Teacher vs. Mum: Who Whines More?

I was recently invited to take part in two separate days of no complaints and positivity with Cuddle Fairy. You can read about her day, and posts from the other lovely people who took part here.

These days fell at particularly interesting times for me; they corresponded with the two things that take up all of my time: motherhood and teaching.

One of my #nocomplaints days took place while I was at work, as an English teacher, in a busy Birmingham comprehensive school. The other happened over fifty miles away in leafy Gloucestershire, where I spent the day, mostly indoors, with my three year-old son and one year-old daughter.

Being a parent and being a teacher are diverse and difficult roles. Anyone who has done either will be quick to enlighten  bore you with an extended narrative featuring the challenges they face.  In fact, both parents and teachers have suffered a fair amount of negative press relating to the amount of complaining done by each. We are ‘martyrs’ and, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw and the Daily Mail, too privileged to know what stress is:

Daily Mail screenshot



On the parenting front there is also this viral facebook comment from an anonymous mother. It received quite a bit of backlash itself. I have chosen to include The Unmumsy Mum’s annotated version:

Unmumsy mum's annotated comment


Despite Wilshaw’s wilfully outrageous claims and the unwitting naivety of the anonymous mother, we could all probably complain less.

Yet we are human – all of us – with our safe beds, warm clothes and food on the table. I am aware that even my very worst days are someone else’s best; I am also aware that we are all fighting something and to complain is a form of release. So I went into this challenge with those thoughts in mind. Does complaining too much make us more unhappy, give us more negative thoughts? Or is it a necessary release to help us cope with the struggles we all face, privileged or not?

And so back to my days…

Both days provided me with ample challenges to overcome in terms of avoiding complaint. I broke two of my toes the day before the teaching one started and, a week later, I still couldn’t wear a shoe on one foot ready for the stay-at-home day. The children (both pupils and offspring) enjoyed that no end:

My broken toe


The teaching day was beset by: a 4am start (thanks to the snotty baby); a long commute made longer by traffic; meetings; discussions of new monitoring and feedback plans; reprimanding homeworkless students; and hobbling between classrooms while Year 11s looked at my fashion-statement foot disdainfully.

My mummy day involved: more hobbling; breakfast tantrums, a blood test to monitor my pre-diabetes at the GP (with children in tow); nap-refusal; one vomiting incident; one act of toddler violence with a remote control; and cooking a nutritious lunch for two which was then resolutely not eaten.

I could go into a lot more detail about the ups and downs… but you get the gist.

My conclusions at the end of the two separate days were quite surprising. Complaining is almost an endemic part of teaching; from the moment I stepped into the staff room I felt huge pressure to expel any negative feelings I had about any part of my day. These pressures were both external and internal. There is certainly an expectation, almost akin to peer-pressure, that you will complain when conversing with other teachers for any length of time. In addition to this, I found that simply trying to dismiss my negative reactions to problems before I gave voice to them didn’t work. I wanted to complain.

I wanted to join in with the camaraderie of lambasting Year 11, how they have gone off the rails and need to learn some respect and work ethic if they are ever going to achieve their target grades. It was cathartic. 

My mummy day, on the other hand, was completely different. For a start, there was almost no social element to my day. The only adult I spoke to before my husband returned from work was the nurse who took my blood and that was the briefest of exchanges. My daughter cannot talk and my son’s main areas of conversation mostly relate to requesting snacks and considering the size, shape and purpose of his inordinate toy vehicle collection; there was no one to whom I could complain.

Of course, this didn’t stop me having negative thoughts. Particularly when, after a highly charged lunch, my toddler hit his baby sister over the head with the TV remote because she dared to touch the potty that he was refusing to use for the purpose it had been intended. But as soon as the negative thought came, I remembered I was being positive and it slipped away, still flimsy and insubstantial, before it had the chance to take over.

I genuinely think I had a calmer day because of it. I felt like a better parent. Of course, when my husband returned, I did relate the tale of the remote control incident, with some vigour and colour, but the bite was taken out of the negative emotions by then.

