The Working Closet

where life meets style

I don’t know what to tell you

photoHey there, Internet. It’s been a while.

I spent a loooooong time today cleaning out my gmail inbox, although by “cleaning out” I really mean “filing all the unread/unanswered emails away so that I’m not looking at them every morning and feeling guilty about what a slacker I am.” So maybe I should say I rearranged my inbox. That would be more accurate, I think.

(If you have emailed me in the  past, oh, six months, particularly about anything related to this blog, I AM SO SO SORRY. Because odds are I just never got back to you. But I still love you! Really! And I still have your email! And one day, I will answer it. I promise.)

There’s been a lot going on at my house over the past year or so, and a lot of it has not exactly been fun. Or funny. And that’s made it hard to figure out what to write about. Before you start worrying, no, Wade and I are not getting a divorce (thank god) and no one is dying (thank god again) and we’ve both still got our jobs (seriously, THANK GOD). The essential fabric of my life is holding together nicely, which is good, because I’ve been hiding out in my house a lot, rearranging my closet and just trying to get my act together.

And no one wants to hear about that. Seriously.

So what am I doing all day every day? Well, I’m pretty much just trying to survive middle school and puberty and all the things that come with having a teenage boy in the house — and, to make it more fun, I have a teen with ADHD and an anxiety disorder, which means that he was already hepped up even before the testosterone kicked in.

So…that’s fun. (NOT.)

This new adventure in parenting leaves me questioning everything, on a daily basis — my rules, my words, my strategies. When my kids were little, people would say (annoyingly) that being a stay-home mom was the “most important job” I could have. And I would joke that I was doing my best to get fired from that job and failing, over and over. Haha! But recently, I slog through the days feeling completely unqualified to do this. I do not know who ever thought I was capable of parenting these kids. Because I am here to tell you that I have no idea what I am doing. None. At all!

Or at least, that’s what it feels like most of the time.

In that frame of mind, then, I find it impossible to answer all the lovely emails asking about what to wear to a wedding, or what to pack on vacation, or what to buy for fall. I don’t know. I just…don’t know. I am barely getting myself dressed every day, and even then I’m just wearing the same boring things over and over because I don’t have the energy to make any sort of creative decision. Shorts it is! Again!

On top of that, I don’t have any advice for anyone, about anything, and I’m pretty sure that even if I did offer advice, it would be the wrong advice. Because seriously, I’m just making it up as I go along over here. All of it. Every day.

I do miss writing, though, and to my surprise, I miss writing about my kids, and about being a parent. I thought I was done with the Mommy Blogging thing, but it turns out I am not. I’m writing a weekly column for Work It, Mom! called The Same, But Different; it’s a chronicle of the ups and downs of parenting a quirky teen. I do not have any answers or advice; I’m just talking my way through this experience and hoping that helps me figure out what to do next.

The best part so far is this: I’ve started to hear from moms of kids like my son, saying that they are also struggling with the same issues; honestly, that is so comforting. Because most of the time, it feels like I am alone in this, which makes it hard to talk about — and leaves me with very little to say.

I’m also starting to make lists of things to write about here at The Working Closet, too, just little things, which probably won’t be of much use to anyone but me, but I think that, like cleaning my closet when I’m anxious, writing about my fave new pants or my nail polish obsession or what I’m eating now is a good way to both distract myself and stay focused. I don’t know that I’ll be offering any advice just now, though. Maybe we can crowd source your style questions and see what you can all say to help each other.

I think that might be fun for all of us.

(And really, thank you all for the emails. You’re all so lovely. And I’m sure that whatever you wound up buying/packing/wearing looked fantastic.)

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23 comments on “I don’t know what to tell you

  1. Alison C
    September 10, 2013

    Yay I am glad you are back and I bet you are doing a great job!

  2. Shannon
    September 10, 2013

    (Laughing in a kind way)….Oh Susan, never mind about that email! Just forget about it! It’s not that important. :) Just glad to hear you’re still here and still writing, and also glad to hear you’re writing again about parenting. Because honestly, as I just said yesterday to a journalist who was interviewing me for a magazine about my book and my blog etc etc., there is ALWAYS more material on this journey of mothering. There are always new challenges and new issues that you had never even thought about before, but that are now part of your life, now that your kids are x and y ages. You know? And new things to write about now that you’re a mom in a different stage. It just goes on and on, in different ways. Anyway, welcome back, hang tight, keep writing, etc. :)

  3. Robin S.
    September 10, 2013

    It’s me again….Robin…@supergirl96 from Twitter. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I would love to read about your trials and tribulations through this time in your life. My son has ADHD and PDD-NOS. Fortunately, he is super high functioning, but it’s sort of the type where you try to tell people that your kid has autism and they say, “are you sure?” Ummm…yes…I’m sure.

