Book Review: ‘Mum, What’s Wrong With You?’ 101 Things Only Mothers of Teenage Girls Will Know by Lorraine Candy

I’ve followed Lorraine Candy’s writing and social media for years – and more recently become a listener to her ‘Postcards from Midlife’ podcast that she presents with fellow glossy magazine editor alumni Trish Halpin. Lorraine and I both have 4 kids, 3 daughters and a son (although in a different birth order – I’m sounding like I’m in serious stalker territory I appreciate!) and a similar age range (9 – 18 in this family, I think it’s one year to the right in the Candy household). Consequently I’ve always been interested in Lorraine’s take on a busy family life. The podcast has been massively informative on many issues – particularly the perimenopause – but it’s also been interesting to hear Lorraine and Trish’s take on parenting teens. When I knew Lorraine had written a book, I immediately pre ordered it. Here’s the blurb for non podcast listeners:

Mums: are you feeling lonely, confused or worried? Are you panicking that maybe you’re getting everything wrong? Does it, in the words of Lorraine Candy’s own teenage daughter, ‘suck to be you’ (Mum) right now?
Welcome to the most challenging part of your parenting journey: the teenage years.
It was all going so well and then, out of the blue, the little girl you love to the moon and back turned into an irrational, fire-breathing dragon. She lives in a messy pit of wet towels and sticky mugs, hoarding other people’s phone chargers and eyebrow tweezers, while rudely rejecting maternal intervention or affection.
Do not worry. You’re not alone. Parenting columnist Lorraine Candy, a mum of four (including three teens), is here to help. Her warm and witty family memoir will lead you to a more harmonious parenting place. Alongside a wealth of hilarious personal anecdotes, Candy offers you useful, easy-to-follow, well-researched guidance from experts.
This is a survivor’s guide for mums. This book will help you connect with your daughter and feel good about your mothering as you raise the bright and brilliant young women of tomorrow.”

I have to say that due to the title of the book and the cover, I was expecting a list of 101 things then padded out – but that was not the case at all! In fact I’m not sure there were 101 things – but there was an awful lot of content. Early on Lorraine acknowledges her middle class white privilege – and I’m in a similar position and thus her experiences were fairly relevant to mine – but I do think people of different ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic positions might find this is not necessarily the book for them. Having said that – there are many recommendations for extended reading that do cover other issues of race etc.

I think I’m also lucky that I have lots of friends with teenage girls a similar age to mine – and so some of the ‘OMG it’s not just my daughter’ have already been discussed and dissected with them – but that was a really important element of the book, realising that the weird teenage behaviour is totally normal and the same for others the globe over. Teenage girls in Birmingham, UK and Chicago, USA just don’t see the mess in their bedrooms, for example!!!

Lots of big topics are discussed – but it’s filled with light hearted anecdotes as well as heavy hitting professional advice.

I actually recounted one part to a friend recently – about being a pot plant parent – sitting quietly in the room without making yourself known, but you’re always there if needed.

Having ‘big conversations’ whilst side by side is a tactic I’ve long employed – car drives being the optimum – but is something Lorraine recommends too.

It provides a lot of food for thought – and confirms you are not alone (yep, I did break into song as I typed that…………). I’d definitely recommend it for people with teenage – or pre teen – daughters, and in some areas for sons too. It was interesting reading it with a recently adult daughter (legally at least) and two other pre teens – not that I’m saying the first one was a practice run or anything!!

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