Whenever I complain about never being able to sleep in I usually get some kind of cutting comment from someone who wants kids and can’t have them, telling me that I should appreciate what I have. I do appreciate my kids. I also appreciate sleep. My friends who are full-time parents get guilt for not appreciating their lifestyle. What is that about? Parenting without a break is a hair-pulling (sometimes literally) endurance challenge. Then I get twitted for “farming out parenting to a daycare” because I’m a working mom. No matter what your family situation is, you are not allowed to complain because you have it so good, according to people who have no idea what your life is like.
I officially give everyone the right to complain. Within reason. Don’t let it eat up your lives, people! Picking who you complain to will help you get the support you need.
The reason I was thinking about this was that after attending the workshop for the summer reading program, I was not feeling inspired or revved up. I was feeling bitter. As bitter as a child-less woman at a toddler’s birthday party. As bitter as a stay-at-home mom reading blog posts about a friend’s career achievements. As bitter as a working mom seeing someone write a facebook post about getting up at noon to a day of doing nothing.
I didn’t have the time, resources, energy and personnel of the other librarians sitting with me at my table. They were all children’s librarians in large libraries, each one of many sharing the load. I pictured them sauntering into their libraries, doing a program for a large and appreciative audience, then going home. They didn’t have to figure out how to cover the library’s hours if people got sick, train for a new billing system, submit time sheets, update the website, replace the paper towels, shovel the back walkway, submit the annual report, catalog all the books, be on call for the security system….the whining in my head was reaching a fever pitch. Even one of my other colleagues (not at this table) revealing to me that she couldn’t afford to fix her car didn’t cut on my inner tantrum. I should appreciate my job, the autonomy of being in charge without any direction, the full time salary and benefits. I questioned my mental health. Surely there must be something wrong with me to be this bitter.
Then it hit me. It’s ok to complain. Nobody has it perfect. Complaining does not mean you don’t appreciate what you have, it means that what you have comes with issues, just like almost everything in life. Voicing a sentence or two about your troubles should be met with sympathy and understanding. In a perfect world it would be.
Accept that you won’t get what you need from just anyone. It is sometimes difficult to give that sympathy and understanding when the complainer is very different from you. For example, complaining about having to get up at 9 am usually won’t garner you much sympathy from the general public, even though for you it was horrible because you work nights. Your fellow night workers will get it immediately. Complaining about being a library director to a bunch of people who would love to be in charge? Not going to get much sympathy.
I held off whining to this group, and bit my tongue when they vented their frustration about being too structured and being bored with their jobs. I will find another small library director and vent to her, and she will completely get where I’m coming from.