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When Mama Cries

I had a very bad day today. I'm feeling extra vulnerable thanks to uncertainty over the future for my family -- can I survive on art alone? I'm feeling extra poor today. And my husband is on edge and somehow manages to say exactly the wrong thing at all the right times... the internet is sometimes a hard place to be all, you know, defensive and sure of oneself and stuff... I ended up entirely unsure of anything. We have a 20th reunion for our high school class coming up Friday, and I overcommitted and have a ton of responsibilities, all of which I want to get accomplished -- so everyone will have a great time, right? I spent half of the evening in tears.

Even the neighbor girl, 12, noticed -- our house is such that there's no real good place to be alone. She came up to me and put her arm around me as I sat on the front porch, hiding behind the grape vines. "Are you ok?" she asked. "Sort of," I said. Both Monroe and Truman gave me several wet sloppy cheek kisses as I, later, read them the Dueling chapter from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Everett was extra solicitous of me. I thanked them profusely.

I never know quite what to say when I dissolve in front of them. I've never been one of those people who can box their feelings up to let go later -- and anyway, our house is not the sort of place where one retreats with the vapors (if only). I just apologize and tell them why (in simple terms) I was feeling sad, and thank them for being so patient and kind.

How do you deal with the sometimes powerful emotions of being a mama around kids? Bottle up, let 'em rip, go for a run, call up your mother and tell all?


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I have 2 sons and i can count on one hand how many times they've seen me cry (although, i don't cry much), mainly because it just worries them, saddens them, and makes them feel insecure. But on the flip side, i think it's okay occasionally for them to see me cry so that they know that it's normal and okay to feel sad. I never want them to see me fall apart, and when i do need to cry, its out of their sight if i can help it. And if i can't help it, well then that's just one of the few times they get to see me cry.

If you hide how you feel from your kids, you're not being who you really are. The best parenting advice I ever got (from my dentist!) who has three amazing kids, is be who you really are around them. Your kids don't want a phony. They want you.

Lol, I hardly think shielding my boys from one of my emotional meltdowns/hormonal cries is being phony. Should i discuss our finances with them too, so that they know truly how rich or poor we are? =)

Dear jln,
Do you see how we posted at almost the same time? My response is a sincere attempt to be helpful to the original poster. I didn't have an opportunity to read your post before I posted mine. It's neither a response to - nor an attack on - you.

I think it's good for kids to see adults expressing emotions and dealing with the ups and downs of life in a healthy way. They should know that even mommies and daddies get sad and worried sometimes, but they talk about it, and deal with it, and things get better. I think we should be sensitive to the age of the child - no need to have a blubbering meltdown in front of them, or tell our 5-year old about our money woes. Little minds don't have the life experience to put things into perspective like ours (usually) do, and a passing remark can lead a child to worry unnecessarily.

Due to a variety of reasons I was already feeling emotionally fragile when coming home from work last week. My husband and I have oppostite schedules so he had to rush out the door as I was walking in and he said something that, although it was not his intention at all, completely crushed me. I shut the door and melted into tears on the couch. My 1 1/2 year old came over, looked into my eyes and smiled and gave me the sweetest little kiss. I think it's good to let her see that sometimes mommy cries too. She's learning an important skill; empathy.

I'd say that as long as sadness, anger, etc. are not pouring out of you all the time (which might make your kids feel insecure), it's good for kids to see someone model a healthy expression of emotions. I can count on two fingers the number of times I saw my mother cry growing up, and I remember as a child feeling like I couldn't express my emotions freely around her. She made me feel like being scared and sad was weak. I don't want my son to feel embarassed when he's sad and I want him to feel comfortable to express his emotions (and talk about them) with me.

I've actually found with my son that when I have cried in front of him (though I haven't had much to cry over during his toddler years), it's brought out his nurturing side, which is also not a bad thing. It's good for children to develop their empathetic and caring sides -- to look at someone in pain and want to make them feel better. We also want them to feel safe and secure in our care, but that doesn't mean that we have to hide our emotions away.

And when I was crying all the time when he was a baby, that was a signal to me not to hide my sadness from him, but to get help.

Look for the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where the wife wants Raymond to leave the house so she can have a good cry. It's a riot, and I think a lot of us can relate sometimes to not having the freedom to just let loose sometimes. And it will be good for a cathartic laugh!:)

Cafe Mama, I noticed that the post about food from yesterday is gone. That makes me sad, as I think you did a brilliant job of raising an important issue. But I can entirely understand how, if you're in a vulnerable place, it just isn't worth it to raise your cortisol levels with the inevitable attacks.

