May 13, 2012

No, It's Okay To Moan. Really.

This morning, on Mother's Day, I read a very powerful piece in Sunday Life magazine that originally appeared in The Guardian. Written by Bibi Lynch, a childless 40 year old, it is entitled 'Mothers, Stop Moaning', and implores women with kids to, well, stop complaining about how hard it all is and start appreciating our good fortune.

The article was quite a devastating read. Ms Lynch, to me, has experienced two tragedies; 1) her inability to have a child when she so desperately wants one, and 2) her belief that her life is pretty much meaningless unless she becomes a parent. I know how intensely I longed for a baby, and I can only imagine how painful it would have been to not have that dream realized. I don't, however, believe that life is only meaningful when and if one reproduces. I know several women who are childless, either by choice or accident, and they live lives as fulfilled and happy as anyone with kids, just in different ways. I'm sure there are times when they miss that particular experience, perhaps with a fierce sadness, but each of these women lead lives filled with love and significance.

But still, it's very easy for me to say that, as a mother of three. And I acknowledge my incredible good fortune at having my beautiful, healthy children (just see my previous post). Having said that, I strongly, passionately believe that this good fortune does not and should not preclude me from also acknowledging how hard motherhood is. From 'moaning', if you will.

To an extent, we women are victims of the innate desire to reproduce that so many of us feel. If it weren't for biology, why on earth would we do it? Sign up for a life of responsibility, of worries, of chores, of caring for another person and putting our own needs last? Motherhood can be the most rewarding thing in the world, but it is also, variously, frustrating, boring, upsetting, anxiety-provoking, exhausting, maddening, and overwhelming. Some kids are incredibly challenging, and mothering them can be terrifying and demoralizing and - at times - utterly thankless.

Telling mums they shouldn't moan is like telling kids not to talk about their feelings. It simply forces women to swallow down their emotions, forces women to pretend everything is okay when they might be dying on the inside. The best thing to happen to women was for the walls to come down, for permission to be given for us all to talk about our experiences, and share the difficulties - as well as the joys - of the hardest job on earth. Doing so doesn't mean we don't love and appreciate our kids. It just means we're human.

I feel desperately sad for Bibi Lynch and I hope she can find some peace with her situation. But telling mums not to moan isn't going to help her one bit, and it could do other women a whole lot of damage.


  1. So well said Kerri....I am thankful everyday for my 3 kids...but moaning somehow gives me the ability to get through the really hard days. Can't wait to see you talk in the Shire tomorrow! Happy Mothers Day!!!

  2. Absolutely. Doesn't mean we moan all the time or don't love being mums or don't appreciate what we have. I had the same thoughts reading this. We had trouble conceiving and there were bad times for me thinking I might never have a child, but still, any life is hard at times and in the modern world we're allowed to vent and tell truths.

  3. Yes! Well said. I remember reading Bibi's piece in the Guardian. I read it on my iphone in the middle of the night when I was up feeding my little one. for the third time that night. That was the sleepless night that followed a highly challenging day juggling the needs of a baby and a toddler the highlight of which was discovering that instead of napping my cheeky toddler had decorated her bedroom... with the contents of her nappy. I read that article and tried to have compassion. But I'd spent the afternoon cleaning toddler crap of the walls, carpet, and various teddies so I felt I was more than entitled to a bit of a moan!

  4. That article made me cry. I just felt so sorry for the author but I also felt a bit cross but was having trouble articulating why. I got very cross with people when they announced their pregnancies when I was trying to get pregnant through IVF. Not what you're thinking though - I was upset that my friends thought I was so selfish that I would care more about my childless state than their up the duffedness.

    Thank you for articulating the reason this article upset me - apart from the sorrow I felt for the author. I couldn't get there myself. I can't think of an analogy that isn't indescribably trite. It shouldn't mean the subjugation of someone's emotions, feelings and personality just because they were lucky enough to have become a mother.

    Excellent writing, once again. Good luck with the perfect floppy grey beanie hunt too! X

  5. Having been on both sides (kinda) of the equation, I do understand her pain. I had unexplained secondary infertility and a number of miscarriages. I did hate pregnant women for a while. Training as a midwife, oddly enough was what saved me from becoming bitter. By the time I finished my training, the water in maternity had affected me and I was pregnant (6 months). Her and her sister are absolutely gorgeous, not too much trouble, but I do feel the responsibility of being tied down for longer than I would be. My older kids are adults now.
    I think people are almost competitive about their complaints, especially on the Internet.

  6. cleverly put Kerri.  So true.  I don't think anyone that decides to start family planning has any idea what is in store for them until they're there.  Everyone bitches and moans about something.
    Damn straight, i bitch about my kids too.  as long as i'm the only one doing it.

  7. No one stops me bitching about my kids. NO ONE x

  8. Ranks right up there when I diagnosed with anorexia and was told by a friend that I should be happy I was able to lose weight so easily. NOTHING minimizes your suffering faster than being told you should be grateful for it.

  9. Mmmm .... Today my kids have been beautiful, annoying, loving and exasperating ... That's just fact, not moaning.

  10. So true Kerri. I believe everyone's reality is important. x

  11. Great post Kerri - I blogged about something similar today - sort of... my devastation at not having a family and how torn I am between being happy for those who do and being insanely envious.

    I haven't yet worked out what life will be like without a family of my own but hope I'll get there someday. 

    It means I'm more conscious about not instilling the same beliefs / assumptions in my niece's life. I never talk about her getting married and having kids / becoming a mother as if it's her destiny.

    I grew up thinking I'd have all of that because THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE DID... and yet... here I am...

    But I agree, we shouldn't begrudge others their happiness or their moaning.


  12. I wonder if Bibi would like my 2 teenage sons to move into her house for a week, then she could really experience the joy of motherhood. I am greatful to have 2 healthy boys but seriously I spend most of my time either worrying or being annoyed at them. Moaning & bitching to my sisters, friends, workmates & basically anyone that will listen prevents me from becoming completely insane.

  13. Bibi Lynch has completely forgotten about Valium and Bex from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, hasn't she? The right to complain about your kids come with the heartburn and morning sickness and being up at 4 am from a hyperactive baby inside you.

    I had a 24 hr labour, one failed epidural, an emergency C-section and then a child who would not sleep for more than two hours in a row for the first six months of his life. Talk to the hand sister, not to the face sister.

    BTW - I love him (my son) more than life itself. He is genius to rival Einstein, Gates and Steve Jobs put together and his destiny is to become an eco-warrior, humanitarian doctor who saves the world from the energy crisis. Yes, the son does shine out of his rear end - thank you for asking.

  14. Thanks Kerrie. I'll write my own blog post about this when I get the chance but I felt like you: so sorry for her pain and annoyed that because we have children it should preclude us from complaining. It's like asking rich people not to spend their money because poor people don't have any.

    Everybody's problems are their own, no matter what they are. Motherhood is everything you say and worse for some. I know this because I've counselled plenty of them through my vol work for PANDA.

  15. Kerri,

    So well said. I have some special ladies in my life who represent the whole game of becoming a parent;
    1/ could conceive naturally with tough pregnancies to boot
    2/ could only conceive via IVF
    3/ had their first child at 41 (a miracle)
    4/ a lady who so desparately wanted children but had not found her life partner yet that she has tried absolutelt everything (as a single girl) to fall pregnant and has not; she is now 44 and mostly likely this journey is lost
    5/ a fabulous sassy BFF who recognised that her biological clock has since past and is single and living life to the max as a result but has come to terms with that 'lost' path
    6/ the strongest lady I know who only has just found her 'soul mate' and the love of her life to be told in her mid-30's (yes, that young) that she has the slimmest chance of conception after 5 pregnancies during her life which were a result of miscarriage or termination decision

    So no matter how you live your life I strongly believe it is wrong to judge other situations.

    Women sometimes tend to be the worst judge of other women so maybe some compassion needs to be strong her for both sides of the debate.

    Bibbi Lynch should be at the top of the empathic tree.

    Further to Keepcatebusy's comment I had a very close friend say to me that when I had my miscarriage and needed support that it must have just been like a bad period!!!!!!! ... I was fabergasted. More so that she just didn't understand what I was emotionally going through. For me I realised she had no idea but this was not her fault, this was MY emotional journey.So sum up Bibbi should think about the cause of the emotional journey not the judgment of others.

  16. I'm in Bibi's camp. I don't begrudge anyone from having a whinge, but I have a couple of friends who do it *constantly* whining about their kids. Then one will say "you can have my 15 year old, she's being really annoying. It'll put you off having kids" (or something to that effect). I WOULD GIVE ALMOST ANYTHING to be a Mum and see my child at 15, but I DO NOT WANT YOURS.

    I cannot imagine my life without a child and whilst I still have time and resources, I'm going to make it happen. Next year, hopefully I'll be able to write a different comment.

    N x

  17. interesting a friend who works in child care was making mothers day gifts and just happen to mention it on FB I asked if it was a good idea to make gifts. She asked if I dint agree with mothers Day I simply said "No". When asked why I said...
    'I just don’t agree with all the hype that goes with ‘Mother Day’. For these reasons;
    It elevates mothers to a super humane platform that says that are all gentle, caring, compassionate, kindly, benevolent etc
    In some cases that may be true and if so I am sure that most of these mothers would be appreciated and told they are loved all the time.
    Some mothers are quite the opposite and do not deserve to be told they are good people.
    Some mothers no matter how hard they try can never live up to the expectations of their children and mothers day only enforces their feelings of falling short of the standard.
    I also wonder how the day makes the women who desperately want to be mothers but for whatever reason cannot be, do they hang their head in shame while pretending all is well?
    Also and I honestly mean this, if a child cannot tell or show their mother that they love her during the year then why bother/pretend doing it on Mothers Day?

    However I am only a man I may be w, ...wr, ...wron .....not as right as I thought I was! :)

    Fathers Day ... is the worst day of the year I really hate it when all you want is to be a father to your kids and they or others wont let you.

  18. Oh god, I just read that article and it made me feel so terribly, terribly sad. And lucky. This article is not about us. It's about her.

  19. Today (mother's day) my beautiful miss 4 came into my bedroom at 7am asking me to put "Pingu" on.  I asked for a cuddle,and as she snuggled I saw a headlouse!  I had to be somewhere at 9:30, then  at mums at 12:30 with the rest of the fam, and had to make a fruit platter and bake which involved a trip to the shops.  I deloused two children trying to remain calm amongst tears and protests of stinging eyes etc.  I love my girls more than anything,  and have given up my career for a job so I can spend time with them, but sometimes the mess (untidy house) and the chaos  feels overwhelming.  It is such balance always between staying true to who I am and being the mother Iwant to be.  It is not really a complaint, just pointing out that everybody makes choices that have consequences no matter what life they choose.

  20. Well said Kerri.  Just signed up for your

  21. I like this, especially the part about living life to the full with or without kids. I don't have kids yet, and I don't know if I ever will, but one thing's for sure I hope my life won't be defined by this. I love kids, idolize my nieces, but Motherhood is a job I just don't know if I'm cut out for, and you kinda wanna be sure... :) Mums deserve a little moaning, me thinks :)

  22. Dont you all get it? She WANTS to moan about her kids... She would do anything to be able to. Have some compassion, its not an attack on mums who whinge, just sit with the bad uncomfortable feeling the article gives us and dont have the urge to expel it and attack the writer...

  23. It is hard with no children and hard with children. As a mother of 6 whose first son was still born at 36 weeks, I hear both sides of  the story. But the best we can do is to teach how daughters that fertility is a gift. Get your husband while you are young so if having children is a problem you can get some help and not become an old lady with an exploding fertility time bomb that fizzles out with no children.
    So many women have been told the lie you can have it all and get children when you are ready. My advice is you will never be ready and you never meet the perfect man to marry but get on with it and have your marriage and children.

  24. Been on both sides of the equation.  Being childless for a very long time is soul destroying, Christmas and Mother's Days are sheer torture.  Trying to explain that feeling to a person with kids is impossible.  All the words come out wrong, and I admit, you end up sounding shrill and terribly 'me me me'.  But you are in terrible pain, and for a while, it does feel 'me, me, me'.

    Admittedly, those with kids are on a hiding to nothing - complain about your kids to an infertile person, you're a terrible person.  Gush about your kids to them, you're rubbing their noses in their pain.

    All I wanted was my friends to just accept that, sometimes, I was in a very bad place.  And sometimes that made me not such a good person to be around.  And to be there on the other side when the cloud would lift.

    A lot of friends didn't stick around.  A few, deeply cherished ones, did.  And I love them as my sisters.

    But being on the other side now, a mother to two little cherubs (mostly), I can see how effen hard the whole motherhood deal is.  I complain loudly, and often.  But I do pick those who I complain to, and try and use a little compassion when doing so.

    Just like - if my best mate's husband has had run off with his secretary, I don't sling off about my husband to her.  Or gush about how fabulous he may be.  Not for ever, but just while she's in pain.

    It's the old 'walk a mile in my shoes' thing.    I just try and remember that.

  25. Loved the post and all of the comments. But it was "Some kids are incredibly challenging, and mothering them can be terrifying and demoralizing and - at times - utterly thankless" that caught my attention. My 13 yo son is so challenging and I don't say a word because I don't want to "moan". As a result, I'm carrying the load myself. Dying on the inside pretty much covers it. Now where's that got me? ...well, besides here :)


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