The Fine Art of Bitching About Your KidsMonica Bielanko
It’s not only tough being a parent, it’s equally difficult to talk about parenting. More specifically, it’s difficult to talk about your kids.
Wax too poetic and you’re showboating, complain too much and, depending on your audience, you could really earn yourself a degree in jackassery.
As Tracy Moore (one of my favorite writers over on Jezebel) says in her very fine piece excellently entitled How To Bitch About Having A Kid (Without Seeming Like A Total Dick) when bitching about your kids you’re working with an extra handicap. “Unlike other endeavors in life, people find it extra annoying if you complain about childrearing. While it’s perfectly alright to bitch about college, shitty jobs, learning French, or being friends with people who really really like sports — all enterprises that will test your will to live at one point or another, mind you — bitchin’ up a good-old fashioned hurricane about how hard it is to parent will usually be met with the question, “Geez, then why’d you have kids?””
But complaining about your children is as much a part of parenthood as making snacks and bandaging booboos. It just is. It has to be done. The steam has to be released somehow and innocent bystanders are fantastic targets. Better them than your mother-in-law, who will carefully file your complaints away in the Rolodex of her mind and find a way to use them against you at a later date.
So how exactly can you whine about your juvenile delinquents without sounding like one yourself? It’s a very tricky business, but it can be done.
Choose your audience wisely: As previously mentioned, do not complain to your mother-in-law. She is judging you! She may say she isn’t but she is! She is not to be trusted. She is constantly evaluating your parenting performance whether she means to or not. It’s just what they do. If you complain to her she may nod and tell tales of when your spouse was a child (another thing they do) but she is also judging. Don’t give her any more ammunition than she already has.
Similarly, don’t complain to your parents, those smug bastards. All they’ll do is remind you about what an asshole you were as a child and say something equally lame, something along the lines of payback’s a bitch and then go back to watching Dateline or whatever it is they like to do. And even if they don’t say that they’re thinking it. Don’t give them the satisfaction!
Another group of folks that is off-limits is the child-free single people. Listen, they just don’t care. As Moore says over on Jezebel, “Even though they are working on a Tumblr about how hard it is to be both alive and pretty simultaneously while in your 20s, your whines will only sound like the whir of a vintage Mac slowing down their Pinterest page devoted to vintage beauty oddities. And hell, on the off chance one of them is interested in your foreign-sounding hot probs, you’ll have to spend so much time explaining the concept of willingly staying home on Saturday nights that it won’t be worth the kind nod.”
Yes. What she said. Not worth it. I know, I know. It doesn’t seem fair seeing as how you have to listen to them complain sadly about how they ate a bucket of take-out Chinese food alone in their apartment while watching a movie (HEAVEN!) and one jerk-off boyfriend after the other just so you can nod sympathetically about how hard it is to date these days and then tell them how smart and beautiful they are and how they deserve so much better, but that’s just the way it is.
Now, if the person is partnered but doesn’t have kids, they don’t want to hear your sob story either. They still have that rainbows and glitter version of parenthood monopolizing their brain. Remember those days? When you held a friend’s sleeping baby before handing it back when it started to cry? Back when your vagina was still intact and nary a stretch mark marred your beautifully tanned skin? Like letting a child believe in Santa Claus for as long as possible, let them have their parenting dream and find out the truth on their own terms. Besides, these people, the ones who want children eventually, are the ones with whom you run the biggest risk of looking like a dick. They’ll write you and your sniveling, little complaints off in an effort to keep their glittery parenting dream alive.
We’re running out of options, aren’t we?
Another group you should avoid? As Moore says, if they have more kids than you shut it down and move on. “They may as well be child-free for all the sympathy you’re gonna get here. They can give YOU great advice, but your complaining is the sonic equivalent of a rich kid Instagram.”
Who’s left? Well, people with the same number of kids than you or, ideally, those with less kids than you. Then, by all means, bitch away. These people are your complaining soulmates. You can really score with those who have less than you because they can relate, but your plight is obviously worse and so you require their utmost sympathy!
BUT! There is still a fine line to walk.
Don’t get all mopey and depressive about it all. Keep it light. Moore advises to alternate devil child with hilarious anecdotes. “Tell the story about the poop you found smeared around the bookshelf and on the books you’d been reading for months without noticing cause you had that recurring sinus infection and couldn’t smell, then quickly downshift into a cute follow-up about how the kid dresses up her monkey to match her own outfits. They won’t know what hit em!”
And always, always, end with No really. Kids are great, though.
Moore says “It gives you a free pass to rant in any number of directions while keeping one hand on the bring-it-back button, so that you’re never in danger of seeming like a completely bitter, awful, tormented soul.”
Now that you’re schooled in the fine art of bitching about your kids, go forth and bitch my friends. You’ll feel better. But, if all this is too much for you to remember then just do what millions of other parents have done before you and start a blog and safely bitch there. It’s the new American pastime.
Photo credit: zawaj.com