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Letting Go: The Joys And Hardships Of Raising Teens

Today, I talked with Ali Flynn, educator and creator of Hang in There, Mama. Ali and I discuss the joys and hardships of raising teens with an open heart, honesty, and some tears. She is a mom to four daughters and offers daily encouragement and support to moms while keeping it real and letting them know they are not alone on their motherhood journey.

Let’s dive in! 

What You Will Learn: 

  • The struggle to let go of our teens as they prepare to leave the nest. 
  • Why do we struggle so much with feeling like enough?
  • Not measuring our worth as a mom by our kid’s successes or failures.
  • Letting go of the comparison trap parents fall into with other parents. 
  • Why holding tighter to our teens instead of loosening our grip has the opposite effect?
  • Trusting our teens more and more to help with the transition from teen to young adult.

Where to find Ali:

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone, and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

 SHERYL: Well, welcome Ali to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I’m so happy that you’re here.

 ALI:  Thank you so much. It’s such an honor that you asked me to come on.

 SHERYL: Yeah, I just love you. And I got to know you. I don’t know; it’s been in the last year, maybe six months. And I came upon all of your writing – a lot of your writing and seeing your memes. And I love what you write because it speaks so much to my heart about what it’s like to be a mom. 

And yet, you articulate what I’m feeling and thinking, that’s difficult for me to put into words. And yeah, and I’m like, I have to have you on because you get right to the heart of things. So let’s start; I want you to tell the listeners a little about yourself and how you came up with the name: “Hang In There, Mama.” How did this happen?

 ALI:  No, thank you for the kind words; that’s so sweet. That’s sort of my goal every day. I hope to be real and touch people’s hearts through my words. 

So really, I’m a mom; I was a teacher. Before being a mom, I have four teenage daughters, ages 16 to 20. I have identical twins mixed in there. And “Hang In There, Mama” just began during COVID. And I wanted to sort of inspire moms and encourage moms.  

I was always a writer. So I had tons of journals, diaries and pieces of phrases, and information. And I thought, what could I do? I could do this. And I took a stab at it while my kids were on remote learning. And it grew from there. 

But when I was thinking of my name, it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Because I constantly use the phrase, “I’m hanging in there.” So when people asked me, oh, how are you doing today, as I’m raising four kids under three, or even as I’m raising four teenagers, I would always say, Oh, I’m hanging in there, because I didn’t want to lie as if everything was perfect and lovely. And there were no flaws. 

But I also didn’t want it to seem as if everything was falling apart. Because it wasn’t, there was a balance in between. So I would always say, Oh, I’m hanging in there because that was the most honest answer I could give somebody. So that’s sort of where the name came about. 

And then, through that, the writing pieces just came about to inspire moms and let them know they’re not alone on their motherhood journey. Because so often, we feel as if we’re the only ones going through it. And I just wanted to encourage moms that they’re not.

 SHERYL: Yeah, yeah. And you say it’s so beautiful. And I know your mission is to support and encourage moms. And it’s both giving words to the struggle and the challenge. And you talk a lot about hope. And that’s what we’ll talk about today: hope and encouragement. 

And also, we were talking about just talking about this letting go piece, which I think is what makes it so difficult when our kids hit the tween years is that this transition is happening, where we don’t have as much control, and they’re pushing away. And it’s tough. It’s tough. So, where are you at right now with your parenting? What are some of the challenges that you’re experiencing?

 ALI:  Yeah, my parenting. I currently have two kids in college. So I have a freshman and a sophomore in college; they will both be home next week. And then I have two who are juniors. So right now, as a mom, I am in the thick of junior year college planning, AP classes, and all the stress of learning how to drive

All of the responsibilities that junior year brings about are very stressful for the kids and the parents. And then I have two coming home from college, which it becomes during the summer like okay, well, how do we deal with that they’ve been living on their own, you can’t continue life how it was when they were in high school, but yet they are still here with us. 

So it’s finding the balance. So I am in this stretch for the incoming summer of balance. That is my goal each day, and the word I need to say to myself is to find the balance; it might not be easy every day, but I will try.

 SHERYL: Yeah, gosh, they’re gone. And then they come back. And then the rules change a bit because they have been used to being alone. And I remember that it was just really difficult to navigate because my youngest just graduated from college a year ago and, also, staying off again, waiting for me to come home and being so used to it anymore and then setting my alarm. 

