I suffer from a chronic condition. A condition called “overexplaining.”
I didn’t realize I experienced this type of disease until the birth of my third child. The child who didn’t latch right for nursing, the child diagnosed with lip and tongue tie, the child who I call “Fiery Rhett,” because from day one he has made his presence known by screaming and turning bright sunburnt red. The child who sleeps with me at night. . . (Even though, yes, I know better . . .)
The aha moment that clued me into my overexplanation problem came during our overnight stay at the hospital when Rhett caught RSV and needed oxygen. The nurse asked me what he was eating, how much, and for how long. My response sounded something like, “Well, he has lip and tongue tie so he only latches at night, which is weird, I know, but I pump during the day, and I have a three year old so I really can’t pump as much as I’d like to so sometimes I give him formula a couple times a day when I can’t pump enough. But it’s organic because I’m really careful about ingredients and all that so I researched the best one and found this one. I like it, but yeah, I wish I could breastfeed him all the time, I know that’s better. Especially now that he has RSV.”
When I finished, I looked at the blank face of the nurse. I realized I said plenty, but failed to answer the original question. Why? Because I was overexplaining.
Overexplaining: It’s a Chronic Problem . . .
The nurse is not the last person to hear of Rhett’s “latch problems.” Countless numbers of unsuspecting people, including my friend’s poor husband who innocently asked me how I was doing at church one day and received the whole sad story as a verbal onslaught of TMI. So embarrassing.
Now that I am aware of this condition I suffer from, I see it pop up everywhere. When someone tells me they like my shirt, I usually respond with a thank you and a story about where I got it and what a great deal it was.
When I’m with a group of moms and the very favorite not-so-favorite topic of body after baby comes up, I end up overexplaining how I usually don’t lose weight until after I wean my kids and my body likes to hold onto a little fluff in case of famine. Or, I explain how I haven’t gone back to the gym because, at first, Rhett wasn’t old enough for child care but then I pulled my back . . . That threw a wrench in my running goals.
I overexplain why my 3 year old isn’t fully potty trained yet, why I chose epidurals for my labors, why I won’t eat dairy right now, and why I’m homeschooling my oldest this semester. But, the worst? That’s when for NO reason I feel the need to explain why I am pouring powdered formula into my baby’s bottle. MY baby’s bottle. (Insert shameface.)
What Drives Me To Over Divulge?
Finally stopped to assess WHY I feel the need to overexplain things. I found that at the root of my countless monologues is the need for approval. The freedom from judgment. The fear that someone else will think that I’m doing a horrible job at momming.
A long time ago someone told me, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” In many areas of life I accept that. I get that.
But there is something so emotionally driven about my value and worth as a mom that I find it hard to separate what I KNOW and what I FEEL.
I compare myself to other moms who flawlessly breastfeed with one arm. (Did I tell you my baby has a hard time latching during the day?) I compare myself to the moms who have their children perfectly scheduled and potty trained by 2. (While my 3 year old runs around in a diaper most days!) I envy and fret over how they have crib trained their newborn by three months. (Meanwhile I’m still a human pacifier for my 4 month old all night long!)
I fear even putting those things out there because I know some well-intentioned mom will tell me what I should do differently.
In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says, “Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”
What a great reminder that slaps me in the face every time I read it. How I mother my kids does not determine my value. I know this. How that mothering looks to other people? That shouldn’t matter either. The Ultimate Parent gave me discernment to parent the way my kids need me to parent. I can sit and worry about how I look as a mom, or I can trust that the Lord is leading my and making my paths straight.
His Justification Means I Can Stop Justifying Myself
When I remember to acknowledge that HE sources my value, He honors that and comforts me and it allows me to relax and say, “Hey, I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.” And that’s okay.
I don’t need to overexplain in order to justify anything. Of course, I don’t need need to be a know-it-all either, which (to me) is the other extreme (and a whole different post).
I can choose to be confident in my calling, in the place where I station myself day by day. Depending on HIM to guide me, not anyone else’s approval.
Erin Kerry is wife to Richard and “mama” to Isabel, Roman and baby Rhett. She worked as an English teacher and ESL Department Head for a middle school in Plano, Texas before going full time as a SAHM and ambassador for Plexus Worldwide. She loves bingeing on Netflix with her husband, playing games with her kids, getting sucked into a good book, running races (slowly), discovering unique craft beers, and trying out new Mexican restaurants. Read Erin’s posts here.