I recently wrote a post for Scary Mommy about a boy struggling with cancer. To raise awareness for the struggle sick children and their families face every day, his mother shared a heartbreaking photo of her son, bald, gaunt, and clearly in pain.
In the Facebook comments for the post, someone mentioned that the story reminded her that she should be grateful for what she has, instead of whining about what she doesn’t.
I get that, but I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. Venting is allowed. Especially for parents.
You don’t need to have a perfect life to be grateful for it. And you don’t need to face tragedy to occasionally be upset and frustrated with your lot, even if you’re only bitching about mundane, trivial things. Like me!
Having the freedom to vent and complain about life, about parenting, about your kids, is a luxury, for sure. (Hashtag firstworldproblems.) And one that many people who’ve endured hardship and tragedy may no longer want to, or find themselves capable of, engaging in. And in the face of actual tragedy, or circumstances that make your problems feel small, it can feel petty and selfish. But that doesn’t mean it is or that you are. Not all the time.
This may seem a bit self-serving, given that I spend most of my time online bitching about my kids and complaining about being a parent. But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it were valid – and hilarious!
My kids are healthy, knock on wood, and as annoying and frustrating and draining as parenting often/usually is, I’m good with it. Like everyone else, I have my share of problems, some of them very real, some of them less severe than yours, but just because I haven’t experienced a tragedy doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to whine. (Nor does it mean that you’re not allowed to find my whining obnoxious. I don’t whine for you. I whine for me.)
Newsflash, and your mileage may vary here, but for many of us, people who exclusively talk about how “blessed” they are are just as annoying (and even more full of it) as those who never do anything but complain about their lives. There’s room for both bitching and being grateful, and they don’t cancel each other out.
I’m grateful that I have a place to live, and a job, and a wife and children I love, but I’m irritated my rent is too damn high, my allergies hate me, my 6-year-old talks back and my baby wakes up too early. I hate how often the subway screws up my commute but my friends are letting us stay at their beach house for a week this summer. I’m lucky my kids are healthy but it sucks that Trump is president. These feelings can all coexist.
But too much of one, of either one, is no good for anybody. It’s about balance.
If all I did was complain – honestly, sincerely complain – about my kids and my life, no one would stick around to hear it. Not my readers, not my friends, not even my wife. If all I did was brag about how lucky I am and act like everything is perfect all the time? Same deal. I would be intolerable.
We’re only human beings, and we tend to have tunnel vision. No matter how empathetic we are and how tuned into the world around us we may be, we tend to get caught up in our own small lives. We all occasionally lose perspective and forget that, despite our varying instances of good fortune and bad luck, most of us are probably in the middle somewhere.
Both our best circumstances and our worst problems are relative. There’s always someone else higher up or lower down, and we’re all entitled to vent from time to time, even if, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t have all that much to vent about. Sure, someone with less than you may get irritated that you dare complain, but follow them home and I guarantee they’ll get disgruntled with something one of their neighbors would love to have. Your need to let off some steam neither diminishes nor dismisses anyone else’s situation, whether it’s more extreme or not.
Parenting – and life – is hard for everyone. Venting is allowed! I should be able to complain about the hassles of parenting two children without someone with five kids chiming in that they’ve got it worse. And you should be able to complain about your nanny’s annoying habit of always being late without someone who can’t afford a nanny being offended.
I’m not saying you should hang around a cancer ward crowing about your strong genes, or lament to a homeless guy that your Starbucks addiction is bleeding you dry. We should all be aware of your surroundings and show some sensitivity. But let’s not begrudge anybody for letting loose with a good rant about the minor inconveniences and petty frustrations of their life just because your inconveniences and frustrations are major and real. Sometimes people just need to bitch.
We are all entitled to complain about things. Talking shit is a small but essential part of what makes being human tolerable. And it doesn’t mean you’re unhappy, or that you take the good things in your life for granted. Usually it just means you need to let off some steam.
A little harmless ranting is healthier than many of the alternatives.