Whether it’s your daughter’s refusal to wear anything but sparkly plastic shoes or your son’s inability to hit the toilet bowl when he uses the potty, I’m guessing that-if you’re a mom-you have plenty to vent about.
I get it. I have five kids, and we have bad moments every day. Sometimes every hour. As a mom, it’s so hard sometimes not to collapse under the always-growing pile of other people’s needs and wants and find myself sniveling at the bottom of the heap, chanting “It’s not FAIR; it’s not FAIR; it’s not FAIR.”
But at some point I started to notice that, instead of feeling better after getting a good gripe on, I actually felt worse.
I noticed that the days I did the most complaining, were the same days I’d end up feeling totally overwhelmed by the bad parts of motherhood: the messes, the noises, the drama, the boredom.
Then it dawned on me: constantly venting about all that stuff was making me feel worse about it. The bad parts were becoming the whole story instead of just part of the story of my life.
My kids raise my blood pressure, ask too much of me, make a mess and sometimes behave like uncivilized monkeys. Their existence brings a long list of needs: groceries, doctors’ appointments, notes from school, dinners to be made, laundry to do, fights to referee and floors to clean. But those things are not going to stop happening no matter how unfair they are, no matter how hard I vent. And they’re only part of the truth.
The fact is, those kids who peed on the seat and dirtied the bowls are going to be living with me for many years to come. This is my life-the sweet, tender moments and the smelly, frustrating ones. And I would rather focus on the lighter side.
I believe that we have a part in creating our realities. And we have a choice about which part of the truth we want to focus in on.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I NEVER vent. When I get together with my mom friends we share good-natured jabs at our kids and spouses and responsibilities and lives. And when there’s a problem that has an actual potential solution it can be really helpful to talk it over with other people who’ve been there.
But I made a decision to stop viewing venting as natural as breathing. To shrug off that knee-jerk reaction to complain about everything that goes wrong to anyone who’d listen.
I’m not suggesting we just plaster fake smiles on our faces and refuse to talk about the truth of motherhood. I’m suggesting we create a new truth: one we can live with.
Maybe you worry that without venting, you’ll explode like a potato in the microwave. I had the same worry. But the more I practiced the art of not complaining, the less I wanted to complain. The steam didn’t build up inside me. I actually seemed to create less of it.
Why not try it for a week? When something annoys you, take a deep breath, go for a run, or draw a hot bath…but resist the urge to call your husband at work and tell him your toddler drew on your purse with a Sharpie.
Or when you’re swapping stories about your kids around the water cooler at work, choose the one about your preschooler’s adorable lisp, not her selective hearing.
Sure, your friends might roll their eyes a little, thinking you’re a sap. But maybe they’ll also wonder why you seem happier, more relaxed.
Either way, it’s worth a try. Because when you look back at the end of the day-or the end of your life-do you really want to remember that spilled milk or pottying accident in sharp focus?
I bet you’d rather remember your son’s champion snuggles or that leisurely fall walk you took with your daughter.
I know I would.