But then the time was a little the curfew was a little bit later. What are you thinking that’s gonna look like? 

 ALI:  We did have it last year; we have been through one summer because I have a daughter entering her junior year of college. I didn’t struggle with it as much as I thought. I was able to sort of keep things in perspective. 

But I sometimes think our kids are coming home from college; it’s hard for them. It’s a transition to let go of your complete independence and let go of your friends who are used to living with you and becoming your family. 

And now, sort of navigating backing back into the world of our real family. So I think it’s being patient and trying to understand that it will take some time for them to acclimate back home, just like it took some time to acclimate as they went into college and those first weeks and months.

 SHERYL: I love that you’re saying that; as you said, I might say that I love your writing so much because you’re thinking of it when you write. It’s also from a perspective of what this is like for your kids. 

I have to say, even with what I do, a lot of the time, I’m more self-focused; I’m like, Okay, this is going to inconvenience me, this is, all of my feelings just got hurt, or oh my gosh, I hate my kid is making that choice. It’s just like, I can see, this isn’t going anywhere good. But they’re not listening. And they’re going to make this choice. And they’re going to have to experience the consequences of that. But as you said, this is also a big transition for them returning; they are leaving their friends for this summer and thinking about what this is like.

 ALI:  Well, I am selfish. And I can be self-absorbed as well. And just think about how it was inconveniencing me what will be happening. But I also think being a teacher, I also taught middle school. So I’ve been around teenagers and upper high school for a long time. 

So I think that also helped, like even before having my teens, that I knew what emotionally they needed and what they were looking for. But yeah, I have moments where I’m used to some things that have transitioned in our own house with the girls being gone. 

But I do try to keep their feelings first, and sometimes have to like a flaw and a fault of my own, that often I don’t put myself first ever, but it’s just, again, a balance of what they need. What do I need? How can we make it balance together? 

 SHERYL: How do you navigate that? Like when you say balance? What does that look like for you?

 ALI:  I think for me, it’s probably thinking of what my kid’s needs are first and then not neglecting my own but incorporating mine within theirs. And again, some moms might disagree with me on that. But that is just what I have always used with raising my kids. And it has worked for me. 

Sometimes it’s worked well. Other times, it’s been an epic fail. But it’s finding the balance of what works for all of us. And even with my kids, I have four kids in three and a half years. And these girls were raised knowing you are not the only person in this house. 

There are other people also; no one is above anybody else. We are all equals. And all of our needs matter. Some people’s needs matter more one day than another, based on the need for that day and what’s going on emotionally. So that’s how I balance who needs what more on what day.

 SHERYL: Yeah, I like that because it’s so true. It’s like, okay, thinking about where they are right now like you have two twins, such a stressful time, and you’ve got to go through it simultaneously. Do you think that makes it harder or easier?

 ALI: They are identical twins, but they are so different. And I think sort of in their lives, what has always happened is, they don’t tend to go through the same thing that same day at that same moment. So that makes my life a little bit easier. 

They seem to flip-flop, which day is more emotional for each one or who’s struggling more. But I think that having two girls having gone through junior year, like I always say to my juniors, now, this is not my first rodeo; please listen to my advice. 

I have been through this before. I know it’s different. And I’m not comparing you to your sisters. But I have a bit of wisdom and knowledge going into the process of junior year, what you’re sort of going to face, and how I can help you. 

 SHERYL: It helps when it’s not your first rodeo. The first time through is painful. Oh my gosh.

 ALI:  I always feel bad for my oldest daughter. I’m like, You were such a guinea pig. I had no idea what I was doing. Right? As much as I was a teacher. I’m like, that’s not my kids. They’re not living with me. I’m not going through it with them. 

So yeah, I think my eldest was used as the guinea pig and experimented with what works, what doesn’t work. And then I’ve learned, and I’ve changed throughout that time.

 SHERYL: I remember thinking, all these kids that are the guinea pigs, will you ever get this application filled out? Panicking, and they would try to procrastinate, and you’d be nagging and come on, get it done. And then, finally, they do get it done, or they’re not, which my oldest went and then decided wasn’t what she wanted to do. And then she went later. So, each of them has their path.

