Moms Stay Home When Kids Enter Teen Years

March 10, 2004 -- Kristen Coffield, a hard-working mom who was busy running her own catering business said she experienced an epiphany one night as her son Will was trying to tell her about his evening.

"He was trying to tell me something," she said. "All of a sudden I realized that I wasn't really listening to him."

Nothing could be worse than a mother who did not listen, Coffield decided.

"The thing about teens is that you have to catch them when they are ready to talk, when they want to be intimate," Coffield said. "And often that's while your both in your car while driving to practice," she said.

Coffield is part of a trend spotlighted in the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal. She is a stay-at-home mom who decided to leave the work force when her children entered their teen years, rather than when they were first born.

According to Department of Labor statistics from 2002, mothers stay-at-home while fathers go to work in 23.2 percent of American families. Only about a quarter of those mothers who stay at home while the father works have children between the ages of 14 and 17.

Yet there is a growing amount of research that children may need their parents more than ever in their teen years, the very time that parental involvement tends to fall off. A 2001 YMCA phone survey of 14- to 17-year-olds found that the average teen is left unsupervised after school two days a week. For more than 32 percent of teens, they were home alone three or more days weekly.

According to a study of more than 4,200 middle-school students published in the journal Health, Education and Behavior in 2001, teens who felt that their parents liked, respected and took them seriously were less likely than their peers to smoke and drink.

Finding Time to Listen

Coffield, a former Washington, D.C.-area caterer who specialized in congressional fund-raisers, has now been at home for four years. She had been running her own catering business, thinking that it would give her more time for her family, but instead she found herself busier than ever, sometimes juggling four or five major events a week.

When she realized her schedule left her little time for her son, Will, who was 11 at the time, Coffield decided tht something had to give.

Losing her salary and the extra perks that came with her job wasn't easy, Coffield said. Within two months, her husband started a second business to make up for the lost income.

Will, who is now 15, says he likes having his mom around whenever he needs to talk to her.

"She drives me to lacrosse practice and I like having a nice dinner on the table," he said.

Coffield's 13-year-old daughter, Jesse, says she feels closer to her mother now that she is home.

"Before she was home, we always had babysitters," said Jessie. "I like having her home now."

Coffield's other daughter, 8-year-old Virginia, says does not remember a time when her mother was not at home.

"I love it, because it's the happiest day when I come home and see Mom," Virginia said.

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