When I get upset, and I can't get that negativity out of my brain, I call my BFF and bonafide mom-friendly venting buddy, who I'll call K. We've been friends since we were teenagers, and one thing I love about her is her deep, heartfelt sympathy. She doesn't necessarily offer advice, she just lets me talk out my thoughts and feelings and doesn't make fun of the fact that you can hear how ugly my ugly cry is through the phone. ("You're so human right now, I love it," K often tells me.) Every mom needs a venting buddy like K, because even when things are going well, we still have a lot we probably need to get off our chests.
Of course, it's important to bear in mind that while venting can feel really good, it isn't necessarily a solution. In 2002, a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that venting anger doesn't reduce aggression. Instead, it can often lead to an increase in aggressive behavior. So vent with caution, for sure.
But just saying how you feel to a sympathetic soul can be cathartic and an important first step in feeling better. After all, a 2015 study published in Motivation and Emotion found that while there is a "deterioration of mood following crying," for example, after some time a person's mood can "increase above the levels that it had before the emotional event." So trust me when I say that it's worth finding yourself a venting buddy, and for the following reasons:
Because This Sh*t Is Hard
Motherhood is really, really challenging and sometimes you need someone to not only acknowledge that but to hear the specific ways in which it is challenging you. And there are so many ways in which we are challenged, you guys! Motherhood can affect us so profoundly on pretty much every possible level, both positively and negatively. And people talk a lot about the positives (as well they should) but we don't have the same spaces to talk about the negative (at least not without consequences). This is when a venting buddy is particularly crucial.
Because We Need Someone Who Won't Judge
Because name something moms aren't judged for. I'd wait, but I know there's no answer to that question, so I'm not going to bother. How and when we become mothers in the first place, how we feed clothe, name, even carry our children, is subject to public scrutiny and gets you slapped with useless and limiting labels at best. At worst, you get labeled a "bad mom."
Of course, this is worse for marginalized parents. For example, a 2013 study published in Journal of GLBT Family Studies found that gay parents are judged more harshly than straight parents.
We all need someone we can talk to without fear of being judged or deemed inadequate.
Because They Understand You Don't Hate Your Kids...
Because sometimes, when you vent, you have to call your kid an a-hole, and you certainly don't want to (and shouldn't) say it to them. And you know, deep down, they aren't one, but because they sure as hell are acting like one and someone else must know.
Your venting buddy knows you don't think your kid is terrible and, even if they were, that nothing could make you love them any less. Not only does your buddy get you, they get that sometimes kids behave, well, like a-holes.
... Or Your Partner
Motherhood can put even the strongest relationships to the test sometimes. We need a venting buddy who understands that we don't hate our partners, even though sometimes we say things like, "OMG I hate them right now" after they've done something particularly thoughtless or clueless.
But your venting buddy knows, of course, that you're venting. They know that you know that everyone makes mistakes and, if you're just venting, it's nothing you can't overcome and talk through. It's just that, sometimes, to effectively work things out with your partner you need to get all the anger out with a sympathetic third party first.
Because It's Important To Complain To Someone Who Knows You Still Have Perspective
Everyone is entitled to a good vent from time to time. Even people with tremendous good fortune and privilege. Venting doesn't mean you've forgotten that you're #blessed. It just means that no one's life is perfect and sometimes those imperfections can be a source of serious stress and irritation that needs to be exorcised.
Because It Helps Us Figure Stuff Out
Feeling uninhibited in our emotional release can allow us to give voice to things we didn't even realize we were feeling or thinking. And when that happens we have more clarity about ourselves and what we want moving forward. Venting can be crucial in the sort sh*t out process! It's sort of like practicing an argument in the shower so that, when the confrontation comes around, you don't even have to argue. Genius!
Because Everyone Needs Emotional Validation
Your feelings matter. Sometimes it's easy to forget that, because society has this extremely problematic view of moms as self-sacrificing martyrs whose individual wants, needs, and identities are completely subsumed by their motherhood. Only that's not how people work and — I know this may shock some — moms are people!
Because It's Not Healthy To Bottle It Up
Negativity doesn't just dissipate because we don't discuss it. Often, the longer we leave it unaddressed the worse it becomes and can eat away at us from the inside out. That's bad for us as moms and (as we've recently established) human beings. By extension, it's bad for those around us, including our children and partners, because negativity will emerge at some point, one way or the other.
Far better to vent it out with a friend and then do what needs to be done than get disproportionately mad when your kid does something harmless but annoying. Because not only is that not fair to your kid but you're going to feel like jerk afterwards, too. Venting is a great way to skip over this possibility.
Because Your Venting Buddy Needs To Know It's OK To Vent, Too
The more we talk, the more we empower other people to talk, and the more people talk, the better they feel. So, yes, venting is good for you, but, in a sense, it's really good for everyone. This is a public service your performing. Well done you! And, of course, well done, venting buddy!
Bushman, B.J. (2002). Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167202289002
Gračanin, A.; Vingerhoets, J. M.; Kardum, I.; Zupčič, M.; Šantek, M.; Šimič, M. (2015), Why crying does and sometimes does not seem to alleviate mood: a quasi-experimental study, w, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-015-9507-9
Massey, S. G.; Merriwether, A. M.; Garcia, J. R.; Modern Prejudice and Same-Sex Parenting: Shifting Judgments in Positive and Negative Parenting Situations. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 2013; 9 (2): 129 doi: 10.1080/1550428X.2013.765257