08 January 2013

On Not Complaining

I need to make an addendum to my resolutions: to work on not complaining.

I say "work on" so that I can't weasel my way out of it by saying "oops, too bad, I tried" in a couple hours, which is unfortunately the longest I'm likely to make it without messing up.

Last Lent, Matt and I both tried to give up complaining. It was a good spiritual exercise, and consciously trying not to complain made me painfully aware of how readily I do it. But Lent ended, and as our Lenten sacrifices usually do, my efforts ended with it.

It's not that I have trouble with gratitude; each night as I'm putting Little Bear to bed, I thank God for so many things that I tend to fall asleep in the middle of the rest of my prayers! Our family has been greatly blessed, and I am very aware of that.

Why do I complain, then? Maybe I need to start by asking what I complain about. Not my family, at least, not much; I occasionally become frustrated by unhelpful "helpful suggestions," but that has been pretty rare, thankfully! Not our circumstances; I am so grateful to my wonderful husband for going to work at a frustrating job every day to allow me to stay home with Little Bear, and I know that we have everything we need--we laugh together about what we want in our someday-house, but I am certainly happy where we are now. The cold? Well, yes. But there is complaining and complaining, and I'm pretty sure that when I grouse about -40F, I'm more expressing a (fairly) genial "Good heavens, that's frigid!" than whining and wishing it would change.

I complain the most, I think, about myself. My own failures, imperfections, even doubts. I've set up an impossible standard of what a 'good Catholic wife and mother' looks like, and when I don't measure up, I become so frustrated! Pretty much anything that goes wrong during the day, I can attribute it to my not doing something right. And then I complain about it.

"I'm such a bad wife--dinner wasn't ready on time."
"I'm a terrible mother: I only read him one story today."
"None of the housework got done today... I'm such a failure."

Is this pride? Wanting to be perfect, and complaining when I don't achieve that goal? I never will, and I know it; only God is perfect. I'm a mother of a small child, and who one else really expects my home to be cleaner than "good enough" for the next few years? I can do my best, but it isn't right to be unhappy when I fail to reach perfection if it simply isn't within my reach to begin with.

So pride is certainly a part of my problem, but I think priorities are a part as well: I get so caught up in everything that has to be done, I need to realize that holding my baby while he sleeps is infinitely more important than scrubbing the bathroom floor--he won't be a baby forever, and the floor will still be there to be scrubbed when Matt gets home and wants to play with him.

Pride, priorities... and peace. Beyond pride, my need to do everything perfectly stems from a fear of being looked down on, as if people will only like me, will only think well of me if I don't make any mistakes. If my house is clean. If dinner appears on the table precisely at 6:30, the towel rack in the bathroom looks like Martha Stewart's, and the baby is always quiet and happy. I need to learn to let go of my concern for what others may think of me, and ask the Lord for the grace to be at peace, accepting myself, and our home, and our lives as they are right now, not as I think that someone else thinks that they should be.

There we go: I will focus on (and pray for help with!) overcoming pride, reordering priorities, and finding peace. Hopefully that combination will help me to work on not complaining!


  1. Thanks for this post! I need reminded from time to time!

    My new year's resolution is to spend 20 minutes of quality time with Andrew daily. That means on the floor in one solid chunk. Reading, having him help with chores, or splitting the attention with Peter doesn't count.

  2. You need to come to my house for the afternoon and then you will feel all better. I am a good Catholic wife and mother, and you should see my laundry pile! I do not bake homemade bread, eat organic carrots, or sew anything. My kids watch TV and I wear pants! Not better or worse than those who do it differently, just different. Open invite, anytime.