    It is so nice to read that other people struggle with their kids…and feel inadequate. I’m still trying to cope with knowing that we are not, and never will be “normal.” Knowing there are other moms out there going through the same thing makes me feel so much better.

    I’ve been reading your blog since the Friday Playdate times and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the mom stuff as well as the style stuff. (Because I like that too, and also deal with anxiety by cleaning my closet and trying to improve my style, look, whatever.)

    And I’m completely serious. Next time you’re in Houston, we need to meet for wine.

  4. Deanna Jones
    September 10, 2013

    Thanks for your refreshing honesty! When life is busy and we are stressed it is good to know that the gal that always ‘looks’ soooo darn put together is very real and experiencing ‘life’ like the rest of us. The road is never a steady straight line but a series of turns and sometimes u-turns! Makes me wanna follow you even more :)

  5. Kelly H
    September 10, 2013

    So very happy to see you back in whatever form you’d like to be here. I really appreciate your writing and your willingness to share your life and knowledge with us. Many of us are in the same boat together and just don’t know it. I’m a mom to a 14 year old girl and a 12 year old boy and am feeling it HARD the changes that are upon us this year. (New high schooler and new middle schooler.) Might be nice some days to just talk about our closet, no?

    Welcome back.

  6. kimberlykauer
    September 10, 2013

    This. I am right there, too. Trying to find things to write about when I’m working so hard to make it through the now, and also not knowing how much I should share about my kid with anxiety/therapy/preteen drama. Thanks for being honest about it.

  7. Dee
    September 10, 2013

    This is going to sound meaner than I mean it to but honestly there are a kajillion fashion blogs out there. Yours is not particularly enlightening or interesting (you tend to state the obvious). I think sharing your mothering experiences is far more important and unique.

    I had a very difficult time with one of my daughters-depression, drug use-almost killed me and my husband but we got through it and she is doing well. Take care-keeping telling yourslef this too shall pass..because it does!

  8. Nicole
    September 10, 2013

    Thank you for that post! It’s hard to share when life is tough, but reaching out allows others be there for you and support you.
    (and, honest-to-god, I have NO CLUE how this mothering thing works, just when I get in a good-enough place, the kid goes through a new stage… aurghgh)

  9. Tina L.
    September 10, 2013

    Yes, having just sent my oldest daughter off to college, I can say without a doubt the last four years were some of the toughest parentlng years I’ve had to endure. Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to make it sometimes. NO ONE tells you how hard some teens are (I say some because maybe there are some easy teenagers out there – they don’t live in my house, unfortunately. But hopefully someone, somewhere is enjoying them :)) My daughter has ADHD, Dysgraphia, and Dyslexia. If those aren’t challenging enough, just being a teenager is incredibly hard. She went from a happy, well adjusted child with mild disabilities to someone whom I honestly felt hated me. Tough living with that kind of vitriol on an almost daily basis. For four years. The thing is, we all struggle, probably a lot. Susan, you may not have much in the way of advice (who has it all figured out anyway?) but you do have a unique voice and it is inspiring. Some people (me!) need that. Best of luck to you and your family.

  10. {sue}
    September 10, 2013

    Did I tell you I cried when I found your new column? Because I did. Everyone, including me, pulls back writing about their kids when they get older, so there’s no one out there to say “ME TOO!” with when it gets hard and confusing and OMG-this-is-not-what-I-expected.

    Me too.

    Also, what should I wear to my nervous breakdown?

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story. It makes a difference. It truly does.

  11. caroline
    September 10, 2013

    It is so good to read your writing as again. I read Friday Play date before I had kids of my own and now that I have a 3 year old and an 8 month old I wish I could read your archives. You are a great writer- especially when you’re keeping it real.

  12. Gina
    September 10, 2013

    Susan I’ve missed your writing and look forward to anything you’d like to share. I’ve loved following your blog because I feel like I identify with you – we are similar ages & have kids who are similar ages. I really love your style and opinions on fashion (keep sharing your JCrew wish list!)and life issues. It feels like I’m reading a friend’s blog even though we’ve never met. I think Moms constantly compare and evaluate ourselves and never feel like it’s going the way we want it to. Parenting is so much easier when we aren’t so hard on ourselves and we take time to step back to just do a sanity check – are our kids healthy? Do we love them and they love us? I think we can get through it together.
    As for writing about the hard stuff, I know I feel so much better after coffee and a long chat with my friend who has so many issues with her two boys than I do after coffee with my friend whose kids are SO happy, well adjusted, challenged, excelling….time with the former makes me feel real and normal, not like I’m better than her but just that we all have issues. Time with the other friend makes me feel inadequate and like I’m doing something wrong. I also find I need to stay off Facebook so I don’t see all the wonderful things people are doing. Thinking of you and wishing I could give you a hug and have a glass of wine with you…from MA…in spirit I guess.

