I mentioned the other day that I have only been getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night since my son was born. The response I heard was a smug “welcome to motherhood!” said as though it should be considered a great feat to survive being sleep deprived for months or years. Not only should I be proud of this fact, I understood, but I should consider it an honor to be a martyr for my family.
Motherhood apparently equals martyrdom.
Along that note, why is it that so many women use complaining as a way to brag? It’s as though when one of us explains how tired she is, how many loads of laundry she had to do, or how long it takes her to grocery shop, she’s really saying “look at me! I’m winning Good-Mommy points by not sleeping, doing laundry, and enduring long grocery trips with crying babies and big diaper bags!”
I think we do this because it’s a way to cope. Sometimes, we’re exhausted. Sometimes, we’re sick of washing 6 loads of laundry in one day. Sometimes, we are frustrated by our grocery shopping trips taking 2 hours because our kids aren’t cooperative and we have to not only push a cart and manage coupons, but we have to push kids around, keep everyone happy, and nurse the baby all at the same time we gather our food. Sometimes, there’s no one to say to us “hey, you’re doing okay,” and we just want to quit. But since quitting isn’t an option, we create the affirmation we need by taking the things that are difficult for us and telling ourselves that enduring these things is simply the initiation of motherhood, and we are good mommies because we are successfully managing (or surviving, if we’re honest) these things.
The problem is that being exhausted doesn’t make me a better mom. I’m tired. When I’m tired, I’m not as aware, not as effective in accomplishing things, and I’m not as nice as I should be. My tolerance for the toddler who is screaming because she wants Oatmeal Squares instead of Cheerios dwindles to the point where I yell at her…all because she doesn’t want Oatmeal Squares. Really? Really.
What might make me a better mom is if I would take a nap or go to bed early when the opportunity arises instead of using that time to clean my house. We will survive a messy house and my toddler won’t remember it being that way. She might remember a mommy who is mean to her though. And I don’t want to be that mom. I don’t want to be a “better” mom in someone’s eyes because I’m only sleeping a few hours a day.
Please, if I tell you I am having a hard time, don’t act like a good mother is a martyr. A good mother treats her kids right, and sometimes you need more than a few hours of sleep to do that. A good mother is better than a martyr mother, and the two aren’t the same.