“I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve been complaining to you a lot today,” my friend said as I held her newborn baby.
“No, way. That’s what motherhood is all about,” I said.
I sat in my friend’s cozy family room and breathed in her heaviness. Like most mothers do at some point or another, she was having a rough go. A case of the baby blues, a two-year-old with pneumonia, and an injury herself had her running on empty. But even with all of that going on, she didn’t want to complain.
And to that I said, “Complain away.”
Motherhood. When you Google it, the third (and most accurate) definition reads, “mothers collectively”—whatever the hell that means.
But when you Google sisterhood, the first definition reads, “the relationship between sisters.” Isn’t that what the definition of motherhood should be? The relationship between mothers? I certainly think so. And in this kind of relationship, like most relationships, it’s okay to complain. In fact, it’s necessary.
By letting other mothers gripe, and even encouraging them to do so, it levels the playing field. It makes us vulnerable.
I have yet to find anything more vulnerable than being a mother. It cracks me open and my flaws, my mistakes, and my shortcomings ooze out. It exposes me. And if motherhood is something I need to vent, or God-forbid—whine, about from time-to-time, I do it. I have found that when we, as a motherhood, can all complain openly together something magical happens: acceptance.
Motherhood isn’t always the picture of a baby sleeping at a mother’s breast or the perfect Pinterest craft. Sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes we cry so much that we feel broken. Sometimes we’re sick of being touched by our own children. Sometimes the guilt throbs. Sometimes we lose our identities. If we can’t complain to mothers within our own motherhood about all of this and more, what will come of us?
We have to change the definition of motherhood to be a relationship between mothers.
And in these relationships, we have to be able to complain. We have to be vulnerable, to be exposed, and finally, to be accepting.
Sometimes our grumbling is the only path to get us there. The next time you hear a mother complain and she starts to pull back, don’t let her. Crack her open, let her empty everything out, and accept all that she’s been hiding inside.