Motherhood Doesn’t Equal Martyrdom

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.

7 thoughts on “Motherhood Doesn’t Equal Martyrdom

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  1. Right on! A mama who takes care of herself is modeling positive behavior and is much more likely to raise responsible, balanced children who know how to care for themselves in appropriate ways. The opposite – being a martyr mama – usually results in self-centered, demanding children who are accustomed to putting their own needs first (in other words, spoiled brats!). When mama (and dad, too) are happy and rested, it goes better for everyone.

    Thanks for your post today. Here's hoping you get a nap. 🙂


  2. I can't stand the martyr mamas. It seems to be most of them, which is probably why I don't have many friends who are also mothers.
    There is nothing wrong with hiring a babysitter a few hours a day a few days a week to come play with the baby while you clean the house, take a shower, and go grocery shopping(check. Done that.)
    There is nothing wrong with leaving the baby with Grandma for an hour while you go to Wal-Mart so you can shop without a screaming baby who hates the grocery cart.(Check. Done that.)
    There is nothing wrong with handing baby to Dad at night and telling Dad that it's his job to get up with the baby all night long and let you sleep. (Check. Done that, too.)
    There is nothing wrong with pursuing interests and ambitions and dreams that are unrelated to motherhood or your child. Your child should know that your life does not revolve around him and he is not the center of the universe, though he is very loved.

    The goal that mothers seem to forget is NOT to raise a child who needs mom. It is to raise a child who is a strong and independent adult who does NOT need his mommy anymore. Another thing I seem to run into is that there are moms who believe that they, personally, are the only ones to can raise and take care of their children appropriately. That's nuts. Daddy and Grandmas and others can take care of and love my son as well as I can. My suspicion is that there are some women who have such low self-esteem that they truly believe that their life goal is to take care of their child and that they and their children are somehow so “special” that only Mom can properly care for her children.


  3. *hugs*
    I hope your(and T's) sleep schedule evens itself out soon. I'm not looking forward to this phase that is inevitably coming our way as well. I am definitely a better mommy(and person in general) when I am even some-what rested.


  4. Thanks for this! It's so easy to fall into the trap of being a matyr and thinking doing more/being more exhausted, etc. is a good thing all the time. I about had a breakdown yesterday because I was so tired and I made myself come up with a cutoff time that I have to go to bed by regardless of whether the laundry's done, dishes are done, house is clean…
    Thanks for the insight. It helped. 🙂


  5. And sometimes you just have to lower your standards…as hard as that is. I had to hire someone to do some of the major cleaning. I had to delegate some of the grocery shopping to Rob and delegate some of my duties at work. It's okay to not be able to do it all!


  6. i agree with everything you said, and sometimes i just have to get over my OCD to have the toys put away or looking at the folded laundry in baskets for like three days. and i dont get along with hardly any mamas because i just dont have time for all the BS outthere. that why i like it here, and on gdiapers yahoo group and other communities where there are people that actually care about the things that are important, like being your kids parent not their super cool friend and leaving and earth that we can feel comfortable bring kids into the this world to live on. amen everyone! now if only i could get the insomnia under control haha. thanks mamas(and dadas) out there, our sacrifces are worth every moment as long as we know what to sacrifice! lisa mawson


  7. I've been wondering how you're doing with a toddler and a newborn (oh my!). My sister will also have a toddler and a newborn any day now. As a mama of one, I often find myself wondering how I'll ever “do it” when we have another! I know I'll adapt, we'll adapt. I have to admit, I am the kind of mother that doesn't go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink or toys strewn all over the house. I just can't relax if my nest isn't tidy. I am also, however, the kind of mama that shares parenting as much as possible with baby's papa. Some folks think this is odd (believe it or not) or they just assume I do all the cleaning, cooking (ha, B does all the cooking!), child care, etc etc etc… That's just not how it is. I'd make a lousy martyr. By golly, I have wants and needs too! Each family has to work out their own rhythm, and for the most part, I think we've found ours (for now). Anyway,
    I guess what this comes down to is “mommy wars”, as you and I have discussed so many times. If we could all just support each other rather than hold onto our insecurities, mamas everywhere would be a lot better off!
    I hope you're doing well, Rachel… and goodness, I hope someone is telling you “you're doing alright, better than alright even”!
    By the way, I really do believe that I am the person best able to care for my son… and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. 😉
    PS Your like page disappeared from my Facebook and I had to re-like LMS. Weird.


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