Also, I feel your pain. I spent the morning sitting in a car parked outside my daughter's preschool, calling doctors and praying for a solution (and an appointment before December!!) for my really, really troubling medical issue. Last night, I was so distracted and upset that I could hear the fake cheer in my voice as I tried to be "normal" with my daughter. She notices every tiny nuance in my feelings, and takes them on. And the thing is, these are feelings that are constant and ongoing, not a brief dip down where she can see me cry and then feel better. I'm not about to lay the reasons for my despair on her little shoulders, or put her in the position of trying to be a caretaker, so how do I put on a brave face and do the internal work I need to do to be happy and present for her -- while I handle these grownup concerns? I agree, we want our children to see us as full human beings with a range of emotions. However, I spent way too much unhealthy time as a kid being a shoulder for my crying parents, to my own detriment. Our kids need to see us feel things and resolve them, but I really struggle with putting them in that caretaker role too much and too often, when the worries are really big.

Take good care.

/rambling oversharing

Maybe it's worthwhile to consider how your family handles crying in general. Sometimes when my 5 year old daughter collapses in tears I just hold her and encourage her to get it all out. I tell her it's all right to cry (and yeah, I do sometimes sing that cheesy but wonderful song from "Free to Be You and Me") I mean, there is a biological reason for crying-- it really does help
you feel better.

Another thought. I wonder if asking for help, from a friend or neighbor, or even making a phone call sets a good example for our kids. Then they can see their parent crying, understand that it happens, but not be frightened that they need to fix it. (And it helps them see that asking for help and talking things through can help.)

I dunno. Just brainstorming here. Either way, I do try not to cry in front of my daughter but I certainly have. And I hope that just talking with her can calm any fears she might have. "Remember when you cried because you felt overwhelmed at school. Well, I'm feeling like that now."

And, as a person who is also deeply unsure of her family's future, I send you strength, hope, and a vision of you and your family getting exactly what you need.

I never used to cry in front of my children. My upbringing made me feel like it was almost never ok to cry. Then a couple of years ago my (then 7 YO) son said to me in passing "isn't it weird how kids cry, but parents never cry?" It was a wake-up call for me. I was passing on a message I never intended to pass on to my kids (adults don't cry) and one I certainly didn't want to pass on. Since then I've been more open about crying (within reason) so he can see that it's healthy and normal for everyone to cry when they are hurt or sad or overwhelmed.

I think there are a couple of distinctions to draw here.

1. Is this an occasional upset or is it chronic?
2. Is it upset over something that will strike too close to home for your kids and be scary or overwhelming? (money worries, conflict with your partner/their other parent)
3. Are you the kind of person who feels better crying alone or do you like to share?

Wow, this is topical for me, at least. I suffer from major depression, so I have periods (weeks, months) when I'm crying for no obvious reason. My kids notice and I think they are confused. My almost 3 year old now regularly asks "Are you sad?" The best I can come up with is: Yes, but I'm working on it, and its not your fault. Since before they were born, I've worried about passing on this disease to them. I guess my main message, mamas, is you are not alone.

Hi Sad Mama - I just wanted to share that I used to suffer from depression-- major symptom was a lot of crying. I cut gluten out of my diet and I've seen very positive results. I have absolutely no idea if that information is useful to you or not. I just put it out there on the off chance it might be helpful. And I wish you the very best.

I know experts say with seeing parents argue, that it's not a problem for kids to see that, but it's important that they see the resolution also. I think it's the same with our sadness. It's appropriate to show them we are fallible humans, but it's also important to show them how we find outlets, or look for ways out of our own pain.

I cry in front of my child, I always have and I always will. I only saw my mother cry one time and it terrified me. I never saw my father cry. How insane! I don't think emotions should be terrifying. I don't think it is normal or natural to Never Cry.
We are human, we get sad. Personally, I don't get into details if they are inappropriate. And usually, I am just crying because I have pms or I am just sad. I discuss pms openly. And when I am sad, I just say "I am sad and I feel like crying." Then, I cry.
I find it helpful to say "Oh, thanks for your empathy. I was feeling so sad, but now I feel better. I just had to cry and be sad."

After a devastating confrontation by my inlaws last summer I was visibly upset the following day--exhausted with red, swollen eyes from crying myself to sleep, and crying yet again while trying to come to some resolution with my inlaws that morning when obviously my kids were up and around the house. It was awkward, to say the least. My kids keyed in right away on the fact that something was very, very wrong. One of my most tender memories as a parent was when my then 5 year old very sensitively and sweetly asked if I was sad. I said yes, through the tears in my eyes. He then asked if everything was going to be ok. I assured him that yes, everything would be fine. And then he asked if I needed a hug. That hug was one of the best things I could have ever received, it was so healing! In that moment, he showed some of his true colors and I have never been more proud of the boy that he has become. He is very intuitive, he's sensitive to change, he's caring, and he's a great friend.

I agree with others who've said that as long as crying, fighting, anger, etc is not a constant in the home, it can actually be quite healthy and "educational" (wrong word, hopefully you catch my drift) for our kids to see that even adults struggle with ups and downs. In my case, it was also wonderful confirmation for both my son and I, that we are family, we're in this together, and that yes, eventually, things work out for the best. Best of luck to each of you Mamas!

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