 ALI:  Well, and I think it’s respecting each path for who they are as that particular child, and not forcing it just because one sister or one brother or their sibling did it a certain way or your way, and just really validating that their path and what their goals are, is what’s most important. And I think sometimes, as parents, we forget that and just stay mindful of how we can best help them with their goals and dreams.

 SHERYL: Yeah, that’s so important because we put ourselves on our kids and think about what it’s supposed to look like or what everybody around us is doing. And maybe that’s what’s right for a kid. And that can be hard to come to grips with. That’s kind of that whole part about letting go. That I think is so, so important. 

And so, as we get ready, as we talk about that kind of leading into it, I want to read one of your quotes, “being a mom will challenge you in ways you never knew existed while allowing you to grow in ways you never dreamed possible.” And I love that. I mean, nothing has stretched me more than being a mom. 

 ALI:  Absolutely. One of the most challenging endeavors I have ever taken on. Yeah, it’s daily. 

 SHERYL: And I think that is a good way to say it because it will challenge us. But we have to think of that challenge as being growth for us. Rather than, it’s so easy to think, well, our kids are going through this, and they’re the problem, and I gotta fix this and do something about it. And all that stuff we can do. Okay, how am I supposed to grow?

 ALI:  Right? And we grow all the time, right? Like I sort of look at it as if with each phase my kids have gone through, I have also grown and gone through it with them. So I have to evolve. I can’t stay the same mom I was when they were tweens. 

Now that I have college kids, I can’t be the same mom when they’re tweens that they were when they were adolescents. I can’t be the same mom in adolescence that they were as toddlers. We must keep growing, or else we will get stuck. But we must also be open to learning and evolving through that process. To be the mom, we need to be for our kids.

 SHERYL: Yeah, for sure. 

 ALI:  That’s the challenging piece, right? I think we’ve finally figured it out, and then oops, another stage comes, and now it’s like, alright, we have to let go of some of that. We can incorporate some of it, but we must keep moving forward and learning more. And I think that what’s challenging is that we must keep evolving.

 SHERYL:  I love what you said about that. It’s not just our kids growing. It’s like getting them wherever we think they need to be. It’s mutual growth. And I will say that to the moms, like when your kid sees that you are working on yourself and growing through whatever they’re going through, such a difference in the relationship.

 ALI:  Absolutely. Our kids don’t want to think we are set in stone. And we are perfect. And we have it all together. They want to see us growing; they want to see us making mistakes. 

They want to see us that we have times when we struggle because then we’re also teaching them how to get through those times that maybe they will struggle. They can’t see just the statue of a human. Yeah.

 SHERYL: Exactly. Like we’ve got all the answers. And we’ve got it all together because we know they think they have the answers at this age. And so that’s not going to go very well. 

What have you found to be some of them? Just pick one. What is one challenge that has been a struggle for you when you think about it? Can you just let anything that comes to mind?

 ALI:  Yeah, I would say, similar to many moms with tweens and teens, it was the letting go. And it’s still letting go. It’s finding that balance but learning to embrace letting go rather than being scared. And I think it became sort of this process for me while my oldest was a junior. 

So now she’s a sophomore in college. But it was that process because I started to get stuck. When she was a junior, I felt like my feet were planted. I didn’t want her to get her license; I was terrified of the college stuff coming down the road with applications, a CT prep, and all the courses and responsibilities. And it scared me. 

But it also meant I had to let her go. Knowing that all these adult things were coming her way and that I was an outsider, I wouldn’t be a real focus. 

So it was letting go and letting her do her own thing and follow her path. So and I think it’s still hard, or even letting go of, not just for what was coming down the road that she would leave home and potentially go to college, but your kids get their license. 

Letting go trusting that they’re not going to go over the speed limit, they’re going to follow the rules, they’re going to be safe, make good decisions, to everything that we have taught them. 

And then, so it’s just like one piece, right? And if I didn’t allow my anxiety to let go of that, my daughter potentially would have never driven in high school. So it’s that is one piece that I struggled with, and at times, my husband would have to talk me off the ledge a little bit and say, No, it’s going to be okay. And we’re going to have contact with them via texting. 

And so letting go while finding the balance of what I was also comfortable with, while also parenting, and I would always say to my girls, as much as you’re older, and you have these new freedoms, I’m still a parent, and we are still going to have to work together.

 SHERYL: That’s something that I like, just saying that to them. That I am still a parent, I’m going to give you more freedoms, but at the same time, freedom within limits and what that looks like and boundaries. 

