"Ugh," the judgmental internet sighs. Some mom or dad has decided to get "real" about their struggles and consult fellow parents, swallowing their fears of judgment and rejection and putting themselves out there. In response, the internet decides to echo all the doubts that almost stopped them from hitting "post" in the first place. "Why are parents always complaining? You chose to have children, just deal with it!" You wanna know why parents are always complaining, internet? Settle in and pour yourself a cup of tea. No, you don't get anything stronger than that, since you'd be the first to judge a mom for indulging in a similar fashion.
When you write about parenting a lot (as I do) and you try to keep it real about parenting (as I also do) you start to notice that people on social media — particularly folks without kids, or parents from previous generations whose parenting memories are now completely drenched in nostalgia — often ask why contemporary parents are "always complaining." You also start to notice these people always complaining about parents complaining. Turns out, complaining is kinda common in our society, and it's not unique to any one generation or subgroup of people. So, maybe that's the answer right there: we're all just a bunch of complainers, parents and non-parents alike, and we're all giving as good as we get.
As someone who thinks deeply about social issues (and/or is just hella petty, you decide), I think there's more to parents complaining than a simple, "Well, everyone does it." Now, before we continue: yes, I am fully aware I chose to have children, as did most of us parent-folk. I'm a mammal, after all, and generally speaking I act on virtually all of the biological imperatives that get sent my way, reproduction included. (Also eating. Sex and eating are my favorites.) But here's the thing: choosing to do something, even after a significant amount of careful thought, doesn't mean forfeiting the right to occasionally be totally surprised that it’s not even remotely like what you thought it would be. Making a choice doesn't mean you give up the right to feel some kinda way about what your choice actually feels like day to day. I mean, you chose to search for and/or take a job instead of joining with your fellow workers and organizing a general strike for a universal basic income, but do I call you out every time you complain about your coworkers or post a meme about how Friday is the best day of the week? No, except for right now because people should totally take action for better social policy.
For real: it's hard out here for parents. If you seriously want to know why parents are always complaining, here ya go:
Because Literally Everyone Is Always Complaining, And We’re Part Of Everyone
Yeah, I know you don’t see your parent friends as much since they became parents, but we are still part of the “Everyone” that makes up society. And pretty much everyone in our society complains a lot, so if people are complaining about stuff like what color their coffee cups are, why shouldn't parents complain about serious things like how unnecessarily hard it is to parent these days?
Because Look At This Mess
No, I’m not just talking about the mess in my house, though seriously: am I the only one in my house who can see? Am I really the only one who noticed the trash was full? Why is it always my responsibility to make sure the counters don’t have crumbs and sticky crap all over them? Why does everyone else but me need an engraved invitation to put their shoes away or take laundry out of the dryer?
I digress: look at the rest of this mess. Our society is a hot damn mess. We have elected officials and candidates for office doing things that would get grade school students expelled. I'm supposed to be able to teach my toddler not to steal from the bulk bins in the market, when we can turn on the news and watch grown-ass businessmen brag about not paying their taxes or get away with looting the whole damn economy? We have to teach our kids not to bully or assault people, while actual, literal presidential candidates act like these are legitimate things to do? Seriously? This is what's happening now? Decent people trying to raise more decent people are truly rowing upstream, here. And yeah, our arms are tired And yeah, we're gonna complain about it sometimes.
Because Look At What We’re Dealing With Here
The U.S. is literally the only industrialized country that hasn't seemed to figure out that 1) workers are humans, 2) humans frequently reproduce, and 3) we should factor that into how we do business. There are a number of fairly simple solutions to the problems facing working parents, also known as "most parents," that still aren't a reality for parents in the United States.
So we're out here busting our behinds trying to make it all work. Sounds like a recipe for complaining (and protests and torches and pitchforks, frankly, so maybe you should just be thankful our complaints stay on Facebook, for the most part).
Because Seriously, Do You See This Sh*t?
How is a mom supposed to be 100 percent focused on her kids, but also be 100 percent focused on the job she needs to keep to feed, house, and clothe those kids? Does society have some other definition of 100 percent I'm not aware of? How are dads supposed to be exclusively focused on being "providers," yet also be present enough to be good role models to their kids? Does anybody else see how that math just doesn't add up?
Because A Giant Chunk Of My Heart Now Lives In A Small Person Who Basically Has No Common Sense Yet
These little ones are just climbing out of their cribs and running towards the street and refusing to eat and just not really even trying to stay alive, and our tired selves are the only thing between them and death. In other words, we're scared all the time.
It’s a lot easier to kvetch about the cost of vitamins or the lack of affordable quality childcare and early childhood education than to just get really real and talk publicly about how we’re kind of always afraid someone or something is going to kill our children. See? See how awkward and jarring and uncomfortable it felt just to read that phrase? Imagine feeling like that all the time. Exactly. Angry complaining about tangentially-related parent dramas on Facebook is way less uncomfortable for everyone involved. You’re welcome.
Because We Have To Do All Of This By Ourselves? Really?
Forget all that, “It takes a village to raise a child” stuff. Despite the fact that they had strong unions and incredibly generous public policies that helped them own homes, start families, and live the American Dream; previous generations like to pretend that they did everything on their own, then look down on us for struggling to keep up after they cut up the social safety net that held them when they were our age.
("Yep! I worked my way through school and then bought a house for my family all on my own," says the same dude whose public university education and homeownership was heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Shut up and sit down, Old Economy Steve.)
Because It’s Basically Impossible To Be A Good Enough Parent, According To Everyone
Yep, these days we're "on our own," yet all the off-duty villagers retain the privilege to judge parents anytime we drop the ball. We have to keep our eyes on our kids at all times, lest we blink for even a second and they fall into a gorilla pit or something. Never mind that it maybe shouldn't be that easy for little kids to get access to wild animals or whatever.
If we can’t do any of a number of impossible things simultaneously, we should just keep our legs shut and not have kids. News flash: it’s entirely possible to conceive children in sexual positions where your legs are closed. Also? It really doesn't need to be this hard to raise kids, and wouldn’t be if we had a little help.
Because We’re Still Trying To Do The Impossible, Anyway
Even though we're trying to do more for our kids with less help than ever before, we love our families and we're trying to keep up with all the standards society places upon us. So here we are, Atlas in the flesh, literally trying to do the impossible. Yeah, we’ll carry the world on our shoulders, but we're gonna grunt every now and again under its weight, OK?
Because We’re Tired
You complain when you're tired all the time, people. If we can listen to you complain about being tired after partying all night or waiting for concert tickets or covering for your boss— all legit reasons to be tired, mind you — you can listen to us being tired when we've been up all night with a teething baby. It's the circle of complaining about life.
Because We Can’t Even
Because even though we're really glad to be parents, the actual reality of life as a parent is really different from what most of us were led to expect. Also, it's been a long time since most of us were kids, and we have no memory of being babies. So while we expect, say, a fair bit of crying, who the heck thinks about the fact that you have to physically suck the snot out of a baby’s nose, when you're dreaming about your future family? Who imagines that you have to fill out more forms to send a kid to summer camp than you did to buy your house?
There are so many random indignities, annoyances, and stupidities to life as a contemporary parent, and we just can't even sometimes. We just need someone to witness it with us so we don't feel like we're losing it. Is it really that hard to just empathize, or keep scrolling? I don't think so.