Why I Cry in Front of My Kids
In the household I grew up in, crying wasn’t encouraged. I am a sensitive soul, and I feel everything really deeply. (I’m an Enneagram 4, look me up). I cried. A lot. And most times I was crying, I was told, “Kristen, stop crying!” The older I got, the more comfortable I got with my tears. Now I can be seen crying in public over coffee or beers with a friend, at a moving concert, or even – gasp! – at home in front of my kids.
I think that it’s important for our kids to see us be vulnerable and open. They should see that, even as adults, we don’t always have it all together. My kids get to see my goofy side, my happy side, and my fun side. But they also get to experience my sad side. When I’m frustrated and am crabby, I do my best to explain to them, “Mommy is just having a hard day today. It doesn’t mean I’m mad at you, but I’m just having a hard time with my feelings.” When I cry in front of my kids, I’m usually asked, “Mommy, are you sad?” and I respond, “Yes, I’m feeling a little sad right now. I know I will feel better soon, but right now, I just feel sad.”
When I cry in front of my kids, they get to see how I lean into that emotion, how I work through it, and how I ultimately feel better eventually. Modeling a full spectrum of healthy emotions and, in an age-appropriate way, showing them how to work through and feel those emotions will, I hope, help them to be able to identify their own feelings and be able to work through them on their own.
I’m not always sad when I cry in front of my kids. Sometimes there are days when I’m just swept away with their innocence and beauty, or I’m so grateful to have healthy and happy kiddos that I just cry. When they ask if I’m sad then, I get to share with them the idea of joyful tears. I’m sure when they’re a little older, and I take them to weddings, they’ll see me cry there too. I’m a sucker for a good wedding.
I love the fact that I get to share the whole gamut of emotions with my kiddos. Obviously, I try to do a good job of documenting the joy and happiness in parenting. But I also try every once in a while to take a photo of a bad day. Some days I just feel smothered. I’m out-touched, out-talked, and out mommed. I feel like I can’t do it anymore. On those days, I can use words like, “I’m feeling frustrated today because I need a little bit of time to myself.”
The choice to cry in front of my kids has given me the ability to express my own weakness and humanity in a way that makes sense to them. To be clear, in no way am I asking them to be the ones to offer comfort or be the ones to solve my sadness. Working through my emotions is my own personal task and something that is for me to do. They may offer a hug or a snuggle, but that’s because that’s what’s been modeled to them when they’re sad. That’s just normal human empathy.
Now, when they cry, they usually come to me and say, “I’m sad.” And if they see another person crying in public, they’ll ask, “Mama, is that person sad?” It makes me smile to know that I’m doing my best to teach empathy. I want my kids to know that tears don’t make you weak, and being able to express and work through your emotions with other supportive people around is a wonderfully healthy way to live.