Written by Claire Handrick


Living with a teenage stranger

Claire Handrick has misjudged the challenges of being the mother of a teenager and has decided to chronicle the joys, frustrations, hair-pulling moments and deep-rooted fears she’s experiencing. This week, she is wondering when she moved into the servant quarters.


Illustration by Harriet Carmichael.

Due to a summer birthday I now have two teenagers in my house and we have just spent almost six weeks together for the school holidays.

It has been brilliant, with very few arguments and tantrums or the stress of different schedules, just enjoying spending some time together.

But I am bloody knackered – I’ve been juggling work as well as housework on top of spending time with and looking after my children and it has struck me that my kids could now be doing more to help out.

From tidying up after them in the kitchen, to doing washing, cooking, cleaning, shopping and just generally picking up EVERYTHING off the floor like I’m made of static – I feel like a mum slave.

At some point in recent months or years, I have crossed the line from mother, taking care of my children’s needs, to servant, because they are very capable of doing more.

On one day last week, I realised that I was potentially being taken for a mug. As they sat back and watched YouTube before going out shopping for school uniform, I was rushing around to get the washing on, loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, tidying up the kitchen and straightening up the bathroom.

Asking for help is usually met with a sigh and a shrug – sometimes the help comes and sometimes it is just easier to do it myself.

I never wanted to be a nag, but their laziness is starting to get me down, especially when their clean clothes are left on the stairs again, when their general crap is left around the house and when they get irritated because something – shopping, washing, dinner – hasn’t been done yet.

“They are not mind-readers. They don’t know I want the floor sweeping; it’s me that wants it doing, not them.”

For 15 years I have done the good mother thing: I have looked after my children, I have met their needs, I have made sure they were fed, that they had clean clothes, that the house was safe and not always a tip, but now I feel it is expected of me, like it is my fucking day, afternoon and night job!

But this is where reality bites. I can’t really blame them for this view of me, because it was my job – I was the person who met their every need, and now I have changed my mind.

Last week, I had a bit of a rant at them about their expectations and their lack of consideration for me and the house they live in. And then I felt like a cow because I am the one who has taught them that I clear up after them.

They have always helped to tidy up after activities, after playing and baking, but I haven’t guided them through the day-to-day crap that keeps the house ticking over. We haven’t talked about their expectations of me and my expectations of them to do more, so I am now attempting to make positive steps forward rather than just getting pissed off.

They are not mind-readers. They don’t know I want the floor sweeping; it’s me that wants it doing, not them. So we are going back to basics and I am starting with a shortlist of the things that make a difference in the house. I mainly want them to take more responsibility for their own mess, for their own things and if they want to offer to sweep the floor too, then I’m winning.

Read the rest of Claire Handrick’s columns here.

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Written by Claire Handrick

Mother, ponderer and cake eater.