“I can’t do everything.”
“I need some me-time.”
“I’m sorry I’m cranky. I’m just really tired.”
Yes, these are some of my frequent phrases. Despite their truth, I'm not proud of them. My husband is usually the lucky recipient. (Hi babe. Sorry.) Some days they mean so much more than the words flying out of my mouth, and other days they’re simply audible evidence that I’m stretched thin and really do need to go to bed and just sleep.
I bet you have a few favorite phrases, too. You know, on account of how busy modern motherhood is. We’re entitled to feel what we feel, right? In my house, we’re an open book. We can all feel what we feel and talk about it together. And I've always been super-honest about the beginning of my motherhood journey and my goals for staying focused, frank and free after babies.
But then, from behind my laptop in the kitchen one day, I overheard my daughters talking to each other between stacking Legos and changing Elsa’s dress.
"Being a mommy is really hard," one says.
"Yeah, mommies have too much to do. They do everything and don’t get to play," says my other daughter.
"Yeah. That’s sad."
No. Oh no. I interject.
“Is being a mommy a fun thing?” I hope for an answer that doesn’t kick me in the gut.
“Sometimes,” my older one says. “But being a mommy is hard. I want to be a mommy one day … but not now. Not for a long time.” And there’s the dreaded kick.
It's not that I want my 6-year-old to be in any kind of a rush toward motherhood. But my daughter’s honesty got me thinking about how I interpreted motherhood from the time I was a little girl all the way until I was married.
I thought my mom was amazing with all she did for all of us (while working full-time) but I also found myself scared you-know-what-less about becoming a mom because the lifestyle of motherhood looked so daunting, suffocating and stressful. And aside from the occasional “my brain is full” comment she’d throw out here and there, my mom never complained about parenthood. My fear of mom life formed back then even without her having to vent about it.
Cut to now: How much do we all vent, with our kids in earshot, about the tougher parts of motherhood? We are all smart, motivated rockstars in the parenting department in our own ways, but let’s be frank here. We can also be major complainers when we’re pushed to the edge (myself included).
So we talk about it. Over and over. In the name of being honest and forthcoming women of our time.
It's up to us to stay focused, suck it up when we can, zip our sarcastic lips if we must and be aware of how much adult info we’re splashing around.
Thanks to overhearing my girls’ latest conversation, my big, new question is: What are our unfiltered actions and reactions really teaching our kids about modern motherhood?
That it’s overwhelming. That it’s hard. That it’s complicated. That we’re tired all the time. That we need time to ourselves. That we're frustrated about having too much we can't seem to get on top of and have drawn lines in the sand about making our spouses sandwiches. We talk, and we talk, and we talk because it makes us feel supported, better, stronger, happier. What an honest mom I am.
I know very few people who don’t vent about having to clean up the den again, pine about our spouses not offering enough help, or offer snarky advice about not wanting to play Candyland one more time. So many of us express and comment on all the challenging elements of parenthood—the good, bad and ugly—not only in real life for our kids to overhear and interpret on their own, but also online for them all to discover once they get old enough to read and search our names online. Yeah, we joke about it and get our own humor, knowing that we LOVE all of it and what motherhood entails, but kids don’t always get the nuances.
What is all of our "conversation" doing to our kids? Do they sometimes think it's their fault, even if we tell them it's not? I don't know. But let’s not forget that wicked truth that a teensy bit of negativity can easily outweigh larger doses of positivity through a child’s innocent perspective. With each Facebook comment or in-person sigh, we’re shaping their opinion about parenthood.
I’m becoming more conscious of what I say, how I react and how many deep sighs I let out while trying to get a family dinner on the table. Because they're listening. and apparently talking to each other about it during afternoon play.
Yeah, we’re human and yeah, our kids should know that being overwhelmed is sometimes a part of life and that we can cope with and tomorrow's another day. (Hey, I've shared how I’ve started crying in my kitchen while cutting veggies on days when the momhood has gotten to me. It happens to the best of us.) BUT it’s up to us to stay focused, suck it up when we can, zip our sarcastic lips if we must and be aware of how much adult info we’re splashing around for our sons and daughters to interpret, especially when they may not be mature enough to truly understand our plight.
Research tells us our stress and anxiety rubs off on our kids whether we're in denial about it or not—we know this. So for future parents and kids everywhere, it’s up to us to keep motherhood’s reputation worthy beyond what our kids might be picking up from us without us realizing it.
The craziest part? Curbing my complaining is actually making me feel more in-control, capable and happier when I'm at home.
Jill Simonian is a Los Angeles television personality and author of the new, confidence-building book for first-time moms' mind and spirit, "The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby."