I tend to hate self-helpy articles about how to be a happier/better parent/person. They’re so… critical.
Which is to say that they reflect back to me what I
shouldn’t do. Like this: “Five Common Habits That Are Undermining Your Happiness“. 1. Staying up to watch one more episode (check), 2. Scrolling mindlessly through social media (check — y’all are hilarious), 3. Winding down with a glass of wine most nights (make that Belgian monk beer, aaaand: check)…
Then there’s this, which I found after my sixth Youtube clip of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, while scrolling mindlessly through Pinterest and sipping my second Chimay): “One Small Change to be a Happier Mom“.
Ooh, just one? And small! Sounds do-albe. The author, “(reformed) idealist” Kelly, has found “the secret to being a happy mom.”
I read Kelly’s article. Then I read another. She’s got a whole book out. And you know what the “one small change” is? Oh, no big deal, just: don’t ever complain. In fact, based on my brief perusal, consciously not venting seems to be her bloggy raison d’être.
Guess there’s a market for that. Huh.
I, however, might not be her target audience. The image of her toothy grin, next to jaunty prose about how she gets it, staying at home with kids dips frequently in the rabid-nightmare-circus direction, but she simply never airs grievances with her husband or friends. Beneath all that, her sunshiney book title: Happy You, Happy Family. It was just too much.
I downed my last swig of ale, narrowed my eyes, and purred at the screen, Oh. I haaaaaate* you, before exiting her internet daisy field.
Now I’m no paradigm of virtue, but not venting? What kind of monster is this? Venting is primo real estate in stay-at-home-parentland. She’s alienating a handy majority of her constituency.
And, like a good, trained journalist (type-thing), I next googled “venting, health” to back up my biases…
Instead the first thing I found was this: “Venting Anger May Do More Harm Than Good“.
Sure it’s an article nearly old as I, but newer studies seem to back it up. And, bad news, you guys: it’s a compelling, persuasive argument.
“Talking out an emotion doesn’t reduce it, it rehearses it,” quoth social psychologist Dr. Carol Tavris back in 1983. “People who are most prone to give vent to their rage get angrier, not less angry.”
And I hate to say it, but that… sounds… kind of… right. I mean, how often does angrily articulating (and re-articulating) my interpersonal injustices make me feel lighter and more serene? Instead, it just anchors my bad mood in the craggy rock-bed of old calcified umbrage. And such gloom makes it harder to respond (well) to incoming stress.
…Waaaait a minute. This better not mean I’m going to start counting to ten, focusing on solutions, and glowing up my blog with the shiny, smiley zeal of some kind of positivity convert.
Uh-uh. No way. I need to vent about this first.
I mean, does every instantly gratifying activity have to be bad for me? What are they coming for next? So late night binge-watching, alcohol, and social media are making me more miserable. FINE. But now I don’t even get to kvetch? How will I bond with my friends? By comparing blessings all the time?
The thing is, I can see how focusing on the frustrating tints my momma lens darker. And I see how dumping it all on my man provokes tension. It can feel like I’m asking him to fix something, and that can breed anxiety or guilt or frustration, especially if he’s already doing all he can, and isn’t sure I notice.
Soooo, right. Maybe I can “breathe.” Or count to ten. Or occasionally shout and toss a dish rag. Whatever helps me to pivot toward resolution and push ahead. But here’s the thing: how will my struggles be properly acknowledged? What, I’m supposed to suffer and not take credit for it?
As I pondered this, I remembered a podcast I listened to once in which a very stressed out woman began to receive visits from an old, wise monk that only she could see. He listened and advised and kept her company.
Hmmm… Now there’s an idea: I could invent an imaginary friend! She’ll be the meticulous book-keeper of my grievances, and I’ll name her Kip, in homage to the best damn student intern I ever supervised.
That way, when I’m about to lose it, I can just say, “Did you get that, Kip?” and she’ll say, “Noted. Second time today. That’s going to be a bitch to clean up.” And then I won’t have to tell my poor husband the moment he comes home. Plus, it will have the bonus effect of making my children think I’m either colluding with invisible pixies or have finally lost it for good.
I like to think that Kip will then dispatch her records to some sort of indomitable over-boss, like Frank Sinatra in the early 60s, or Queen Latifah. Following Kip’s nightly report, this supreme authority will simply shake her head (let’s go with Latifah) in proud admiration of all that I quietly endure.
And I will be vindicated.
So there you have it: the small auxiliary change to the small change needed to be a happier mom: indulge in a delusional relationship with an imaginary side-kick and/or sympathetic rapper/comedienne! I think I’ll start today. And, like our sunny, stoic Kelly, I, too, hereby vow not to complain to my husband about the myriad minor annoyances of daily SAHMhood. But unlike her, I will not tell him about this personal pact. Because that would be stupid.
And don’t worry, he won’t bother reading this one. He’d had enough of my venting.
*And by “haaaaaate,” I think I might mean “kind of love.” Not just because her blog (intentionally) made me laugh, but also because she’s clearly a really good sport and much sweeter than yours, truly. Check out her funny comment below. Then check out her blog, and just give in to the happy…