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5 Ways to Reduce the Working-Mom Whine Syndrome

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Every mom is a working mom. I firmly believe that.

Some of us leave our homes to work. And others of us work from our homes. Location doesn’t determine the validity of our work. And neither does a pay check.

Unfortunately, our modern culture often doesn’t validate what we do unless we derive an income from it.

But I can’t tell someone who spends her days caring for an aging loved one that her job is less important than someone who works in a nursing home getting paid to care for the elderly.

And I can’t tell a mom who stays home every day to care for her young children that her job is less work than someone who works in a daycare and gets paid for her position.

I can’t tell a mom who teaches her children at home that her work is less valid than someone who goes into a school, teaches children there, and gets a paycheck.

I most certainly can’t tell an unpublished writer that her writing is less work than someone who has a couple books on the shelf and is bringing in an income.

No one should ever make us think any less of ourselves or our positions simply based on the location of our jobs or our income level (or lack of it).

Work is work—no matter where it takes place and whether we get paid or not.

However, if you’re like me, you want to feel validated for what you’re doing, for all of that hard work you do day after day, year after year.

Whether we get paid for our work or not, we working moms often don’t feel appreciated for all the many, many things that we do. And when we don’t feel appreciated, and when we get busy, and when things get overwhelming—and invariably they will—we tend to develop the working-mom whine syndrome.

Yes, we working moms, have the tendency to whine.

I became aware that I’d developed the whining syndrome when one of my teenage children pointed out that I was complaining a lot. (Teenage children are the experts at revealing our character flaws, aren’t they? )

And of course, once he mentioned it, I realized I had grown rather whiny—about being interrupted, about not having enough writing time, about having to play taxi-mom during my coveted writing time. You name it. I was complaining.

Now the truth is, I may not always get the kind of validation for all my work that I’d like, particularly from those closest to me. They won’t always see how many roles I have to juggle, all of the multitasking I have to do, and all of the sacrifices I have to make in order to do my work.

I can’t control their reactions.

But I can control mine. And in particular, I’ve realized that I can control my whining and complaining. Here are just a few ways I’m learning to do that.

1. Bite our tongues. Count to ten. Literally, grind our teeth together. And force ourselves not voice our frustration when we’re tempted to. When we complain aloud, we set a negative tone in our homes. Our children can even grow to resent our work because of all the negativity surrounding it.

2. Choose to be grateful. We shouldn’t just stifle the moment of frustration and stuff it down inside. Instead, in the heat of the moment we should find something—anything—that we can be grateful for. We can make a mental list of our blessings. Replace the habit of complaining with a new habit of lifting up thankful thoughts.

3. Identify one problem at a time and tackle it. Usually when we’re complaining, we need to look at our situations and find out what we can change to make things better. But we can’t change everything at once. Rather we can take baby steps.

For example, I’ve gradually worked up to four blocks of uninterrupted writing time a week. But I didn’t start with that much. I had to slowly go from having none, to now having a little bit of time at least four days a week where I can focus without too many interruptions.

4. Share frustrations at strategic times. We should be able to voice our frustrations at some point. But usually, we’ll have a better reception if we wait to share our concerns until we’re calm and can think clearly. Our family or friends still may not be able to see our perspective. We can’t make them change. But we will feel better for having attempted to explain our side.

5. Accept the hardships. Don’t try to dodge them. Sometimes we just have to adjust our way of thinking and accept that the problems won’t go away. I like this quote that I saw on Pinterest: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Today, to help us all in our efforts to juggle mothering and writing, I’m giving away a copy of Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s new eBook called: The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing. For a chance to win, leave a comment (and your email address for contact purposes). Giveaway ends Sunday, April 29 at midnight ET.

Have you ever felt unappreciated or that the work you do isn’t validated? Are you tempted to complain too much? How do you beat the working-mom whine syndrome?

47 comments:

  1. Ooooh, GOOD post. I try not to whine but it does happen. *grin*

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  2. Jody my sister home schooled both of her kids until this year. She can totally relate. It's amazing how many people from church would ask her to do things because "you know, you're home all the time"!

    Can you see the steam shooting out? :)

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  3. I avoid the whine trap by reminding myself I am living my dream. Yes, it is laced with reality ... but this is still my dream. I'm a writer. I'm published. My novel debuts ve-ery soon.
    And the reality is I have to balance all that with being a wife and a mom and all that entails too.

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  4. Oooh! I can definitely relate to this one! :) God's been teaching me that my kids and my job (ministry) are one. Instead of getting irritated when I get interrupted, I have to remember that I wouldn't be able to do this without my family. God uses my family and job to mold me. When I complain, I am not allowing myself to grow and come up higher.
    Thanks for this reminder! Blessings to you:)

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  5. Wonderful post! I do have to catch myself when I want to whine. All of my friends and family think that my entire day is spent on "me" time, that completing a novel is just something I twitter away at for 5 minutes a day... Oops, see, I'm whining... mea culpa.

