Let’s Just All Agree To Stop Doing This

It always starts in the same way. An exasperated mom posts a picture on Facebook of some disaster that her toddler has wreaked in her house like, for example, dumping a giant canister of rice all over the kitchen floor. Or, covering the television in glitter glue. Or, cutting half the dog’s hair off with found scissors. Sometimes, a mom bemoans a particularly long sleepless night with a child that demands to watch Calliou and eat scrambled eggs at 2:00 a.m. Sometimes, a mom rants about having to carry a screaming, tantruming kid football-hold-style out of Target for some absurd reason like, their kid dropped a piece of popcorn on the floor or the lights are too shiny or that dog statue on the bench in the shoe section is terrifying.

Kids are absolutely ridiculous and, quite frequently, so is their behavior.

Seeking a little virtual fist bump of solidarity, a mom complains on Facebook about [insert completely ludicrous thing her kid has done NOW] and, inevitably, there is always that ONE person that responds to these complaints with an admonition to stop complaining. You know that person. Their comments are ALWAYS some version of this:

“I remember those days when my kids were little. Such a precious and special time. Before you know it you’ll be looking at colleges/planning weddings/selecting your own nursing home together. Don’t complain about any of this. TRUST me. The time just goes so fast.”

Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut UP.

Well-meaning people on Facebook, you HAVE to stop doing this. You are not being helpful. At all. In the slightest. And, by that, I mean I kind of want to punch you.

Millie demanded we use one of these germ-laden race car carts at Home Depot and then proceeded to cry-scream throughout the entire store because her ARM WAS TOUCHING CHARLIE'S ARM IN THE SLIGHTEST, TINIEST, MOST LIGHT OF WAYS. Don't you dare tell me to cherish this moment.

Millie demanded we use one of these virus-laden race car carts at Home Depot and then proceeded to cry-scream throughout the entire store because her ARM WAS TOUCHING CHARLIE’S ARM IN THE SLIGHTEST, TINIEST, MOST GENTLE OF WAYS. Don’t tell me to cherish this moment.

Look, it’s kind of like this. Let’s say you have a job. You work in marketing. Your hours are long, from about 6:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening. Every single day. Even weekends. Now, let’s say you have a co-worker, Mark. Mark is cute and funny and you like him a whole lot. You even love him. But, the problem is, Mark always shows up to work drunk. Each day. He stumbles around a lot, knocking into furniture, falling into walls. He’s frequently hard to understand and often makes irrational claims, like he doesn’t remember how to wash his own hands. Also, he’s always spilling stuff at the staff luncheons, leaving crumbs all over the floor and half-eaten sandwiches on his plate. Every once in a while, he’ll vomit on the carpet in front of the copy machine. Sometimes he pees in his pants right in front of you when you’re just trying to get a cup of coffee. Working with Mark is challenging! But, Mark isn’t going anywhere. His employment is virtually guaranteed. So, you just have to put up with Mark. And, clean up all of his messes with the knowledge that one day maybe Mark will probably not act so drunk.

Now, if you came to me complaining about your coworker, Mark, I would never say, “Listen, Susan, you really need to stop complaining. Someday, Mark’s going to be promoted to Vice President and you won’t get to spend so much time with him, straightening up his office and monitoring his bathroom breaks. Someday, you’ll miss him. You really will. TRUST ME. Also, Mark will probably be in charge of your retirement, too, so, there’s that.”

I would never, ever say that to you. Because that’s not helpful. Instead, I would say, “Wow, Susan. Mark sounds like kind of a jerk. Tell me more so I can sympathize with you about your situation.” Then, we would sit and laugh and laugh about Mark’s antics and Susan’s crazy workplace.

So, why do we demand that mothers never publicly complain about mothering? Why must us mothers never issue anything other than a glowing summary of our work? Why is motherhood this one thing we’re not allowed to occasionally bemoan? When we admonish mothers not to complain, we’re telling them mothering should only be about the highlight reel and not the nitty-gritty. We’re telling them their problems don’t matter.

