Let’s just begin by stating the obvious: No mom ever truly has it easy. Unpredictable toddlers having full-on screaming tantrums in the grocery store sure can be nerve-racking. But so can teaching your 16-year-old how to drive.
As a mom myself, I’ve often asked my fellow mom friends who have children older than my 6-year-old, “When does it ever get easier so I can stop stressing?” The answer nine times out of 10: It doesn’t. It just changes.
Moms will likely always worry about their kiddos, whether it’s tending to a miserable teething baby or your teenager is heading out the door to attend their first prom. With a date.
But interestingly enough, according to research published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology, science has actually pinpointed the time when mothers feel the most stressed. Can you guess when it is?
When they have a child in middle school. In other words: a tween.
So what’s the reason? Well, there are actually five:
1. Tweens Are Unpredictable
Do you consider a tween more of a little kid or big kid? There’s no right answer. One minute you marvel at how mature your child is becoming, then that maturity is quickly followed by a toddler-esque tantrum. Thankfully, there’s plenty of advice and tips online to help parents deal with these unpredictable tween struggles.
2. The Feeling Of Separation
It’s around middle school age that children start the crucial developmental process of building their own identity. To moms, this can feel like your child is becoming defiant and rebellious, while also rejecting your ideas and beliefs, but just know these feelings and their actions are a normal part of growing up.
3. So Much Confusion
According to cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, the prefrontal cortex undergoes dramatic development during adolescence. And this is the part of the brain that controls everything from decision-making and planning, to the inhibition of inappropriate behavior, social interaction and self-awareness.
While a tween is learning to think for themselves, it can be both worrisome and quite stressful for their parents.
4. Other Influences
As tweens start to become their own person, it’s hard to shelter them from the influences of others. Their classmates, friendships and social media can all help shape them into the person they become, which can be downright scary for moms who can feel they have little control.
5. Middle School To Mid-Life
Just as tweens start to go through a lot of change, moms can sometimes mirror those very same changes in their own lives. While many assume that the first year of motherhood is the most precarious time for their mental health, a study published in Developmental Psychology found that that maternal depression is actually most common among mothers of middle school children. It’s even harder to deal with major changes in your child when you’re trying to process big changes in your own life as well.
In other words: Moms of tweens, take it easy on your yourselves. Your job is always hard, but right now it might be the hardest.