 ALI:  And that’s the other thing like I always say to some of my friends or even people who reach out via messaging through social media, I’m like, it’s okay to set boundaries. It’s okay to say no; it’s okay to be scared about something. And it’s okay to understand that you’re not the only person having a hard time letting go and realize that it is a part of the process. 

And together, we sort of have to get through it. But if we don’t let go, it’s also a disservice to our teenagers. Because then how are they evolving? How are they growing and learning for what’s to come when they go to college, the military, or wherever they choose? 

 SHERYL: Gosh, there are so so many things that you said in there. I mean, it’s okay to feel the way that we feel. I think that’s important because we’re trying to talk ourselves out of it, or, like, Okay, this makes sense; this is a big transition.

 ALI:  Yeah, I think you have to feel it. If you don’t feel it, you ignore it like the big white elephant in the room. So you have to feel it, you have to allow yourself to feel it, whether that means you go on a walk and just have to listen to a podcast or meditation music for a little bit to clear your mind, whether it’s you need to just go in the shower and have a good cry, no matter what it is, you have to feel it. 

And if you ignore how hard letting go or transitioning during this time of our kids growing up is, then you are just going to implode one day, so I think that if you feel it, and also like for me, to be honest with you, I was transparent with my kids about my feelings. 

I wouldn’t deny that I was scared for them to go to college. But then, at the same time, I would say but what? You have shown me you are independent, make these great decisions, and are ready. So, I will also say it’s just some of my anxiety as a mom, right? Like, I’m struggling here, but I’m trying. I’m trying the best that I can, but it is hard.

 SHERYL: That includes our kids. And what’s honestly going on with that and with us, I think, is just beautiful modeling.

 ALI:  Well, I like to go one of my default, my twins just recently started driving, and I happened to be out of town at a volleyball game for her twin. And I was so stressed about not being home; she was taking the car. So staying at my parent’s house. But just knowing I wasn’t in the vicinity. Oh, my anxiety was so raised. 

And I am not someone who has a lot of anxiety, to begin with. And I remember I just kept texting her and texting or texting, and she was like, Mom, enough. 

I said I am so sorry; you are not doing anything wrong. You’re where you’re supposed to be. You’re keeping me updated on where you’re going and going. I said it was purely my anxiety. As a mom, having your kids drive is one of the most stressful experiences, but we can face it; it’s okay, and she sent me a little hard emoji.

 SHERYL: It’s not about you.

 ALI:   I have to let it is totally about me. So you don’t think that you’re doing anything wrong?

 SHERYL: Yeah, I think that that is a good question for our listeners. Is this really about my kid? Or is this more about me? Oh, yeah. That is a very good question. And what am I so afraid of? 

 ALI:  When I think of something going on in my world, especially with my juniors, I will say, okay, is this something I am putting on to them? That’s my issue. Or is it something I need to be concerned about for them? 

And often, it is just my stuff that maybe I haven’t worked through. And then I’ll talk to a friend, I’ll talk to my husband, and then I’ll realize, okay, what, maybe I’m not being so rational right now.

 SHERYL: Yeah. Yeah, that’s so good. Do you know Becky Bodwin? She’s an author. And she’s also one of our mom mentors whose moms are tweens and teens. But she was just saying – we had a meeting before this. And she said, I’ve never thought of this example for boundaries, but it fits with what you’re saying, as a hula hoop. 

And so we have a hula hoop around us. Suppose you think of the visual of that. And then our kids have a hula hoop. And is this at my waist level? Or is this under it? 

Although obviously, anxieties and fears about driving and what I’m telling myself might happen. And you think about what we’re talking about, that letting go process where they’re in the back, they start in the back seat in a car seat, and then they end up moving up to the front seat. 

And then we end up in the passenger seat, then they’re in the driver’s seat and then carry for another. Yes, I still remember one of my kids was so close to the curb all the time. And there would be all these trees lined up.

 ALI:  But sometimes you’re a little scared.

 SHERYL: I always wanted the driver’s ed teacher to have one of those brakes on your side. So, how do you install that? So, you wrote a blog post for us: “Where has the time gone?” It’s a progression and a transition that needs to take place for you to move forward and become a thriving adult. 

