|Parents cry. A lot. It’s not that we’re overly dramatic, it’s just that little people come with lots of…drama. All-nighters. Emergency rooms. Biting. Unexpected expenses. Alarming rashes. Weird smells emanating from unidentifiable sources.
Then, after a long day of ordinary dramas, we settle onto the couch with our snuggle-bug for a bedtime story about how the mama tree will give all of her fruit and branches and even her trunk to her spoiled child in order to achieve her highest purpose: a stump. (That’s right. A stump.) So, yeah, some hot tears are gonna bust out now and then.*
Some of even start to strategize about the best places for an upcoming and necessary sob session, whether it’s a darkened movie theater, between the dumpsters in the alley behind our apartment, that plastic children’s castle in the park across the street, or the new Thai restaurant where surely everyone will assume it’s just the spicy peanut sauce causing all the face leakage. (Did you think you were alone in this mindset? Nope. Check out this tumblr about best locations to cry.)
But is all that location scouting necessary? Should we be ashamed of our tears?
Obviously there are times when we need to do our very best to hold it together. A job interview, for example. Or when we’re with someone that we have good reason to maintain strong emotional boundaries. (Need some tips on postponing a meltdown?)
Look, the science is still out in terms of whether “let it out” is a actually a thing that works. Sometimes we may feel worse after we cry. But we do know that tears in a safe space with others can elicit empathy from others, and that can be just the ticket to feeling better. So it could be time to rethink whether hiding out is necessary.
But what about our kids? Should we protect our kids from our sadness?
Yes, to some extent, but not completely. In fact, it’s important for children to learn that all people experience all emotions, including sadness. The key is to talk with them about it in an age-appropriate way. Keep it simple, let them know it’s not about them, and reassure them that it’ll be okay. “I’m feeling disappointed about something that happened at work today, but I’ll be okay after I finish crying and wash my face.”
If words are hard to come by, we can always just hit play on the former NFL star Rosie Grier’s “It’s Alright to Cry.”
Now that’s for commonplace tears. Sometimes we also next-level ugly-cry due to the death of a loved one, a financial crisis, a divorce, or some other significant hardship. Gasping, ranting, and rending of clothes may be necessary. Or we may cry frequently and inconsolably because of a clinical condition such as postpartum depression.
These are the times when we need to ask for help, both for ourselves and for our children. In the moment, we need to do our best to send our child to a neighbor’s or a friend’s house so that we can take the time we need to tend to our pain without also having to tend to their needs. If the feelings are overwhelming, we may also need support from a wise friend, a doctor, or a mental health professional to help us understand what’s going on and how we can heal.
No matter how bad it is, someone else has also gone through it and has wisdom to share.
And/or laughter. (Human misery is hilarious in this music video.)
Our shoulders are here for you, Strong Mom!
*Disclaimer: the author of this newsletter despises The Giving Tree with her whole heart, but Mountain Home as an organization does not take an official stance on whether or not Shel Silvertstein hates mothers.