So what does it all mean? This challenge has led me to think much more philosophically about complaining and the role it plays, psychologically and socially, in my life. At first, I was unsure what it all meant – was it alright to complain as a teacher, but damaging as a parent? Was my perception that complaining could be ‘good’ in some circumstances simply a matter of this behaviour being ingrained in my teacher’s persona?

Complaining can be cathartic but it can be damaging too, leading us into a spiral of negativity that makes us feel worse than we need to. As with so much, context is key. Being aware of your own thoughts, your own feelings, how you choose to act on them and how they act on you is key.

In a way, my days of #nocomplaints have, ironically, taught me to appreciate complaining.

But they have also taught me to discard negativity and complaints when they seek to overwhelm me.

As for who whines more, teacher or parent, I think we’re on a pretty level pegging.

Now where’s my wine?


Teacher vs. Mum - Who whines more- The no complaints challenge asks all to go a whole day without complaining once.

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37 thoughts on “Teacher vs. Mum: Who Whines More?

  1. fellow #nocomplaints buddy here! It really does make a difference doesn’t it! I was also an English teachers so there are many things I could rant about when it comes to our government and how they treat teachers and also teachers’ workload. Grrrr 🙂 #justanotherlinky

  2. I LOVE this post. Parent to 18month old daughter & FT Head of History at a busy Bristol Academy. I totally empathise with the regime of complaining being ingrained into teaching – I’ve been feeling incredibly negative at work lately just because we’ve all gotten into this expectation that we’ll whinge. Maybe I should try to instigate a staff room wide No Complaints day! I wonder if we could adhere! Thanks for a great read – and I hope your toes are healing nicely!

    1. Thank you so much and so much for commenting. I think it’s a tricky line to walk – not bottling things up but not getting weighed down by negativity – especially with the exhaustion and sleep deprivation working parents of very small children might experience! A no complaints day for all teachers is a brilliant idea. We could all do it for charity! Thanks again 🙂

  3. I am a teacher too and totally identity with this. I think a bit of moaning is cathartic. It’s just knowing when to stop.

  4. I think we are all guilty of complaining far too much. I always feel terrible guilty when I have had a negative day as I know my children see this. Trying not to complain, to take a breath and smile may make us all feel a bit better! If not there is always chocolate and wine! #KCACOLS

  5. This was interesting to read from your two different days. I used to moan a lot in my previous employment and it stressed me out no end but having a moan to my sister about my daughter refusing to get ready for school had the opposite effect! #KCACOLS

    1. I think complaining definitely has a place and can make is feel better. But it can mske things worse. I guess knowing when it is each is key! Not sure I figured out all the ins and outs of that. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  6. I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the #nocomplaints posts. I really like your post. I like that you say how you need to complain in certain situations, it makes us feel better…it’s a group activity and cathartic. Yet by taking this approach in other areas means you felt less negative. So I’m inspired…I’ve been a real moaning minny lately to the point where my husband this morning asked me to think of five things that make me happy! (Oops, that’s my line!). So when he gets home tonight I’m not going to complain to him about anything. A #nocomplaints evening! #KCACOLS

    1. Ah thanks. I really wasn’t happy with the post and took ages to get finished as felt like I was contradicting myself a bit! Glad my point wasn’t too unclear 🙂 Thanks for commenting

  7. you definitely had plenty of things to complain about :p I have to say, i’m a natural whiner – which recently I have found drags other people down and myself and I have been making a concerted effort to change that. I tend to use running as a way to release my annoyances and deal with things without offloading too much on others! Thanks for Linking up to #KCACOLS hope to see you back next sunday 🙂 x

  8. This is a brilliant post! I’m sorry it took me a few days to get over. I had an insane weekend – the #nocomplaints would have been a huge stretch for me lol It really is interesting to think about how complaining can be habit or even part of certain social situations, like the staff room. I think by having a few no complaint days we can break the habit or at least see that one is there & recognize the triggers that bring on our negative thoughts. It was great to have you take part, I hope to organize another one next week! I’m going to link this up to my positivity post now. x

  9. I think that the commonality between being a mum and a teacher is that both roles can be underappreciated. When I noticed I was complaining a little too much I decided never to complain unless I was willing to offer a solution…that helped nip that one in the bud 🙂

  10. I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. I really don’t want to go back to teaching at the end of Mat leave because I do it so negative a lot of the time. I’m not sure what would happen if I rocked up to the staff room and just said – I’ve just had the most amazing lesson – would it be boasting? The best thing we ever did as female staff was start complementing each other’s outfits. One day we were chatting and someone pointed out someone else’s shoes and it spiralled. Obviously it wasn’t everyday but we made the effort to say what positive thoughts we had out loud – it made the day a little better somehow.

