I’m pregnant and have a two-year-old daughter which means I’m low on energy, high on hormones, and pretty much on the verge of emotional breakdown any given second after I open my eyes each morning. I’ve always tried to keep emotional composure in front of my daughter, even when she was a newborn. I come from a stoic Midwestern family and hardly remember my parents shedding a tear throughout my childhood (or adult life). As a parent, I always worried that letting my daughter into those vulnerable personal and parenting moments would make her uneasy, and less likely to feel safe or cared for.
And then, last week, it happened. That kind of cry that comes on so sudden and fierce that you think you’ll never be able to stop, the hot tears that rain from the past, present, and future. The kind of cry that leaves you feeling alone, raw, and breathless.
The episode: Living in a big city without a car, I depend on public transportation to get around. Residing in a foreign country means I often find myself in unfamiliar neighborhoods and sometimes disoriented and feeling totally untethered. After a long morning lost in the rain, I finally found a train station but the elevator was broken and no one was around to help us to the subway. My daughter was soaked and crying, and inconsolable. She had just dumped an entire cup of juice in her lap.
It may have been dramatic, but, I wanted to fall to my knees. Everything in me came to the surface. I cried because I felt like a parent-failure. How could I live in this city without a car? Why did I need to go out in the rain? Why did I give my toddler juice in a cup I knew she couldn’t wield? Why am I living in a foreign country with a child? What makes me think I can handle another baby when I can barely manage the one I have? I missed my family. I missed my old life. It was a confluence of events, daily stresses, and life compiling. And I couldn’t stop the tear faucet: I was alone, scared, and exhausted.
It was just one of those parenting moments that makes you wonder how you will ever mother properly, how you will ever be able to “human” properly. Everything felt completely and utterly unmanageable. I sobbed while I pushed the stroller down the street another mile to find another station. I cried when I finally found an elevator and I cried the whole way home, even after my daughter had fallen asleep from her own tears of exhaustion. I know she saw me and I worried about what that meant to cry in front of her. On the one hand, she should see me as an able and emotionally grounded caretaker, on the other hand, shouldn’t she see my vulnerabilities too?
Looking for support and out of genuine curiosity, I asked other parents in my circle how they handled similar situations. Is it okay to cry in front of your child and under what circumstances? I also did some research and I found that the answer was a resounding YES! It’s okay to cry in front of your children.
So… rather than feel like a shitty parent once again, I came up with this list. Ten reasons your kid should see you cry.
- It will let them know you are human. Well, you are. And there is nothing wrong with being fallible, and having moments of doubt or weakness
- Letting them in on your pain can teach them empathy. Your children empathize before they can even speak. This is another opportunity for them to say, “It’s okay Mommy,” or “Are you okay?”
- It opens up conversation about feelings. Crying in front of your children lets them know that it’s okay to be sad. You can use the moment to teach them strategies to feel better, like, “Okay, it’s time for Mommy to take some deep breaths…”
- They will learn not to feel ashamed of their emotions. Hiding your emotions ultimately teaches them to do the same. Would you want your children to hide from you when they are sad?
- It shows there is beauty in all emotions. The human experience is rich and complex. Engaging the full range of emotions teaches children that there has to be dark to see light.
- They will be more comfortable to come to you when things get tough. Even if they are still toddlers, the lessons will stick. Your older children and teens will be more comfortable talking to you if they remember that you also are willing to open up. It is your job to reveal who you really are as a person.
- It teaches them to be vulnerable. Being a strong and resilient individual also means learning to be vulnerable. This is an important lesson that you can teach your children by showing that you also have moments of weakness, doubt, sadness, and frustration.
- It allows you to be human. While it lets your children see your human side, it also allows you to be vulnerable, to be honest and forgive yourself, to not raise yourself to unreasonable standards. Parenting is not a superpower: it is loving, compassionate, and it is human.
- Stuffing emotions is bad for you. Trying to hide emotions overtime is extremely unhealthy and crying is actually a powerful and necessary release. In the end, it’s good for you—and them!
- They already know. Even if you think you are good at hiding your emotions, you’re probably not. Kids are hypersensitive to your moods and it is just as likely that they will already sense something is wrong.
Do you think it’s okay to cry in front of your children? Are there certain times when it’s better to keep it to yourself? Share in the comments!