"I’m worrying more than ever": mum gets honest about parenting adult children

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

It's a notion many of us entertain as we find ways to get through the challenges of parenting young children and teenagers - that once they're adults, it'll be time to relax and that the pressure will ease.

Some heartfelt honesty from a mother interviewed by Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton will have us all reassessing this notion. She says the worry simply never stops.

She begins by relating those years of parenthood many of us are experiencing right now, while sketching what looks like a scene from Central Station.

"When the kids were young I was living in the moment. I was just trying to get them through the day: homework projects, sleepovers, keeping the food coming. Taking this one to a band concert. That one to a track meet. There were plenty of worries, but they always seemed manageable. I could usually intervene if one of the kids had a problem. And I thought: 'Once they're out of high school, I'm done. I'll finally be able to relax.'"

Then comes the clincher. 

"But all my children are adults now, and I'm worrying more than ever. Because their problems didn't stop. They just became adult problems. And there's not much I can do anymore."

As our collective hearts fall to our feet, she continues, conveying the realisation she can't fix her childrens' problems anymore.

"One of my sons has depression. I began to notice during our Sunday night phone calls - his voice was flat, the answers were short. Then I asked the right questions and it all came out. He said: 'I'm depressed. And I don't know why. And I don't know how to fix it.' One night he just wept on the phone - quiet weeping, which is the worst. Because there's nothing to address. Just lots of dead space, and: 'Are you still there?' There wasn't much I could say to cheer him up."

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And like any parent of a child who has depression, she spends a lot of time wondering if his son will eventually find contentment in life.

She says, "Mothers tend to lose their credibility after a lifetime of praise. So I'm just left to worry if it will ever resolve. I worry if he'll ever be happy. I urged him to see a professional, but there's not much else I can do but pray. I'm not sure if prayer helps, but I get on my knees and do it anyway."

The post has struck a chord with many HONY followers, who relate their own experiences and knowledge.

"Nothing brings you to your knees faster than having a child or children you love dearly. And it continues throughout their lives... and ours."

"As mums we need to pepper those praises with moments of hard truths and we also need to teach our kids to cope with the hard parts of life."

"When I'm at my lowest, I always call my dad. Even if I have nothing to say, even if all I can do is cry, just knowing he is on the other end of the line helps more than he'll ever understand. Sometimes all you can do is just be there for someone. And being there is one of the best ways to help."

If there's a takeaway from this post for those of us who thought perhaps things would get easier, it's to shore up the trenches, try develop our strength for the lifetime ahead, and accept that worry will forever be part of our journey. 

While we'll all have different experiences of adult children, some less challenging than others, we can approach it positively by preparing as best we can. 

Humans of New York (HONY) is a blog with over 20 million followers on social media. It provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City.