I was a Mom Martyr, here’s how to tell if you are too and what to do about it
From the day you change your personal occupation to full time “Mom,” you might feel instantly banished to the world of ‘boring and domesticated.’ The label ‘Mom’ (especially Stay at home Mom) also comes with the ‘ Least Interesting Person in the Room’ award.
Society undermines the value of moms and we start believing it. Some of us think that if we can show how difficult the job is, if we let ourselves get buried under motherhood, we can show our family or society how valuable we are. We are those destined to fall into a hole we’ve dug ourselves and become Mom Martyrs.
I would know; I was one.
I gave up my profession title, clean white shirts and a pay cheque and moved to a small town for my husband’s job so I could become a stay at home mom. I had three kids in three and a half years, and one of them required much of me.
All of these were decisions I was responsible for making, but I acted like a victim of them. I became a Mom Martyr.
You might not have recognized me though. Aside from being the least interesting person in the room, I was also the one donning a dirty housecoat, bed head and holding a cold stained coffee cup to my fake smile. All a visible homage to the under-appreciated sacrifices I was doling out for the cost of being a mom.
Maybe you are a Mom Martyr like I was. Maybe your jaw is clenched and your shoulders are up to your ears. You feel compelled to show the thankless world how hard you are working at motherhood.
Here are some signs that you might be a MOM MARTYR:
1. You complain about how little sleep you get, giving a detailed analysis down to the hour to anyone who will listen. If nobody has told you, this is about as interesting as you retelling last night’s dream – people will smile and nod but they are listening to the more exciting circus music in their head.
2. You tell your spouse they can go do something away from the family and then hold a grudge that they are having more childless fun than you. If you can’t have hobbies and leisure time, neither should they.
3. You become the gatekeeper of how your family spends their free time and it usually involves your “honey, do…” list of chores and tasks rather than leisure and spontaneous activities.
4. You never get a babysitter.
5. You do things for your kids they can do themselves or find yourself wishing they wouldn’t move to the ‘next stage’ because you love the dependence they have on you.
6. Your first reaction is to say NO to anything your kids or spouse want. You know you have done this too often when you learn they are hiding stuff from you.
7. When you do say YES you have a bad attitude about it. Now we have the double whammy of you pouting that you didn’t get your way and being a human vacuum for all enjoyment anyone else may be having.
8. You drop comments about how you need a break but pile on the excuses when one is offered to you. Eventually, people will stop offering.
9. You need two tow-trailers worth of supplies and three days to mentally prepare for any family outing – which you are likely to suck all the fun out of any way in an effort to control everything from the shirt you laid out for your kid to wear to the burger your husband shouldn’t be eating.
10. You turn your kids into your ‘job’ and are constantly assessing their current health status, milestone performance, sleep schedule, diet, etc. You get so pre-occupied with them that your social interactions become your chance to display the highlight reel of your kid’s newest accomplishments and expressing worry about a condition or illness they could have.
11. You are driven by ‘mom guilt’ and put the onus on your shoulders to ensure your immaculate home is full of paleo veggie bites and your kids are happy at all times – the most unrealistic goal a parent could ever have. Sometimes we think we feel guilt, but we have confused it with something else, perhaps the restless need to be constantly ‘performing.’
12. You put yourself last for all things, even the simple act of getting dressed in the morning or sitting to eat breakfast.
13. You deny yourself hobbies and put your dreams on hold. You think if you can’t be the woman you were before children then you have to be over-dedicated to being a mother. You don’t allow for an adaptation of the two and constantly put your passions on the back burner.
14. You silently criticize other moms for their ‘selfish’ decisions like going on a vacation or cooking frozen pizzas, they affirm that you are giving your all to make the healthiest, safest life for your family.
15. You criticize your spouse’s parenting or attempts to help out, but nag at him when he doesn’t read your mind for what ‘you’ want him to do next.
I say all of these things with raised hands of someone who has been there. This is a checklist of how I was living life. I was living on auto-pilot and acting the victim instead of taking responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings and actions.
It’s time to stop thinking nobody appreciates you. You don’t appreciate you. You are being a fun-sucking mombie and your whole family is either walking on egg shells around you or stopped giving into your pettiness. (again, me)
It is true, motherhood is a hard job. A damn important job. A 24 hours, seven days a week, every-single-day job. Why make this hard job harder?
You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself first.
You can’t be a united front in parenting if you are in constant tension with your spouse.
You can’t possibly be any better by sacrificing even more.
Here are some ways to help you out of your mom martyr funk:
Ask yourself what DO you want
What is your vision for how you parent? What things are important to you as a family? How do you want to show up as a mom?
If you need more support from your mom tribe, then work on building and nurturing those connections. [Related: How to Be a Good MomFriend]
Work on self-awareness
When we are in the thick of stressful situations, we behave differently. [Related: The Enneagram 101 video] It can be hard to have self-awareness on how we are making our own situation worse. [Related: Working through a bad mood with one question]. When we start to become aware of how we are showing up, we can choose better options and PRACTICE them!
Proactive means you are making a plan and working towards it. This includes not just the bigger vision you have for your life, but all the way down to planning your day. For one, it is crucial to have a destination, a direction you are pointing to otherwise we just wander and feel lost in life. Second, it helps you to show up more present and calm when you can have a plan for how your week and day are going to play out.
When we are in a martyr state it is hard for us to look up and see the world around us. You are not alone. There are always women who are or have been where you are.
There are lots of women’s groups for moms and for mental health. We often look for support online but IN PERSON will always be more engaging and more meaningful because it pulls more from you.
Another way is to gather a couple of other moms and work through a marriage/parenting book or some questions together. I do this with four other women and it has helped me grow and learn so much.
If you want a more formal process then consider counselling or life coaching (yes I do offer life coaching, and if you think I’m a fit for you then feel free to email me to see if I have openings)
At the end of the day, remember that it is never too late to turn a corner and try something new. We are all learning at motherhood and the process includes learning from the things we don’t want as much as growing on the things we DO want.
A version of this post first appeared on BLUNTmoms