Friday, June 20, 2008

Martyr Mom is in the House

(subtitle: untitled mommy blog post, part two)

So yeah, about that martyr thing. I should have seen it coming.


I'm not going to suggest that I've never been a martyr mom before, but it's definitely surfacing more since I went back to work last fall. Heck, I even blogged about it.

Oh, how I've mourned...(ed. note: blah blah blah) damsel in distress...(blah blah blah)"Woe is me"...I mourned for the loss of my freedom and for the sacrifice of putting my little girl in her preschool's daycare for many hours of the day. My free time is no longer free. It is a juggle and a race. Up before 6. Everyone downstairs and dressed by 6:45. Out the door at 7:15. Drop Jake at Kindergarten. Drop Ellie at preschool. Sit in traffic. Work. Race back for Ellie. Run errands. Pick up Jake. Think about dinner, going to the gym, and doing any and all that I'm not able to do that I didn't question a week before.

While I can poke fun it it, being a martyr mom is not fun at all. Here's what she looks like at my house - maybe some are exaggerations, maybe I wish some were, and I know she exhibits similar and different behaviors around the neighborhood. I won't go all out and label myself a Martyr Mom because that persona is only one of many different sides to me as a mother (and one of many stereotypes moms and women have to fight to break).

I'm not proud of it, but it's there.

(So there.)

  • the martyr mom is overwhelmed. She sighs. A lot.
  • the martyr mom is distracted. She cannot focus.
  • the martyr mom has difficulty making choices. There are so many to make!
  • the martyr mom is not organized. The house is cluttered. She thinks, "Why bother cleaning, if everyone's going to mess it up anyway?"
  • the martyr mom can't find things, but spends a lot of time looking.
  • she can't remember what she needed at the store so she either buys everything or nothing.
  • the martyr mom makes sure the family eats (but not herself - she's always snacking or grabbing something on the run), and there are more drive through dinners and store-bought, pop 'em in the oven meals. Not surprisingly, the martyr mom notices more TV dining and less time spent at the table.
  • the martyr mom coordinates the schedules of her kids but won't schedule time for herself - it's not that she can't, but she's decided what she needs to do at home is too important and can't imagine how the children will sleep if she doesn't put them to bed. She finds it hard to separate from her children and familial obligations.
  • besides, when the martyr mom does have some free time, she ends up doing stuff for the house and kids anyway.
  • in fact, the martyr mom has been in the habit of putting herself last for so long, she no longer remembers what she likes to do or how to have fun (real, honest to goodness fun) without her children.
  • and worse, not only does she not know how to have fun, she doesn't think her having fun is important.
  • the martyr mom thinks that she always comes last, but in thinking this, her bad time has become a priority.
  • the martyr mom is exhausted. Clearly, taking care of everyone else means she cannot take care of herself. She doesn't make time to exercise or eat well, and being so overwhelmed (all that sighing can be tiring you know), she stays up too late thinking she's going to do something productive when the kids are finally asleep, but usually ends up watching hours of bad television or playing around on the Internet - but she's not writing, she's just reading and feeling overwhelmed by so much information.
  • not a lot of what the martyr mom is doing feels like it's on purpose - things happen, but it's either rushed or not quite the way she wants, but she doesn't have the energy to fix it.
  • the martyr mom spends a lot of time thinking, but isn't communicating or solving problems. She's wallowing.
  • the martyr mom has a hard time saying no, even if she's fully aware that adding one more thing to her plate means less getting done well. She sometimes gets caught up in being needed and important, and would rather please other people than take care of what is most important.

The funny thing? When I'm not the martyr mom, when I'm sitting reading a book, or making dinner with my kids, or making lists, or getting a pedicure, or watching a non-animated film either (gasp!) by myself or (gasp!!) in the company of other grown-ups, I don't feel guilty. Not even a little bit.

It's a vicious cycle, this mommy martyrdom (and I found a great piece from The Washington Post written in 2005 that captures it all so well). While I realize it is self-imposed, it doesn't make it easier to break, especially when I'm tired (and yes, knowing full well I could just go to sleep after the kids to catch up). Getting over it, getting through it is a process just like everything else.

For me, the secret to success seems to come when I start writing -- lists. be continued.


Working mum said...

Martyr mom. If you've recognised it, you can start to do something about it. Schedule "me time", take up a hobby (I love my time singing with the choir - it really does keep me sane. It will benefit your children as well. Promise!

auntie b said...

I absolutely agree - lists are the best way to deal with being overwhelmed! Just being able to cross things off gives me an amazing feeling of empowerment :)

Sometimes I make a list, it make me feel better, and then I forget where I put it...

Jessica said...

OH MY GOODNESS. I totally recognized myself all over that list! Sheesh. I had no idea.

I'm right there with you on all of it.

(I don't feel guilty when reading a book ect either)

Paige said...

LISTS!! My darling, I am a list girl too!!!

LaskiGal said...

check. check. check. Yikes.

I struggle a lot with balancing this whole MOM thing with the whole WOMAN thing. I'm trying to carve out my own identity at a time when I am not working or going to school for the first time since I was 14 (that is a LONG time). It is a challenge, but I'm working on it.

As for your comment on my last post (about my classroom) . . . I pulled out my Writer's Market. You have inspired me :)