    That book sounds right up my alley. kskm07(at)gmail(dot)com

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  6. It's not the interruptions so much as that by the time I can sit down and actually write, I'm too tired to do much. Any good ideas of how to handle this would be a blessing!

    ninatmymummyknitsdotcom

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  7. Great post. It can be easy to let frustrations swirl around and become an amorphous blob of unhappiness. The stop, breathe, pick one thing and work on it is a healthy alternative to "the whine." I think it can be comforting to also remember that God sees all we do and appreciates it (even when our families don't).

    Please enter me in the busy mom's giveaway: laurels.leaves@gmail.com.

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  8. Fab post, Jody. I've noticed that if you whine you get even less help with the things you were whining about. I think mums have to be sneaky not whiney :)

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  9. Thanks for the reminder...needed to hear that today:) I've been whining a bit too much lately, which my teenagers tell me;( I'm telling myself 5 things that I have to be grateful for right now! Thanks so much for the perspective today:)

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  10. I'm not a mom yet, but I do have a lot going on: working full time, being a wife, writing on the side, etc. And yep, I've noticed my tendency to whine. I don't like who I am when I whine. And I do realize how blessed I am. I just need reminders every now and then. This is one of them. So thanks for that!

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  11. Yes, little reminders to count our blessings more often is good, regardless of our circumstances.

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  12. Whining is a nasty little habit that's easy to fall into. Thank you for the reminder to be intentional about actions and attitudes.

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  13. This is convicting. I'm guilty of the mommy whine, especially to my poor husband. I'm thankful to have such a flexible job. I'm thankful for my awesome family, and I'm thankful for the writing dream God has planted in me. Great post.

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  14. My husband recently pointed out to me that I've been complaining a lot lately, too. He said, "If it's so hard for you to find the time to write and you walk around crabby because some imaginary person or situation isn't working out, than maybe you should hold off on writing until our kids are a little older." Hmmm... since this is not an option (in my mind), I realized I needed to change some things, mainly my attitude. My first priorities are my husband and children, which means writing shouldn't hinder my ministry to them, it should enrich it. So, I've been disciplining my self, holding my tongue, shoing more gratitude and guarding my "mom" time, my "wife" time and my "writing" time and giving each its proper place in my life. Your advice is spot on. Thank you!

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  15. I always feel uncertain how to answer the "do you work" question--I do more work than when I received a paycheck! :) But I generally don't complain, I err on the side of keeping my mouth shut--but most of the time, when the people I'm talking to find out I stay home with kids, they generally stick up for the fact that I do indeed work even if I do not. If only they knew the four other "jobs" I'm doing. No wonder I'm tired. :)

    rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

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  16. I'm afraid to say I work. I've always been a stay-at-home mom. Writing is like a really fun hobby that takes up most of my time. And now, I'm actually getting paid for it. I know that's it's work. I treat it like a business and a job, but I'm not ready to give up my "stat-at-home" mom status.
    Conflicted. :-)
    jfromke at me dot com

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  18. Let's try this again:
    I work very, very hard not only at wife-ing, mothering, teaching, volunteering, editing, and writing--but also at NOT whining. It's always good to be encouraged with a post like this on the days when I *want* to whine, though...

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  19. Oh wow, what a convicting post, Jody! I tend to feel a sense of entitlement when I need a break from the kids, but whining about it never makes me (or anyone else) feel better. Thanks for these practical tips to keep everyone happy. :)

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  20. I'm just starting to acknowledge the writer side of me after being a stay-at-home mom for 8 years. I haven't gotten to the point of submitting anything for publication yet, but I need to have that uninterrupted time to actually build my writing skills and get something down on paper. I'm not one to complain out loud, I bottle everything up. But I have found a friend who also likes to write, and we sometimes share our frustrations to each other. That helps me to vent to someone who understands what I'm going through, rather than complaining to my family, who doesn't understand this side of me.

    mdwlerew@yahoo.com

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  21. How do I beat the working-mom whining syndrome? I don't. That's why I need these books.

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  22. Those books look good, Jody. I found myself whiney about a LOT of things last fall. Nothing was good enough! I've been practicing your suggestion of gratitude all year. It's amazing what a life-changer it is.

    I have so much that so many people would be grateful for. :)

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  23. I try to involve my kids in a "writing" or "doodling" task when I need to write and they are home. I open my notebook and draw a dinosaur or two before writing a few paragraphs. Just sitting beside the kids makes them happy. My daughter sometimes gets busy on her own "newspaper". One thing I have trouble doing is explaining that my fiction writing/blog writing life is separate from my work life. I work on a computer at home all week, and my young kids don't "get" that my hobby is not "work" but "play". They are more convinced if I get out my notebook to write, rather than my computer.

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  24. Forgot to leave my email: taraATtarabenwellDOTCOM

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  25. I'd love to go back in time and take back my whining and little anger bursts. Ironically, I'd have given anything to go back to my stay-at-home status once I went back to work full time. I have learned over the years to take deep breaths.

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  26. Loving all of your comments today, everyone! I like the idea several brought up to vent with other writers who understand!! Having writing buddies to be able to share my frustrations with has been a life-saver at times!

