how to break the mommy martyr cycle

Being a mom is hard. I know this because I've hidden in my closet and cried hot tears of exhaustion and frustration. I know this because my body has sustained injuries, aches, and pains as a result of becoming a mother. I also know this because our culture reminds me at every turn how hard motherhood is, but how worth it!

It's all true. It's hard and also worth it. 

But sometimes I fall into this trap of feeling at once self-satisfied AND indignant about everything I have suffered in the name of motherhood.

It's not a good look.

The tiny resentments of everything I "have to" give up in the name of being a mom start to accumulate. I keep a running tally close to my heart so I can whip it out anytime I need to win an argument. 

- I won't buy myself clothes because the kids need new shoes. 

- I won't get a workout in today because someone has to do the laundry. 

- I won't go out for a margarita with friends because it wouldn't be fair to let my husband put the kids to bed by himself after a long day of work.

- I have no time for myself. No time for my hobbies. No time to even think.

Sometimes sacrifices are necessary and even noble as a parent. We love our children and want the best for them. 

We are not, however, called to give up all earthly pleasures simply because we are mothers. Most of the time the things we think we need to give up or that we don't have time for are actually doable - we just need to be more resourceful if they are really important to us.

You see, your husband and kids don't want a MARTYR. A martyr is a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of a principle. Your family - your people - want YOU. 

When we act like martyrs, we ARE giving up something of great value: our identity. A cheerful attitude. Being a fulfilled wife and mother for our families. If you really want the best for your family, you need to stop the martyr routine.

You are a dearly loved child of God. You have value as a human being. There's no reason to treat yourself as anything less than that.

How to Stop Being a Mommy Martyr

Most of the time no one is asking you to give up time for yourself, your hobbies, taking care of your body, or the things that make you feel most like you.

 Most of the time, all that's needed is a little reframing and resourcefulness. Let's look at a few examples.

Martyr Problem #1: I don't have time to (shower, work out, read, do something that makes me happy) because I'm always taking care of the kids.

Reframing Problem #1: I need to find a time to (shower, workout, read, do something that makes me happy) because it is imperative that I feel like a human so I can take care of my kids.

Ok, I know that season of life exists, where it seems like one of the kids is ALWAYS awake. Late night feedings, toddlers who rise early in the morning, a husband who is always gone at work. I've gone through those phases, and they are really hard. 

This is where you need to dig deep, analyze your day, and figure out where you can squeeze in a half hour for yourself. Can you get up a 30 minutes earlier? Can you stay up 30 minutes later? Can your husband play with the kids for 30 minutes before or after dinner while you do your thing? Can your husband take the bedtime routine while you take care of you? Can you put your kids in quiet time and nap time for 30 minutes?

If it truly is important to you, if it truly will make you feel more like yourself, then you need to find time to do it. I'm confident you can figure it out.

Martyr Problem #2: I would love to buy myself (clothes that actually fit, makeup that will make me feel pretty, a gym membership, a nutrition system to help me get healthy) but we don't have the money. The kids need (fill in the blank). I'm feeling deprived and frustrated.

Reframing Problem #2: It's really important to me to buy this thing. I know the budget is tight, but there are ways to save for it. 

Let me be clear. I'm not saying to spend money you don't have. Part of being an adult is delaying gratification and realizing that *stuff* isn't going to fill a void in your heart. 

On the other hand, as moms, I think we can take this one a little far. Our kids have drawers overflowing with clothes while we have like 2 shirts that fit because our bodies keep changing sizes. We're afraid to spend money on ourselves because that might be selfish and someone else in our family could use that money.

Guess what. You're a member of the family and you could use that money. Especially if it's going to make you feel human, and again, a happier mother to your kids and a kinder wife to your spouse. Have a very honest conversation with your husband and let him know why this is so important to you. Chances are he loves you and wants the best for you. Chances are he'll be supportive of scrimping and saving for something that will make his wife happy. 

Then get resourceful! Find a way to earn money from home! (There are hundreds of ways. Just look on Pinterest). Take surveys online for some extra pocket change. Use Ebates. Sell your extra junk on Facebook Marketplace. Give up cable for awhile (Netflix and Hulu are cheaper and have all the TV you could ever want). 

Save up, and then go forth and spend your hard earned money on that thing that you've had your eye on.

Martyr Problem #3: I simply couldn't leave the kids to (go have fun with friends, go on a girl's trip, spend a night away with my husband). They need me!

Reframing Problem #3: (A margarita, a girl's trip, a night away with my husband) would make me feel so refreshed and ready to take on my role as Mom with a cheerful heart. How can I make this work?

Guys. Dads are parents, too. They can totally handle the bedtime routine every once and awhile while you go out with a friend. If you are lucky enough to have a set of grandparents nearby who are willing to take your kids for a night - take them up on it! This one is not so much a resource issue as a mindset issue. I hereby grant you permission. Your kids will be just fine. 

Martyr Problem #4: I'm the only one who ever cleans around here! This place would fall to pieces without me!

Reframing Problem #4: How can I teach the kids to take responsibility for the house we share? What chores would my husband be willing to take off my hands?

Yeah, this one is frustrating. Why am I the only one that actually sees the clutter? Why am I the only one that sees the dirt accumulating and actually does something about it? When it comes to your husband, it all comes down to communication. Figure out which chores stress you out the most that he could do better (dishes? vacuuming? paying bills?). You are 2 adults in a partnership. I am confident you can figure out a way to divide the boring household tasks in a way that works for everyone. 

Your kids are a whole different issue. They need to be taught not to be uncivilized cave people. Raise them right, and teach them how to be citizens of a household. Make your expectations clear, and repeat it with them day after day. This will take more work on your part on the front end, but after awhile the household will be running like a machine.

Don't let them have dessert until the table is cleared and wiped down. (My 2 and 4-year-old do this together. They are not too young to help!). Have them put dishes from the dishwasher away. Give them their folded laundry to put in their drawers. Don't let them play something new until they clean up their current toys. 

Are you ready to stop being a martyr?

I could go on and on with examples from my own life. Lately, I've been feeling self-pity because I "can't" squeeze in enough time to write, but I'm brimming with ideas (and a few deadlines). I've been getting mad and blaming my husband, resenting my kids when they woke up early from naps, etc. 

Stop. Time to get resourceful. My career is heading in a direction I always dreamed it would, but never really thought was possible. I especially never thought it would happen while being a stay-at-home-mom to 3 young kids. But life's funny that way. Instead of being the martyr and giving up my dreams for the sake of 5 baskets of laundry that I just can't seem to fold, I can work together with the people in my life who love me because this is really important to me. 

It's really easy to play the victim and say "I can't." It's harder to take responsibility for your life and happiness and say "It's up to me to figure out a way to make this happen." 

Being a mom is really hard. But you can do hard things, mama. You can do hard things and look good, be healthy, have a social life, and maintain your identity while doing them. 

All it takes is a little prioritizing, a little communication, a little resourcefulness, and a lot of help from the people that love you most. 

Shine on, mama! Be the happy, healthy, loving mom you were meant to be. 

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Wishing you wellness of mind, body, and soul.

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