I'm not a big fan of complaining as a rule and
steer away from people who complain more than they express appreciation.
However, as a mother, I engage in my fair share of private and public griping about
aspects of the job—and yes, I do consider parenting a job—because the
alternative is bottled up frustration that turns to snapping at the people I
Recently there have been two articles
suggesting that moms complain too much about motherhood, and both got my
ran in the Washington Post, about
how dads don't complain, even as they are taking on a greater share of the
parenting responsibilities. The author, Samantha Rodman, a clinical psychologist, feels the men she sees can't speak up about their feelings regarding child rearing, and goes so
far as to say, "Is it possible dads are the new supermoms?" In order to remain adult about this, I will simply say: Give these Mr.
Moms another few years of so-called oppression and they'll organize a Million Dad March to protest their lack of rights.
Women complain about parenthood, and men don't, because we live
in a sexist society that tells men who complain that they are weak and largely puts
the burden of parenting on women. What's more, we mothers complain because much
of modern parenting takes place in isolation, without the "village"
of sisters/cousins/aunts to support us. Many more Gen Xers now find
themselves raising kids and caring for their elderly parents at the same time. We
complain because women still earn 78 cents to a man's dollar, maintaining the scenario (in
heterosexual couples) where it makes more sense for men to be breadwinners
and women to stay home.
The uncomplaining mother is not only unrealistic, it sends the message: If you don't see mothering as a gift, there is probably something wrong with you.
Women also complain because, as this
article in The Atlantic suggests, complaining is a way of getting attention
and support for one's needs. My mom-friends tend to complain to each
other mostly, to let off steam, to release the frustration that might otherwise get
channeled to a child, and as an appeal for support.
article that begs a hard look comes from Time. The author expresses that
motherhood is a gift and a pleasure, but not actually a job; no, motherhood is a
glorious "hobby," so women should suck it up and keep their complaints to themselves. Ah yes, the preternaturally perfect, uncomplaining mother who gives
everything to her children with neither complaint nor hair out of place. I've heard
of such mythological beings; I'm pretty sure they can be found hiding out in the
woods with Bigfoot or swimming with Nessie in Loch Ness.
mother is not only unrealistic, it sends the message: If you don't see mothering
as a gift, there is probably something wrong with you. Should you dare to see
it as work—not just as a woman's place—then you are probably one of those
uppity feminists who think women should also make a wage equal to men and be
allowed to walk down a street without receiving unwanted cat calling.
Women have been fighting for the right to be
more than baby-making vessels since before the suffragettes lifted their ridiculously
complex and weighty skirts and stomped their way to victory. Not calling parenthood "work" is dangerous to mothers—not just the ones who choose to stay
home with their kids, often sacrificing second incomes and other things, but
the ones who have no choice but to work to support their
children. If motherhood is not work, why should a woman get maternity leave to
be with her baby? Why should it then be illegal to fire a woman who has gone
off on such leave?
We live in a time when positive thinking is touted as a cure for all that ails, and not being able to do so reflects
a failing of your character. But we've seen the negative stress of suppression on people (1950s, I'm looking at you). If the worst we can say about
mothers griping about the job of mothering is that they complain too much, then consider this my formal
complaint: They don't call it the hardest job you'll ever love for nothing.