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  27. Oh boy, am I guilty of this. Thankfully I have a great group of writing friends, most of them moms, who know how tough it is and we support each other and give hugs when needed. Sadly, I think I get more support from them than my husband or family who don't seem to understand how important writing is to me.

    adktd2bks@yahoo.com

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  28. This is such a great post. Sometimes it's hard to remember that whining never makes anyone feel better - least of all the whiner. Thanks for the reminder!

    Julie Hedlund

    JulieFHedlund (at) gmail (dot) com

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  29. Isn't it difficult to not begin thinking that we have the right to certain things from our husbands and kids?! I have to remind myself to slow down and at least enjoy pieces of every day!

    Elizabeth (dot) Giger1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  30. Wow. Did I need to read THIS today. Thank you. What a blessing!

    If I don't win it, I'm going to buy it!

    Aimeelsalter (at) gmail dot com

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  31. Lack of sleep is the biggest trigger for me. I find I complain most when I'm tired....
    The thing that gets me through this is knowing that the exhaustion, the non-existent 'me' time, the constant giving, giving, giving, will not last forever. It will not even last long.
    So I try to enjoy every moment of my kids needing me so and try not to think about the day when the house will be empty and they will be gone. There will be plenty of me time then.

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  32. I'm thankful for your post. As someone who is unable to have children, it can be so hurtful to hear mothers complain about their children.

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  33. This is a wonderful post and comes at a great time!

    I'd love to win the e-book!

    cmshelstad at gmail dot com

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  34. Such excellent advice. One thing that helps me when I'm feeling overwhelmed is that I remember that taking my writing seriously is a choice. I don't have to do it. I could stop writing and no one would notice. But I would notice, and I choose to work hard at it. Knowing it's a choice helps me on the tough days :)

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  35. Wow, I needed to read this today. Thank you. I feel like I'm constantly reminding myself that my kids and my family are not an interruption. They are a priority. It also helps when I remind myself that this is a season. My kids will only be little for a short time. And then, I'll have more time to devote to writing. I'd love to win this book lindsey (dot) m (dot) bell (at) hotmail.com

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  36. Actually, one thing that helps me is to acknowledge that I do have a lot on my plate, and what's going to make it better is not more from me (more organizing! more productivity! more efficiency!) but more help.

    A side benefit of delegating jobs to my kids: they become more capable, and more appreciative (or at least more realistic) about the work it takes to run a house.

    ann dot youpsy at gmail dot com

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  37. A great post. Will try to use some of the tips throughout my day. It's easy to fall into a whining-pattern, the trick is getting out of one. Thanks!!

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  38. Yes, I completely relate and am already on a twelve step program to eliminate whining. I keep bumping myself back to step one when I re-whine, which always happens. I jest, but it is so true when you have kids. They demand so much of your time! It's a balancing act and I am no trapeze artist. However, I muddle through! Someday they'll move out and then I'm thoroughly convinced the house will be cleaner and I'll have more "me" time. We shall see!

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  39. great post! I also work way harder than I ever did for a paycheck, too. But it's what I want (have) to do. Thanks for doing this giveaway! laurieevansauthor(at)gmail(dot)com

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  40. Thank you! Although I know that staying home is what I want and need to do for my family, sometimes I feel very unmarketable and worthless compared to women who earn a paycheck. Thankfully, writing, learning about writing, and learning about social media has allowed me to use my brain more and pursue an interest that means a lot to me without harming my most important "clients", my family. Thanks to all the ladies here for sharing their ideas on how to stay positive and happy. I'm choosing to stay home, and I must also choose to stay happy!

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  41. Whoops! And my contact info: julia (dot) tomiak (at) gmail (dot) com.

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  42. I've really driven myself hard from time to time in the work aspect of writing, and I let it take me away from my kids far too often. I have to keep reminding myself to balance better!

    Thanks for this post!

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  43. It's a constant struggle to remind myself not to whine and be grumpy (despite having such a gorgeous child. Sigh). Whine-lover might be an accurate description of me on some days :)

    Thanks for the giveaway. I hope this is open to international readers!

    Best,
    C
    chryselled at gmail dot com

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  44. Even people who think they understand how busy our homeschooling schedule is, don't really get it. It took me a while to realize that "staying at home" means my house is more difficult to maintain, since we are here messing it up! But misnomers aside, I thoroughly relate to how difficult all forms of mothering are. I've worked outside the home, inside the home, and various other iterations of making ends meet. No one need judge another mom-there is NO way to understand another's journey. I write in the morning, and some evenings--never enough time, of course, but enough to remind myself that sometimes I have a cohesive thought or two worth sharing. Great post!

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  45. I'm trying to get a good readership for my blog! http://poetryprosepopcorn.blogspot.com/ Please read, comment, subscribe!

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  46. Excellent post - I will definitely try out these tips!

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  47. Perfect! I just blogged about writing and being a busy mom. I have kids in public high school and kids who are homeschooled. It's a crazy life, but I love it!

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