    1. Thank you. Teaching definitely needs an injection of positivity. We usually have positive moments with the kids but you’re right that the staff seem to stay away. Maybe it is fear of boasting too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  11. We all love a good whinge don’t we (including our toddlers), and it’s a good way to get things off our chest. But as you say we’ve not to let it spiral into complete negativity. I feel sorry for my husband sometimes as he gets a barage of whinge when he gets home. If I’ve stayed in with the boys he’s the first adult I speak with after a day of preventing the baby touching EVERYTHING, the toddler always complaining he’s hungry (all the time), and the random acts of violence between the siblings. Having a moan or whinge to him doesn’t mean I’m unhappy or fed up, it just means I need to get things off my chest , then I have a cuppa and move on. I love being a mum but I think sometimes we all need a break (even if it’s just to sit on the loo for a wee without having an audience). Oh and kudos to you for teaching, a very rewarding yet bloody hard job to have. Thank god for wine and chocolate 😊 Gem x #BloggerClubUK

    1. Thank you. I think there are definite pros and cons and you need to strike a balance. Teaching is much easier now I am part-time but there are still days I wonder how the hell I am managing (or not)! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  12. I have so much respect for you as a teacher, you are there to educate and inspire young people into doing the best they can and yet there’s always a few that let the group down .Trying to educate hormonal teenagers who think they know everything there is to know about life must be so frustrating, I was that kid in class who told the rest of them to be quiet because I wanted to learn, so I can’t imagine how hard it is being a teacher. You can’t discipline them in the way you would discipline your own children, and you can’t tell them to shut the hell up, when they really deserve it I think teachers deserve a lot more respect, especially secondary school teachers.
    It definitely sounds like you had a contrasting few days with the no complaints challenge. Good for you for not dwelling on the negative thoughts, and keeping your mind focused on the positives within each day 🙂 xxx #BloggerClubUK

  13. I also took part in the two challenges and I was at work for the first one, and at home for the second. I found the second one much easier, maybe because I knew more what to expect, maybe because there was no personal injuries like there was on the first one, or, most likely because I didn’t have to deal with customers (I work in a bar, it’s hard not to be negative when you have to deal with some of these people!). #bloggerclubuk

  14. Wow you did amazingly! I can’t believe you broke your toes, poor you. I hope they’re on the mend now?
    It sounds like we might be in similar parts of the world, I live in Gloucestershire (and bizarrely used to commute up to Birmingham too – I really don’t miss that, though I did love reading on my train journey when I wasn’t working! Anyway, I digress again! Really well done, I don’t think I’d have done as well (I actually didn’t take part in the first one as I knew I had a contentious post going live and thought didn’t want to not beable to vent if need be – yes I know that’s not the point, but I had geared up to it for a couple of days. I didn’t realise there was a second, and definitely would have taken part. #kcacols

      1. Ahhhh I wouldn’t have seen you then, I was always on the 7.12… 🙁 Poor you driving it, at least I sometimes had my book! x

  15. I understand that if things are not right, then we need to complain. Mr Wilshaw is obviously being ignorant of other people’s feelings. I don’t think we complain enough in this country. I have got into the attitude that ‘it’s too much hassle to complain’ or ‘I don’t want to hassle anyone so I won’t complain’. I wish there was a way of doing something about silly MP’s or their minions like Mr Wilshaw is.


  16. I was a teacher in a former life (nearly 9 years ago), and am mom to 5 kids. I definitely could stand to follow this advice! It’s a hard job to do, for sure. But I’m certain that you are right…it could be easier if we chose to let go of things that aren’t worth festering over.

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