When Motherhood Becomes Martyrdom

Mom is not spelled M-A-R-T-Y-R.

Whoever told you that life was over when you had a child was wrong.

Your life has changed, not ended. Your identity has been restructured, but not lost. You have a life to take care of other than your own. And that little life will bring out the best of you and the worst of you, I promise. You will be exhausted, fed up, emotional, over-caffeinated, anxious, and feeling very unsexy.

But it’s not the end.

You don’t have to stay there unless you want to.

Making sacrifices for your new role in life may mean less sleep, a changed body, and an altering of your social life. However, giving up who you are, deep inside…well, that’s the death of your soul. There are certain parts about yourself that you love and other parts that you may be happy to leave behind. The struggle comes when you start to forget who you were before kids. Before “life” happened. And the resentment starts to build when you believe you can’t have “you” back.

And then comes the guilt. It prevents you from asking for what you need in order to reconnect with the you who had dreams. Dreams that are now put in a box, on a shelf, tucked away forever.

So you turn it off. You do your duty. Play your new role. And let the dream and your own inner little girl die -- the ultimate sacrifice.

Mom = Martyr

Why do we feel that in order to be a “good” mom, we have to be a martyr? For me, I was hell bent on being different than my mom. I wanted to give my boys a childhood that was better than my own. Now, this was clearly an ideal plan, but I fell into the trap of what a “good” mom should look like. I had my mother-in-law (AKA martyr) as a role model, which created a pressure cooker of expectation.

I drowned my true self and emerged as a person that I didn’t even recognize. I gave up my needs, my self-confidence, and my spirit to fit the mold that was expected of me. I was Mom all the time. Making baby food from scratch. Having the right diapers, the right toys, and making sure to be at their beck and call, even watching them while they slept just in case they needed me. I gave up my dream job, my creative outlets, and my individuality. I did all the things “they” were doing and all the things I was “supposed” to do to be the best mom possible. I lost myself completely. I became a martyr.

Do you remember who you were before life got in the way? Before someone told you how to “mom” a certain way? What have you given up? What part of yourself and your soul have you sacrificed in order to be a “good” mom? And whose idea of “good” were you trying to live up to, anyway? Because I bet you were doing a fantastic job before any unsolicited advice fell into your lap.

The truth is, you are an amazing mom, even when you allow yourself time to remember the pre-mom you and take care of your soul however you need. In fact, you are a better and more sustainable mom when you have that time just for you.

You don’t need more advice.

You need to feel like the real YOU.

What would motherhood look like if you loved yourself as much as you love your kids?
If you used your intuition to guide your mothering?
If you gave yourself a break and kept the self-sacrifice to a minimum?

I encourage you to repeat these three statements in the mirror, looking directly into your eyes. Yes, it will be challenging, and you will probably cry. This will be a daily reminder that YOU MATTER. You do not have to be a martyr.

  1. “You are doing an amazing job caring for (child’s name). (He/She) loves you so much."

  2. “I forgive you for (something that frustrated you). You are human. Perfection is not a requirement.”

  3. “I love you. All of you. You are a gift. Thank you for being exactly who you are.”

From a “veteran” mom to another mom, here is a huge virtual hug. Love yourself. You are worth it.