And you talk all about this whole transition and how it is so important for them as they move toward adulthood? Have you experienced this with your girls like this process when you let go? And when you haven’t had that? Can you see how it’s gotten in either way and stunted their growth?

 When you’ve tried to do that, or when it’s helped them can become more independent? What does that look like? I don’t even know if my questions are satisfied.

 ALI:  Do I understand what you’re saying? And as scared as I was to let go, the relationship with my girls changed when I started to slowly let go. And it got better because they felt this for my older girls. And also, even my high schoolers feel that I trust them. I believe in them, have hope, and have faith in them. 

And I’m not a mom controlling them because I don’t believe they can survive in our world. So they feel a sense of ownership, a sense of independence, and then that gives them this motivation to keep pursuing their path and keep going. And I think having that trust is also so beneficial to them. My daughters were talking to me yesterday because we happened to be talking about some of the apps that track kids. 

And I choose not to track my kids. And they were saying how that allows them to believe I have faith and trust in them. Believing in and trusting my kids is important because letting go doesn’t necessarily mean you’re severing relationships; you’re not ending connections. 

It means that you are transitioning and evolving, and your teenagers are becoming more of your equal as time progresses. And you have to begin to trust them. But because you still have that connection, you’re still there supporting them and encouraging them. But now they have ownership of their path and their belief. 

 SHERYL: I just want to pause because I think this part was hard. After all, one of my kids was not making the best choices. And it was really hard to trust. And I know that moms are listening to caregivers, that are caregivers that are listening, that this is hard for them. 

And I believe we have to fake it until we make it a lot of the time. Because what I realized is I was feeding that, that I was not trusting because I was living in that fear of letting go. And so I was trying so hard to hold on. 

And believing that if I let go, let’s release some of that control. I say some because it’s a process. That’s what I was sending my kid. I was sending them this message that I don’t trust you. I don’t believe in you. And now checking on her. 

She said to me, Mom, that was difficult for me. And I do believe that you trusted me and that you believed I was capable. And therefore, like I was rebelling, I was just trying to break free of how much you controlled me.

 ALI:  Right? Yeah, I think a lot of moms do that. Right? We think well the more we hold on, especially for kids struggling and not making the best decisions. Well, the more we hold on, we’ll keep them in line. But often, keeping them in line in that way. They still need to make their mistakes. They need to learn to then grow. 

But like I’ve said before, every family is different; every kid is a different parent, and you just have to parent your child. Not for anybody else, your neighbor, or the person you see down the street. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. You have to parent your kid because you’re the only one who knows them.    

My kids probably got sick and tired of hearing me say that because I’d be like Susie, down the street, and so on. So I’m like, when will you realize that I don’t care what your friends at school are doing, or their parents say, I have to do my job, raising you? And that is all that matters. 

So we can hear, “Oh, let them go a little bit. Set them free.” But you also know, as a parent, when is the right and appropriate time based on your kid’s personality and what they are going through right now?

 SHERYL: Yeah, I am. I just want to say to the moms; it’s okay if it doesn’t look the way that Suzy down the streets, and her parents are, the way that they’re doing it, like, we need to know that okay, for my kid, they might not be ready for college, they might decide that college isn’t the right path for them. 

I see that a lot, especially with the mom setting, maybe their teacher, their professor at a college, and then all of a sudden, they have this kid that struggles with ADHD. And they’re not a great student and don’t want to do that. But some wrestling goes on; we have to wrestle with that and say, Okay, it’s not how I thought it would look.

 ALI:  Right? Yeah, I’m letting go of the comparison with the people in town, your neighbors, and others in your school district because it is different for everybody. And as parents, sometimes we have fallen into this trap of believing it’s supposed to look a certain way. But it’s not that there isn’t one path; there isn’t one right way. 

There are so many different dimensions to it. So if we stop comparing ourselves or judging others for their actions, it will be better for our kids.

 SHERYL: Yeah, how do you do that? Like, do you have a little mantra? You write all these. Do you find that you write many of your quotes for yourself?

 ALI:  I have a lot of inspiration, right? But I just try to keep it real. And that is something in our society that constantly comes up about moms thinking they must be perfect. And don’t compare yourself, don’t judge yourself; you are the only mom for your kid. And stay grounded in that. And don’t give up. Don’t give up that belief in what you’re doing. 

