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:
Most teenagers are struggling with self- identity. They are comparing themselves with their peers physically, intellectually, and socially. Many are concluding that they simply do not “measure up.” Many feel insecure, have little self- esteem, and blame themselves. If there is a stage of life where humans need more affirming words, it would certainly be during the teenage years. Yet this is the very stage at which parents often turn to negative words in their efforts to get the teenager to do what parents believe is best.
So how do moms deal? How do we stay strong and resist the urge to vent to our children or gripe on Facebook? I believe the answer is 1) pray and ask God for help and 2) find a safe place to vent. Pick someone in your innermost circle — your spouse, best friend, mom, sister, hairdresser, therapist, etc. — who listens well and won’t betray your confidence.
Having a steel vault who keeps your secrets safe helps you stay strong. It reduces the chance of you dropping an ill-timed bomb or ranting to the wrong person. It keeps you under control and gives you time to think. Most importantly, it gives you an ally to laugh with as you admit what you wanted to say or post versus what you actually said and posted.
We live in an age where it’s common — and acceptable — to tell people off to their face or go straight to Facebook with every complaint. We’re a generation of parents that often lacks the strong adult relationships our parents had because we’re busier, more distracted, and centering our lives around our kids, sacrificing our relationships and well-being to unhealthy degrees.
What I’ve realized in my life, especially as my kids grow up, is that building a strong adult network is a form of self-care. Besides the obvious mental health benefits, it gives me people to turn to when I need to vent, seek advice, or process life out loud. Sometimes just getting my thoughts and feelings out, without fear of being judged or written off, is enough to help me breathe and get to a more rational state of mind.
Life is hard, and our country is on edge, so give your mom friends a safe place to vent. Be the friend who listens, knows their heart, and loves them despite their cray-cray. Encourage your friends to stay strong in front of their kids and sane on social media by saving their rawest self for you. If we all did this, if we helped each other behind the scenes get to a better place, can you imagine how much more positive we’d be at home and online?
We’d have fewer regrets and better relationships. We’d be adults who act like adults. We’d have good conversations even when we disagree, and we’d like ourselves as we live with intention. It’s not easy to set boundaries in choosing where to vent, but it’s worth it, because these are the role models our children need. That is how we help the next generation, by allowing them to see what we hope they will eventually be.
Kari’s new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter is now available and gaining fantastic buzz among moms. Kari has also written books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, used widely across the U.S. for small group studies. To keep up with future posts, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.