As our seventh-grade daughter is on the verge of becoming an official teenager, I have learned that: (1) I am the bane of her existence, (2) I am irrelevant (unless there is a request for a sleepover or a new book), and (3) I am the stupidest mom EVER! The good news is that her teen self and new longing for independence are all right on track developmentally. The bad news is that I just have to weather the next few years and look forward to the day when she emerges from that black hole of teen-dom.
But as I continue to reassure myself that her attitudes toward me are perfectly natural and something I have to manage in my own head, along comes a new study just in time for her 13th birthday to add fuel to that never-ending good mother/bad mother fire. It’s conclusion? If our teen daughters are unhappy at this point in their lives, it’s our fault!
This recent report puts a new guilt-inducing twist on the old parents vs. teens saga — it turns out that unless you have a WABAC machine, it might be too late to change how your teenage daughter views her personal relationships, because your early motherhood anxiety is what laid the groundwork for their teen angst and anger.
You’ll love the basis for this theory!
According to the online publication Science News:
“The study, led by Cory Burghy of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, drew from the Wisconsin Study of Family and Work, which in 1990 recruited pregnant women in southern Wisconsin at prenatal visits. Three times during the first year of their babies’ lives, the mothers reported whether they were experiencing stressful situations such as depression, marital conflict, money woes or parenting stress. Researchers assumed that women who reported higher stress levels created a more stressful situation for their baby.
“Four and a half years later, daughters whose moms reported higher levels of stress had more of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. That observation suggests the girls had trouble shutting down a hyperactive stress response. The same effect wasn’t found in boys.”
*Insert deep sigh here.* Is there any parenting experience, especially the early ones, that don’t induce some sort of anxiety? I don’t think so. So does that mean we, as mothers, are dooming our daughters unless we can maintain a ‘don’t worry, be happy’ attitude every day?
As a mom by adoption, I know firsthand there things happen in our children’s lives when they’re infants that directly impact how they process the emotional part of life later on. It’s been established that children who live in orphanages before they are placed for adoption sometimes have issues with attachment in relationships because of the broken attachments early in their lives. So I’m not surprised that how we act or what we do as mothers impact our kids’ emotional lives as they grow. But is there a purpose to be served by studying whether maternal anxiety during a daughter’s infancy makes the teen years worse? Because what mother — really, what parent — doesn’t have worries like “marital conflict or money woes” at some point when their kids are babies?
I suppose there is always something to be learned in any study, but the question I have is this — who decided that they should focus on the stress of mothers rather than fathers? Or maybe a more accurate study would have focused on overall conflict issues in a household, rather than singling out — yet again — the actions of mothers.
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
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Image via Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.