5 Ways Parenting Teens = Doula Work

My girls, who are 20, 16 and 11 as I write this.

Earlier today, I mentioned to a friend on Facebook that parenting teens was a lot like doula work, and she wanted to hear more. I have so much more to say about this topic than can fit in a FB comment so even though I am no huge parenting expert, I thought I’d write it up here:

1. The teen years are hard. So is labor. Expecting either a teen or a laboring mom to breeze through the experience is unrealistic.

2. The teen years are a transformation in their life. So is pregnancy and birth. Bonus similarity: hormones are involved in both, with the accompanying emotional roller coaster. And for both teens and birthing families, there are growing pains and changes in their view of themselves and their world.

3. They have to figure out how to navigate it themselves. So do laboring women. Doulas cannot do labor for their clients. Parents cannot do adolescence for their children. Everyone has to do it for themselves.

4. Still, teens can benefit from guidance and advice. So can laboring moms. Just as an experienced doula can help a mom navigate the experience of labor, the interactions with staff, and the stresses of change in the family, a parent can help a teenager navigate high school, romantic relationships, and friend drama.

5. Teens don’t always listen. Neither do laboring moms. Remember that this is their life, their experience, not yours. As much as you might like to micromanage your teen’s life, it doesn’t work any better than micromanaging your client’s birth. In both cases, you can only be as helpful as they allow you to be.

I really view my role as a parent of teens as more of a shepherd. Guidance, love, support and BOUNDARIES. They really do need space to figure out themselves and their lives as teens. From little things like the way I phrase things “what if you tried this?” to letting them make their own mistakes *and* feel the consequences, to listening more than I talk, to respecting their autonomy (within the few hard and fast family rules) – my doula skills have served me very well so far in parenting teens.

An unexpected career benefit.

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