Why women need to complain more

Published: January 21, 2012
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Why is it that when we stop being single and become wives and mothers, we stop talking about those relationships?

I can’t tell you how much I relied on my girlfriends for my sanity in my 20s. During our student days at the University of Virginia (UVA), we were each other’s roommates, psychiatrists, parents, and siblings. Far away from my family in Bangladesh, my friends and I became each other’s families.

But something happens to our female friendships when we leave our 20s and enter our 30s. As we get older and get married, have babies, work, work more, and did I mention, work more, we also begin to talk less.

Why is it that when women need their girlfriends the most, they stop reaching out to them? Why is it that when we stop being single and become wives and mothers, we stop talking about those relationships, especially when they are not going the way we always wanted them to?

Three years ago when I was planning my wedding, one of my oldest best friends was there with me every step of the way. But half way through the wedding plans, my sister heard a rumour that my friend was getting divorced. I thought it was the most absurd thing, and angrily brushed it aside as my sister spreading gossip about my friend. But when I asked her about it, she confirmed that she and her husband had been separated for months.

There is a certain shame that comes with struggling in your marriage, different from the kind you would have in other romantic relationships. As many modern, empowered women struggle with where the institution falls into their lives, many women still view getting married as an accomplishment. However married women are often the last people to tell you that they are having problems in their marriages.

Women also talk less about their problems when they become mothers. Up until recently, even the issue of post-partum depression was kept under wraps while millions of women struggled in silence.

Four months ago I became a new mom. As anybody will tell you, the first few weeks of motherhood are unbelievably challenging not only because you have no idea what to do, but also because your body has been through an unimaginable journey that it barely has time to recover from.

As new parents, one night my husband and I got into a huge argument, in front of my mother no less, who was staying with us at that time. I was physically exhausted, recovering from a c-section, and needed help. But instead of asking for it, I chose to get into a heated fight over the remote control. When my mother came to console me, she told me that as women we have to do more, shoulder more, and do it in silence.

“Equality doesn’t exist, Anushay,” she told me. “Men just can’t do as much.”

I could not believe that my own mother was telling me this. The woman I had learned everything about feminism from, was telling me to suck it up, and accept things as they were. I looked at her and told her that I could not believe what she had just said  to me.

“This is going to be a blog post, mom,” was my response.

I went and communicated my pain and frustration to my husband. Co-parenting and sharing responsibilities as a family was something we had talked about at length way before having our baby. I had to make sure we were on the same page because frankly, and as I communicated to him, I could not do it on my own. I needed help and he had to help me. Having this conversation early on helped us reconnect and get back on the same page.

It also made me realise that most women do not ask for help, and other women, most often our own mothers, discourage us from asking for it. Being a mother, especially a new one, is physically and emotionally challenging, particularly during the first few days. Seriously, it is like being on another planet. I have no idea how women do it on their own. It is flat out unfair for women not to have all the help in the world as they embark on this role.

Who are we protecting when we hurt ourselves? Who benefits when we let our mental and emotional state deteriorate? No one. As women, we owe it to ourselves and our families to stop pretending and start talking.

Women need to complain more about their kids and their husbands, about motherhood and marriage! When we share our burdens, we discover our support systems. After all, if we can learn one thing from the 1950s it’s that perfection does not exist. And nor should we want it to.

This post was originally published here.

Anushay Hossain

Anushay Hossain

A Bangladeshi born, Washington based author of Anushay's Point and columnist for Forbes Woman, Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine. She tweets @AnushaysPoint

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.