Trust me, I get it.
I get what it’s like to have a bad day as a mother – to be frustrated with my child, someone else’s child, someone impacting my child, or an issue affecting our family.
I’ve felt annoyance that needs a way out. I understand the urge to vent, scream, complain, blurt out the first thoughts that come to mind or give someone a piece of my mind. I know the relief of getting a burden off my chest, and how cathartic is can be to talk uncensored, to be raw and real as I work through emotions, especially tricky ones like anger.
Yet here’s what else I know: regret. Regret for speaking too soon. Regret for not calming down first. Regret for acting on a knee-jerk reaction or not waiting to get the full story. Regret for the hurt I caused, the maturity I failed to show, or the conversation I wish I’d never started.
Our generation is different than our parents’ generation. One, we have social media, and two, they had better boundaries. They didn’t contact people after 9 o’clock at night or publicly share every detail of their life.
While I’m glad it’s less taboo for us to openly share our struggles, it’s worth considering who we share our struggles with. Is it people we’re close to – or acquaintances online? Too often, what should be a private conversation becomes a public conversation on Facebook. And if we post while we’re upset, emotional, or not in a good place, we lose credibility and respect. We hurt relationships and reputations.
I understand a mother’s need to vent, and in my new book, I discuss the importance of moms having a safe place to vent. We all get frustrated, and processing our emotions privately can keep us from losing it publicly. It takes us from emotional posts (from the amygdala, the primitive part of brain, the center of “fight or flight”) to measured posts (from the pre-frontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, the center of reason and long-term thinking). It betters the odds that we won’t speak or act regrettably.
My friend has a daughter who was a star athlete in high school. She was captain of her team, and due to her talent, she always had a spotlight on her. Her younger teammates looked up to her, and everyone respected her, and she kept their respect by following this advice her mom gave her:
“Stay positive around your teammates,” her mom said. “Don’t complain, vent, or talk about anyone.
Save it for me. Vent to me, and give your best to your team. Encourage them and be a role model.”
I love this advice because it acknowledges how we all need a place to vent, yet there’s a disciplined way to do it. We can unload frustrations without losing our temper or going postal in public. Rather than come emotionally unhinged, we can save it for behind closed doors. We can show maturity in hard moments and be a respected leader who people listen to.
This is especially key for parents of teenagers. Ask any therapist who works with teens, and they’ll share stories of the cutting remarks parents have made to their teenagers in the heat of frustration. I understand a parent’s breaking point, yet I’m most sympathetic to the damage that an unfiltered outburst can cause. As Dr. Gary Chapman says in The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers, there is a better way to motivate teenagers than by yelling cruel or condemning words: