Despite the pressure to complain, there is a way we can be joyful.

I read a blog post recently about this WaPo article Why don’t dads complain about parenthood like moms do?  The authoress of the article complains about the fact that men are doing more childcare but aren’t complaining about it enough.  The blog post about the article calls this miserly feminist ugliness, and I mostly agree, but what the blog author might not realize (I don’t know if his commenters realize it or not, as I don’t have time to read blog comments anymore) is the pressure that women get from other women to complain about their husbands and children.  It’s not limited to feminists by any means, even though some feminists have perfected bitter complaining to an art form.

For an example of what I mean, consider this story Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution shared several years ago:

“Now contrast this happy family with a news article that came out last week in which a mother called her children the “biggest regret” of her life. “[L]ike parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return,” she says […]

This reminds me of an experience I had when I was pregnant with Older Daughter. Don and I spent a weekend as vendors at a craft show. In my excitement about the baby, I mentioned to many people that I was pregnant.

Toward the end of the day, the woman in the next booth turned to me and said, “So. I hear you’re pregnant.”

“Yes,” I replied proudly. “The baby is due in December.”

“You’re going to hate it,” she said flatly.

Startled, I replied, “Excuse me?”

“You’ll hate it. Believe me, I have six kids, and I hate them all.”

For the next half hour, as I slumped lower in my chair, she poured poison into my ear about how awful motherhood is. By the time she was done, I was crying.”

Instead of complaining, Patrice was filled with joy (and if you read Patrice’s blog, you know she’s hardly a woman who sugarcoats how hard of work life is), hence the poison that the other woman felt the need to pour into her ear. Any woman who shows too much joy in her husband and children will face this at some point; the pressure put on women by other women to complain and criticize their husbands, children, and family can be intense, as the WaPo article demonstrates.

Personally, I’ve experienced just about every situation at one time or another – working full-time, working part-time, being at home full-time, homeschooling, having my children in a Christian school, and now finally living somewhere where we feel okay about having the kids in the local public schools (because they are small, rural, and Christian-friendly; we even go to church with some of our children’s teachers).  And what I’ve found is that I’m tempted to complain just about as much in any one situation as I am in another. Sometimes I’ve complained because I had a legitimate need for help – for example, I had to ask my mother-in-law to come stay with us for several days this week because I just couldn’t keep up while my husband was out of town – but other times I was jes’ bitchin’.

Deciding to focus on gratitude for even having a family to serve is what has worked best for me in quashing my feminine tendency to complain about whatever situation I’m in and whatever people I’m around.  Because really, if women aren’t complaining about their children and husbands, they’ll just tend to complain about their co-workers and bosses. Of course, most men complain too (yes, they really do, despite the saints and martyrs routine some men spout), but men don’t pressure other men to complain the way women tend to do.

If I have any useful advice at all to offer my fellow woman here, it would be this: don’t complain about your family – not your husband, not your children, and not your extended kin – nor about doing your duty to them, and do your best to ignore the pressure other women place on you to be a bitter, grumbling complainer. There is no need to be fakey-fakey-everything-is-awesome! about it; it’s okay to acknowledge the reality that your duty may be hard and heavy in a particular season, it’s even okay to say, “I really need help because I am overburdened right now.” It’s okay to admit that sometimes certain family members (hey, teenagers, I’m lookin’ at you here) can be quite, shall we say, irksome.

No matter. They are yours, your very own people!  How blessed, how very blessed, we are to have our own kin!  There is hardly a greater joy than our own highly imperfect but infinitely dear kin and kith. If we love them well and look for the joy in serving them, surely, surely God will sustain us and bless our families!

…may the righteous be glad
    and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds;
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
 God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

From Psalm 68

Or if you prefer, be encouraged by this gorgeous old Maria McKee song, my favorite lines from which are these:

Tell me why wasn’t I more grateful?
Why wasn’t I more grateful?
Why wasn’t I, why wasn’t I more grateful
When life was sweet, when life was sweet?

Some people want and want and want what they don’t have
‘Til it keeps ’em awake at night in their bed just twitchin’
Some people like to complain about every little thing
Some folks just never stop bitchin’

I had a good man, I took him for granted
And now I surely, surely, surely, surely miss him
Wasn’t it enough? wasn’t it, wasn’t it enough?…

Why wasn’t I, why wasn’t I?
And it keeps me wonderin’ what might’ve been
Keeps me wonderin’ what might’ve been, yeah
To the Lord more grateful