Is Venting About Motherhood Actually Making You More Miserable?
Like many moms, I am 100%, totally guilty of venting about motherhood. On a regular basis, I vent to my husband about how chaotic my life as a work-at-home mom of four kids is, how it feels like I'm constantly falling behind on everything, how I made it to school this morning before realizing that not one of the kids had lunch for the day.
Or, I may have a regular texting venting session with my friends when I'm having a hard time, because who else knows what it's like to try to get the laundry done when the kids are destroying the house, the toddler is melting down while also demanding a snack, the baby is fussy and only wants to be held, and it's raining outside so you can't even use the park for a distraction.
For just a brief moment, venting–either with an in-person vent or a texting vent–always makes me feel better. I feel like it helps lift the fog of heaviness when motherhood becomes just too much and helps remind me that I'm truly not alone in my feelings, even when those feelings involve running away forever (tell me you've been there?) Venting, like eating a piece of chocolate cake, can feel good temporarily.
But a new study says that venting may be trading temporary relief for the long-term. In fact, the study says venting may actually make you more miserable. The study looked at 112 employees and tracked how complaining seemed to affect their moods. Over the course of even a few days, the pattern became apparent: the more they vented, the worse they felt about, well, everything. And not only that but their venting affected them into the next day too, lowering the mood and motivation to accomplish anything the following day.
And while the study didn't apply directly to motherhood, we can take the findings from the study and compare them to our daily lives in motherhood. While venting may make us feel better sometimes, other times, it may actually be causing us to get stuck in a self-defeating cycle of focusing our energy on all of the negatives in our lives. That's not to say that motherhood isn't hard, that we don't deserve to vent or complain every now and then, or that texting your friend about the time your kid pooped his pants (again) will harm you forever, but the study could help us look at how we are coping with the difficult emotions that motherhood can bring.
For example, if you notice that venting about motherhood seems to be making you more miserable, or you're having trouble staying positive, it might be time to reevaluate your venting strategies.
And of course, just to keep things interesting, this advice isn't exactly foolproof. Because just like with all things motherhood related, no one can decide exactly what the best course of action is for us moms, whether that's working or staying home or breastfeeding or bottle feeding or playing with our kids or not playing with our kids or spending time on ourselves or too much time on ourselves.
So, of course, there would be conflicting advice about how healthy venting is for moms: a psychotherapist just went public with advice that mothers should most definitely have a “vent buddy” to help them deal with the stressors of motherhood. According to Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, having a vent buddy allows moms to direct their stress away from their children, thus allowing them to maintain a more calm and healthy environment around their children.
I can't say for sure which method I believe in, but I have to say that I do think from personal experience that both theories of thought have merit. I have had times in my life when venting really helped me move past a certain issue, and other times when venting only served to keep me trapped in a negative space. I think the key is to take the time to figure out exactly what works for you–and if venting is no longer helping you, it might be time to let it go.
What do you think? Does venting help you make be a better mom, or does it make you feel more miserable?