Trust yourself, your gut, your child, and what’s best for them now. So I think I do try to remind myself of that. Still, what I do, I will say I have a really good support system, that when I am second guessing myself and comparing myself to other moms or doubting myself, I can pick up the phone and call my sisters, I can talk with my husband, I can reach out to my mom. 

So it’s really when you start to feel insecure about what you are doing to have that support to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.

 SHERYL: We started our membership at Moms to Tweens and Teens because we realized you need some moms who don’t feel like they can do that. And that there’s a safe place where you can go and know that you’re not alone. 

And yeah, be able to get that support because we all need it. We’re all going to struggle with self-doubts. I feel like we’re failing. Sometimes we need other moms to say, “You’re doing a good job, you’re here.”

 ALI:  Right? You have support, and you’re not alone. I wrote something a few years ago, and it said we all enter motherhood with an unbearable amount of questions. And none of us know what we’re doing. 

But we just have to support each other throughout the journey. And that’s all we can do. And believe in and support each other as women and moms without judging and comparing ourselves to other moms. 

 SHERYL: It’s such a process, isn’t it? 

 ALI:  We can talk about this for hours.

 SHERYL:  I know. Yeah. Yeah. Hard to enter into that process, but we can do it. And that’s why we gather, and it sucks the joy, doesn’t it? I mean comparison. That’s what Brene Brown says in comparison is a thief of joy. That is so true.

 ALI:  It truly is. Yep. Comparison, jealousy, all of that. And once you feed into it, it is just like this vicious cycle to try to get out.

 SHERYL: Well, you think about what it does to our kids, right? When we compare, that does spill on to not being who you’re supposed to be for me. 

 ALI:  Yeah. And you doubt yourself and your abilities. So it’s giving them the belief in you as well. So I think it’s back to that balance, right, giving our kids the balance to believe that we don’t know everything, and we’re learning along with you. 

But we’re going to grow with each other, evolve, and let each other go while remaining grounded in a great relationship that doesn’t get severed just because we get older.

 SHERYL: Yeah, keep focusing on the relationship. So you have a quote, “Being a good mom doesn’t mean perfection, it simply means loving your child.”

Boy, that just really cuts through it, to like, you think about, okay, and I’m doing the comparing thing. I’m in that perfectionism. How do I get it pointing in the direction it’s supposed to go, like loving my child? 

 ALI:  We all get so skewed right; by thinking we have to be perfect as moms, we have grown up thinking that women and moms are supposed to fit this mold. And as moms, once you have kids, you realize there isn’t a mold. 

And it takes a lot to try to be perfect; you are wasting your energy, you’re never going to be perfect, and your kids will never have a perfect mom. And you have to sort of embrace that.  

Once you embrace it and stop trying to be perfect, your relationships and family will grow because you can invest time and the more important things right. But we have been taught, though I hate to say social media, but social media, Pinterest, right, all Facebook posts, etc., even greeting cards, TV commercials, and TV shows, that moms have to fit this certain dynamic. And there’s no way any of us fit into it. 

But why do we try so hard? Right? Because all our kids want is someone who loves them, supports them, encourages them, and gives them hugs, kisses, and unconditional love. 

So, we have to let go of all the nonsense. And realize our kids don’t need the perfect birthday party that looks Pinterest-worthy and has beautiful decorations. They don’t need that. They don’t want it half the time. They want us to be supportive and loving. 

 SHERYL: Yeah, that is so good to remember. And you also write about not measuring our worth based on our kid’s successes or failures. Can you say more about it?

 ALI:  I think this became a big one as my kids entered Middle School. And then, especially in high school, I didn’t feel it so much in the elementary school years. But just hearing parents and moms placing their value of who they are as adult women based on their kid’s GPA, where their kids are getting into college, or what sports team their kids got on. 

And it’s like, whoa, whoa, wait, stop. Like, it has nothing to do with you. First of all, that is your kid’s path. That’s not yours; let them be happy and feel worse because they’re working on that. 

But as soon as parents sort of move it onto them, and pride themselves in their kid’s GPA, where they’re going to college, and, again, the sports team, you can be proud of your kid. But if that’s what you’re basing your worth on, then all you’re going to do is put so much pressure on your child to continuously keep that up

Rather than just saying I’m proud of your accomplishments. I think you’re doing a great job in school. I love that you’re attending the college you want to go to but to sort of, I guess, brag about it and make it what makes you happy. 