  13. Kathryn
    September 10, 2013

    Here too. I am exhausted, the kind of exhausted I didn’t know was possible when I was just exhausted by the baby not sleeping. Eleven years of not sleeping later, coupled with trying to stay calm and help her learn to cope with and feel successful in her world and I’m just. so. tired. And totally making it up, cause, let’s face it, I have no short or long term memory anymore with all that sleep deprivation. Sometimes, lately though, there is a little light. I’m afraid to trust in it yet, as when I relax that’s when I get punched, but sometimes, I can see us getting somewhere. Strength and peace to you. And endurance.

  14. Laura
    September 10, 2013

    Have you read “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk?” It might be helpful?

    • Susan
      September 11, 2013

      That’s my favorite parenting book ever, Laura. It’s essentially my bible. Such a smart book. :)

  15. Torry
    September 12, 2013

    One day, coming home from a Bible study, I broke down and told the woman who was driving me home that I couldn’t relate to those women with the perfect children. And she opened up and told about their difficulties with one of their sons. Suddenly I didn’t feel quite so alone! Now I don’t remember most of the women from that group (we left that church for totally different reasons); however, I think of Judy all of the time. She tied the knot in my rope and helped me hang on until we made it through! And, our family did make it through!

    If your blogging helps even one person, you will be their “Judy” in their lives.

  16. Jane
    September 15, 2013

    Thank you for your honesty. It’s actually a relief to hear that I’m not the only parent who feels overwhelmed at times, especially in this era of perfect-lives-internet-style with great hair and homes and holidays. Now I feel like we’d be friends in real life.

  17. Thrift Store Mama
    September 16, 2013

    It is incredibly reassuring to know that other people have to focus on just getting through, even when they are still married, not dying, and have a job. Sometimes I say to myself “If everyone is wearing clean underwear that day then I can consider it a success.” Hang in there and when you’re ready to come back we’ll be waiting.

  18. Kim T
    September 17, 2013

    Hang in there. I know what you are saying. Not saying my situation is exactly the same, but I do have a daughter who started jr high last year with somewhat disasterous results. She is now 13 and in 8th grade. Low and behold we are still alive, still married and still working (in newly promoted positions to boot). Last year I was not sure I would be able to say that this year. I seriously wasn’t sure our daughter would still be with us, let alone back in school and reasonably happy. There is nothing more humbling than parenting. I think there’s nothing more humbling than having a preteen/teen. She makes me better, but mostly because I feel like I can’t get any worse. Those 12/13 year olds, sure like to let you know how you are failing in every way. Just know you’re not alone. I’m still in the thick of it myself, but have to believe that this too shall pass, at least that’s what everyone tells me. I will say reading your advice on what to wear over 40, how to have style when I’ve ignored it for the last 13 years, etc. is a welcome respite from the daily slog. If you can muster the strength, know that you have a willing audience. I believe that focusing on those little things we can control (i.e. organizing the closet) is the only way to survive what sometimes seems like monumental parental difficulties. Good luck.

  19. claudia098
    September 17, 2013

    Thank you for sharing and being honest about what’s going on. I was worried about you being silent for so long. We can take care of ourselves, you focus on your house these days. Hugs from a stranger.

  20. MClark
    September 20, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your story! I have three children and two of them have anxiety. My daughter’s lifelong anxiety has led to an eating disorder that started as a preteen and my son’s anxiety issues have started to escalate as he is entering puberty. I rarely talk about what’s happening in my family because most people don’t understand that children can have severe anxiety. I really appreciate your honesty and look forward to reading your other writing regarding parenting.

  21. stella tinglin-webb
    October 3, 2013

    So so happy you are back and sending you love and support. This parenting thing is really great but also really challenging on so many levels. I appreciate your honesty and can’t wait to read whatever you have to share. Mundane can be good.

  22. Cindy
    October 27, 2013

    Hi Susan-

    I hope you are still reading these comments, even though this is an older post, because I’m just now getting caught up and I wanted to tell you two things:

    1. I tailored my first pair of jeans this weekend. It took me hours. I broke a needle on my sewing machine. But I finally have the right sewing equipment, and I finally got the courage to rip seams out of an expensive-ish pair of jeans (that didn’t fit correctly), and I finally, finally, finally am wearing a pair of pants that actually fits me. When I first slipped them on and the waistband actually sat flush against my lower back, I audibly gasped. I thought you might want to know, because I think I might sleep in them tonight.

    2. I have a fifth grade boy, too. He started middle school this year. He is struggling, and we are struggling. It’s hard. I wish I’d known it got hard this early. This year, if my children and husband leave the house in clean clothes and I leave the house with my teeth brushed, I am calling that a win.

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