom of five grown children), who gave me just the advice I needed to hear.

Honey,” she said. “Sometimes, you just have to go on strike.”

When your kids become a little too entitled, too self-absorbed, too oblivious to everything you do for them, you need to remind them what a gift you are, how much you do for them, and that there is a limit to your selflessness. You need to teach them to be grateful,” she said.

So, This Mom of Teens Went on Strike…

When my son asked me for a ride, I said “No.” When my daughter asked for help with her math homework, I said “Nope.” When my family looked at me at dinnertime expecting a nice homecooked meal, I said, “Sorry, you’ll have to figure this one out on your own.

Aside from taking them to the doctor or emergency room (it’s not like I would ever abandon my family in a time of real need), they were essentially on their own.

They had to get themselves up in the morning, make their own breakfast, lunch and dinner, do their own laundry, dishes and cleaning, and feed and walk the dog – along with everything else I typically took care of.

At first, there was a ton of moaning, groaning and teenage attitude looming in the house. “Come on mom… it’s your job to take care of us!” Wait a minute… my “job?” 

After every last stinkin’ dish in the house was dirty (which didn’t take long), they didn’t have a choice but to do the dishes. When they wanted their uniform or favorite hoodie washed, they had to wash it themselves. And, when the kitchen counter and floor got so sticky and gross they could barely stand it themselves, guess what… they had to clean it themselves.

Interestingly, a Few Things Started to Happen

My family started to appreciate me more. They started working together. They realized that I did things for them because I chose to, not because I was forced to.

They realized that clothes don’t miraculously get washed, folded, and end up back in drawers. They realized that the pile of dirty dishes in the sink won’t get washed and put away unless someone does it. They realized that bathroom sinks and kitchen counters become disgusting when they aren’t wiped down. 

Although they had some experience before I went on strike, they got good at loading the dishwasher and operating the washer and dryer and, since my son had his driver’s license, my kids figured out how to make a grocery list and buy groceries. They even cooked for themselves… imagine that!

They figured out my job wasn’t easy and that it was demanding and exhausting and never-ending. And, THAT was a good thing.

Being a Good Mom Means Taking Care of YOU

Whether you go on strike for an afternoon, an entire day, three days or a whole week, you deserve a little “you” time to reclaim your life.

Go to lunch with a friend. Escape with a good book. Go shopping and buy yourself something new. Binge-watch Netflix. Go for a drive, roll down the windows and crank up the music. Get a pedicure. Take a girls’ weekend trip.

Whatever re-energizes you, comforts you, relaxes you or inspires you, do it! Time away from your family is not only good for you… it’s really good for them

Oh, and TRUST ME… your family will survive just fine without you.

If you enjoyed, “Why This Mom of Teens Went on Strike,” you might also enjoy reading:

Simple Health and Wellness Tips for Tired Busy Moms

I’m Second Mom to My Teens’ Friends and I Admit It, I Love It

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Elle May 9, 2022 - 7:11 pm

This describes my life to a ‘T’. I am at breaking point and reading this I realized why . . . Covid, not getting away for girls weekend and my husband not realizing that some of this behaviour is ‘normal’. Thank you

Nancy Reynolds May 10, 2022 - 12:31 pm

Oh, I fully understand. Hopefully, now that COVID restrictions are easing up you can take that girls’ weekend get-a-way!! In the meantime, take care of YOU. You can’t pour from an empty cup, mom. xo


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