I think it’s a very fine line. And I think moms need to find what makes them happy. Their child doing well in school makes them happy. But it’s not something to fulfill them. 

 SHERYL: Again, it makes me think about the hula hoop analogy that I just learned about today. I think it’s like we have to that’s in their hula hoop. And yes, it makes us feel good, but what will I do as I’m doing this to let go, which I now have an empty nester? 

It’s really hard. It’s much harder than I thought, and it’s like, okay, what do I need to do to take care of myself and fill out my full level, not be overly busy because I can do that to avoid feeling that degree? So it’s like being an empty nester now because there is some grief that my job looks different now.

 ALI:  Sure, in teacher terms of the Venn diagram, right, so you have two circles that overlap one another, and you have what’s in my circle as a mom, what’s in the part of the circle for my child? And then the circle that overlaps in the middle? Very little. But what do we have in this blend? So good. 

 SHERYL:  I am leading a workshop this weekend. So good, because we get, and if we don’t have that, it’s going to the middle part, like what do you have to gather that it’s going to rip that relationship?

 ALI:  Right? You’re still together, your staff folder. But what about that life? What’s in this life for me isn’t necessarily fulfilling my team’s needs. But what’s in the other circle for my team shouldn’t be fulfilling me up? But what we share is what fills us up. And that’s the love of our family, the love of the activities we do together. Right? Not my kid’s GPA. 

 SHERYL: I’m so struck by how powerful that is. And many of you couldn’t see it. I think we should make a meme out of a person. But that middle part eventually erodes the relationship if we’re doing that. So that middle part will be affected, and your relationship will be affected. I’ve experienced that. And I’ve experienced how it’s never too late to mend that relationship.

 ALI:  But I also think relationships sometimes get skewed if you go back to what we previously discussed. Because why are moms finding their worth in their kid’s GPA, where they go to school, or what sports teams are on? 

A lot of it is because of the comparison that they’re doing taught with other moms and other people in their school district and our community. So how do you not have to start basing your value and worth on that? Let’s also let go of some of that comparison. And then it’s going to change for you. 

 SHERYL: Yeah. And that’s the work right there, right to catch ourselves to say; This doesn’t have to do with you. And I think such an important message to our kids is, I will love you, no matter what. 

I won’t love you anymore or any less. I’m getting that from what we’ve talked about, like noticing. Is this my anxiety and stuff that I’m putting on my kid? 

And then how do I start, lovingly detaching from that, and lovingly releasing them, because that’s such a gift when we do.

 ALI:  Well, and also, as we’re releasing them, we also have to be realistic that we have tweens and teens right now, but we eventually are going to have kids in college who are not living with us. 

So if our worth and value are only based on our kids, when they leave, and we’re empty nesters, what do we have them? We must first find that worth in ourselves as moms. Because if we don’t have that, we will be a hot mess on the floor when our kids leave. 

We have so much to give. But I think for so long, we’re used to as moms giving everything to our kids. But, we, again, have to transition. They are transitioning, and it’s our time to continue to transition.

 SHERYL: I feel like there’s a question in there that moms can start because there are some moms that I know that are out there that are thinking, oh my gosh, my whole life is abundant about my kid, and I’m just so scared. I don’t know what to do with my life apart from being a mom. What do you think would be a helpful question? 

 ALI:  I was one of those moms. I was a teacher. And then, I stopped working when I had my oldest and did not return to teaching. And I was a stay-at-home mom who never went back to work, volunteered all over the place, did things on the side, but I never went back to full-time. 

And even my activities revolved around everything I did around my kid’s schedule. So suddenly, my older one is getting older; I know she’s leaving for college, and I’m having some of that angst. And I’m thinking, what am I going to do? Where am I going from here? Right? 

I don’t necessarily want to go back into the classroom; I haven’t been there forever. All of my certificates are not valid anymore. How am I going to live my life? And that is really when COVID began and when I also started writing. 

But I think the best thing I can tell you is to sit down, and I swear to you, I did this in my kitchen three months before COVID hit. So my kids were all at school, and I already had this angst. And I just said to myself, What am I going to do? I had all these different pieces of paper; what would I do? What am I passionate about? What did I let go of as a mom who was only raising her children? 

