Motherhood makes you do a lot of things that you said “I would never” back in your kid-free days. One of the things I promised I’d never be was a nagger. I would not remind my kid to put his sippy cup in the sink 15 times, nor would I remind my husband to do basic household tasks like taking the garbage out and unloading the dishwasher. Yet here we are.
I can’t pinpoint the actual day that I started nagging. As a Black mom, I used to joke with my friends that nagging was a non-negotiable part of the Black mom toolkit. But years later, I’ve noticed nagging is one of many things that transcends racial boundaries.
For the sake of housekeeping, I feel the need to make a distinction between nagging and pointing out issues. I’m all for calling people out when they fall short. And let’s just say sometimes my beloved spouse falls short.
But nagging is different. It’s more like a way of expressing your frustrations, over and over and over again, with no intention of seeing a solution. It’s a way of complaining about something that comes from extreme frustration with the way things are, but not knowing how to better use the energy. If you’re not careful, nagging will totally consume you. And I fear that I’m getting near that point.
I’ve found myself trapped in loops of nagging and complaining about anything and everything — even things that I don’t really care about — just for the sake of feeling heard.
While technically anyone can be the recipient of nagging, it’s usually done towards spouses and children. If you wanna know if you’re a nagger, think back to a time you commented on something that frustrated you, repeatedly and couldn’t help but to mention it at every opportunity. Yeah, that time you just thought about… I hate to break it to you, but you were probably nagging.
The thing is, I don’t mean to be a nag. Really, I don’t. But there are so many things, both personal and systematic, that I can’t control that leave me with steam coming out of both ears.
Also can we talk about how awful the word “nag” is? And “nagger” is even worse. So, yeah, I guess maybe I’m nagging about the word nagging.
Despite having this long list of very valid frustrations that multiply daily, I want better for myself and those around me. I know my grievances are much more than petty complaints and I’m afraid that my delivery will impede action. The most common recipient of my nagging is my husband – and since he tunes me out most of the time I’m not sure it’s very effective.
TLDR: I’m frustrated and want to stop before it drives everyone I love away.
At this point, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m working to nag less and explain my frustrations more.
Is nagging genetic or environmental? I’m not sure, but I do know my mom nags A LOT. Then again there’s a shit ton of things to be upset about as a Black woman in America.
There are plenty of gendered perspectives on why women should have the right to be pissed. But when I look further, I notice that’s a pretty problematic freedom for me.
I don’t nag with the intention of being an annoyance. I nag with the goal of feeling heard for the first time. There’s no doubt in my mind that millions of others have been labeled as “nags” when they just wanted to be taken seriously.
From childhood, women and other marginalized folks, are trained to grow up in a world where we often speak but are never heard.
I believe “the nag” was created as a defensive mechanism with offensive undertones that suggest that if you aren’t going to listen to me, you’re at least going to hear me say the same thing over and over again.
But there are two problems with this tactic. The first is that nagging puts women in a position to be classified as sensory stimuli that can be ignored. In other words, the more folks complain about women nagging, the easier it will be to continually downplay what we’re actually complaining about. Particularly as they relate to women’s physical and emotional frustration with continually giving out unfair amounts of emotional labor.
The second is nagging is generally done in a way that we do not expect to be taken seriously. By classifying myself as a nag, I am admitting that what I am saying is perceived as unimportant by the world around me. It hurts to be aware that no one is listening to you. It’s frustrating to feel like you must be stuck on repeat to be heard.
In a way, nagging often is a self-fulfilling prophecy: We feel unheard, so we nitpick. Then our nitpicking is perceived as filler words, so we’re ignored. Wash, rinse, repeat. The cycle starts over again.
Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to curb the amount of “nagging” I do. I haven’t stopped complaining; instead, I’ve started being more intentional in my frustrations. I’m not dropping hints and complaining about unrelated issues. I’m clearing explaining what I need from those around me.
Instead of spending my time nagging, I’m saying NO when I don’t want to do something. I’m letting those around me know that the things they say don’t work for me in the moment, instead of holding on to them and reflecting later. And I’m being firm and advocating for my needs in my relationships.
I don’t want my daughter to inherit the same pervasive frustration that I inherited from my mother. And I’m the only one who can break that cycle. It requires me to speak to her about how to advocate for herself and lead by example on what she should look for from others. Her grievances matter.
Nagging is so much more than a general complaint. It’s the result of years of exhaustion with being unheard. I don’t want to “nag;” I want to be listened to and respected. Just as we all do.