I'm not afraid to admit that, as a mom, I'm a complainer. Sure, I absolutely adore my children, ages 2 and 5, but so often I find myself whining about how exhausting and wild they can be to my husband, my mom, my best friends, random moms at the gym, strangers at the coffee shop . . . it's almost become my shtick. "Your kids are so cute," someone might remark in the grocery checkout line. "They're available for rent," I quip back. Har, har, har; isn't it funny? My kids are a pain in the ass.
Judging from my friends, social media, and all my favorite mom sites, I don't think I'm the only one who tends to focus on the hardships that our sweet babies bring. I rarely open my Facebook feed without seeing a friend's link to some story about how parenting is just so, so hard, and I'm certainly guilty of adding to the poor-mommy genre. "Five O'Clock Is My (Un)happy Hour," "Why Traveling With a Baby Is Anything but Relaxing," "How Motherhood Drained the Fun From My Life" — these are just some of the complaint-heavy posts I've written on this site. In fact, the most widely shared and read post I've ever written was all about my survivalist parenting style, because don't you know? Parenting young kids isn't something you should enjoy; it's just something you have to attempt to come out of alive.
But recently I started wondering if all this complaining about just how difficult parenting is — and don't get me wrong, of course it's extremely, extremely hard — is really making things worse for moms. It's like having a mild stomach bug (whiny analogy, I realize). If you b*tch about how bad you feel every 30 seconds to whoever will listen, does it really make things better? Or is it sometimes wiser to just suck it up, pretend you feel perfectly fine, and get yourself to your Monday morning yoga class? Isn't "fake it until you make it" sometimes a better policy, in life as a whole and in parenting specifically?
I can't imagine that my grandma sat around with her girlfriends complaining about chapped nipples, sleep deprivation, and the relentless demands of toddlers as much as I do with my friends today. She was tough as nails, reluctant to show weakness, a freaking Depression survivor. A 2-year-old's antics weren't ever going to ruin her day like they so often have mine. In many ways, I feel bad that she didn't have the kind of rampant commiseration that I do, but then I wonder: if your feelings of being emotionally overwhelmed and physically depleted aren't constantly being validated, do you feel them more or less intensely? For her and her generation, was it more about not being able or willing to express how being a mom was hard (and considering the woman had two kids 10 months apart, I know it was)? Or did she simply accept the fact that it was and move on? More importantly, was she a happier mother because she didn't constantly talk about how motherhood was hurting her career, her marriage, her body, and her sanity? I have to wonder.
As a certified oversharer, it's unlikely that I'll completely stop expressing my parenting woes any time soon. I don't think completely shutting down the complaint train would work for me. But I am going to make an effort to resist the urge to immediately go negative when asked about my kids, and I'm going to be more selective about what and to whom I share. Sure, my children are tough and tiring, but they're 2 and 5; they're supposed to be that way. And complaining about it ad nauseum might just be hurting me more than helping.