And I just wrote a list. And it was so haphazard; there was no organization to it. And then I just read it, and I put it away. And then, really, when COVID hit, and I was bored out of my mind being at home all the time, I went back to that list that I kept in my closet drawer, and I pulled it out, and I said, What did I give up as a mom writing? Write for somebody else? 

It could be anything from a blank of your passion. And then it was, how will I incorporate this back into my life, that it will fulfill me and make me happy as my kids move forward? And maybe it doesn’t mean making a career out of it. But it’s fulfilling me emotionally. 

So I think it’s digging deep, doing a little soul-searching, and asking yourself what makes you happy. What fulfills you? Right? Is your goal also? I need to return to work and help pay for college. And our expenses? Well, what type of job? Can I get around? My community? So I think it’s a lot of soul-searching for your needs. And what fulfills you and brings you some happiness?

 SHERYL: That is so well said. And, it’s okay, that it’s a truth, that it’s a transition for you and a process to be in that, for the mom, that’s the same that you don’t know, you don’t know what that’s okay. It’s like to be in the question. And to be trying different things. 

And, being curious about that as your kid is transitioning, and they’re in that transitional phase, and then keep bringing it back to yourself, which I have to keep doing and like, Okay, what do I want, right? 

We don’t ask ourselves, what do I want the rest? What do I want my life to look like? 

 ALI:  Well, I think if you go through phases of motherhood, I think the two main phases are really hard. And I think one is that first day you bring a baby home, your first, and then moving forward with your first person moving out of the house or transitioning. And it’s those two transitions of one. 

Being a working woman and a mom is a huge transition for them. And then, for those of us who have stayed home or even just been a mom and worked, that transition to now letting go. They are so powerful, I think, more powerful than going from toddlers to adolescents, adolescents to tweens, etc. 

These are huge transitions for us as ourselves as women. And if we don’t feel it, and we don’t dig deep, and we don’t soul search, I think that’s the part that was concerning me. I was like, I’m gonna get lost, and I didn’t want to get lost. 

And I didn’t want to go to this mucky place that would take me a long time to get out of, and I just said, ” Okay, I’m gonna do this, ” and it started with that list. And I never shared the list with anyone or told anyone about it. 

I didn’t tell my husband, but I had to do it myself. And then now I feel like I can share with other women. There is it’s a slow process, but that might be the first step.

 SHERYL: Gosh, good, Ali. Thank you. So as we close, what is when you think about words of encouragement to the mom? 

It’s in the thick of it, listening and feeling discouraged. What would one piece of advice or encouragement be that you would want to give her?

 ALI:  I would say that daily, just keep reminding yourself that you are not alone on this journey. Every mom that you pass, whether they are a brand new mom or they are elderly, they have been through the same thing; you are not the first one, you’re not the last one, and you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes are going to guide you. And it’s okay. 

You just have to be real and true to your family’s needs. And I recently wrote something that said, I may not be a perfect mom, but I promise you this, you will always be my everything. And I believe that, like, my kids are always going to mean everything to me. 

Whether I was a mom who had a great day when I could celebrate every single thing with my kids, or a mom who had a lot of failures that day, I will still love my kids the same. 

 SHERYL: Beautiful. Thank you. And moms, you’re here because you love your kids. So give that to yourself, and it’s gonna be messy. I love that you said that you’re gonna make mistakes. We are. Yep. I even like to say we’re going to screw our kids up in different ways because we’re human. How did I not know that I was gonna screw somebody who said that to me once? And I’m like, I both hate that and find that comforting. 

 ALI:  But it’s the reality, right? We have to be realistic and real. We can’t pretend. It’s hard being a mom. But we will get through it. And you just have to enjoy it. Embrace the journey. Enjoy it. Lean into people and find the support you need because it is out there.

 SHERYL: Well, thank you, Ali, so much. And I want everybody to know where to find you. And so tell them where they can find you.

 ALI:  Well, I have a website; Hang In There, Mama. You can find me over there. And that has a lot of goodies. That’s not on social media. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook. 

 SHERYL: And they will want to find her because I pulled the memes and put them off on my desktop. I’m like, Oh, yes, I need this one. Oh, yeah. This one. Is it very encouraging and true? So yeah, thank you for what you’re putting into the world and what you’re doing, and thanks for coming on the show today.

 ALI:  Oh, thank you so much. It is such an honor.


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