And, don’t get me started on how fathers do NOT say this crap to other fathers. This is a specific thing that mothers do to their fellow mothers. I NEVER get the “cherish every moment” treatment from the men in my life. This one time, when my parents took my family of five on a vacation with them to South Carolina (I don’t know why they agreed to do this, either), things were getting a little tantrum-y with my three wee kids around the pool. I looked at my father and asked him what it was like to raise four kids of his own. What life was like when us children were little. He got this far-off look in his eyes, like a combat veteran, and said, “It was… chaotic.” He fell silent. Then, we never spoke about it again. He certainly didn’t tell me to cherish the fact that my daughter was pooping in her swimsuit four feet away.

Listen, it’s okay for you to think all of these thoughts. Just don’t give it voice. Especially don’t give it voice to a mother that maybe needs support instead of admonition. You and I both know that one day, I will reflect back upon the mothering of my three children with such fondness and nostalgia that it will take my breath away. I will miss the smell of their freshly-washed hair and the way they hold their little toddler spoons and how unabashedly silly and funny they are. I KNOW I will miss those things. Mothers are ACUTELY aware of the passage of time. We don’t need reminded of it.

Instead, right now, in this moment, I want to complain about the fact that my kids, during a particularly raucous game of hide and seek, destroyed the storage compartments in my closet. Like, they broke my closet. Clothes off hangers, shoes everywhere. Absolute destruction. What the hell, kids? I’m going to complain about that loudly. In fact, I’m pretty sure my neighbors two doors up heard me complain about that loudly.

Just because I complain about aspects of my job doesn’t mean I need repeated, condescending reminders that I should be grateful I HAVE a job. That’s… not how any of this should work. Part of our job as mothers should be to support and bolster other mothers. We have the most difficult and unrelenting of workplaces. So, let’s all take a pledge to ease off in the comments section, okay?

15 thoughts on “Let’s Just All Agree To Stop Doing This

  1. LOVE this Joanna! Yes! It’s not that I don’t love my kids, I know I will miss their little hands and feet as they get big, but that doesn’t mean I cann’t be frustrated, sad, mad, annoyed. Totally valid.
    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: Can complaining have a constructive purpose? | AwesoMOM.com

  3. I loved your story and appreciate every thought. One thought that I had and have recently shared with a parent is the fact that: We have brought these babes in arms into the world with several month to think about it all. These babes in arms that quickly jump out of the arms have a full time job. That job is 24/7 just like parents to learn to maneuver, manipulate, and out smart his or her parent.FULL TIME WORK for ALL. No holiday pay, time off, or sick days, they all count.Lifetime commitment and pleasure. Build those memories, ALL of them.

    • You are so right, Pam. Build ALL of the memories! I hope I remember the good AND the bad. I think that makes me a more empathetic listener to others.

  4. I don’t think it’s being condescending or judging another parent. Just reminding them that it isn’t the end of the world. You can find the joy in any situation if you choose to. It doesn’t mean you won’t lose your temper or get annoyed, just remember to breathe. If you are posting a negative comment on social media, it’s usually to be funny. Trust me, all of us other moms understand. It is funny. But, one day, those little momentary aggravating moments will be gone. Learn to laugh & appreciate it all. Or you will be miserable. No one is judging you, just trying to help. Mom to mom.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Sheree. Yes, there is tremendous joy in parenting but I think what moms of young kids want during some of the less joyful moments is commiseration rather than admonition. Just because we’re complaining doesn’t mean we’re miserable and need reminding that we’re not finding enough joy. There’s such a unique pressure placed on mothers, specifically, to not complain. I find that stifling.

  5. Mine are all gone and you know what? I don’t miss it all. Being around them now is much more appealing and satisfying. They’re intelligent, and articulate and good people. And I don’t believe anyone who says they miss the crap.

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