Before I became a mom, I imagined that motherhood would be rainbows and roses.
I’d sit and rub my belly and mentally escape from my indigestion and swelling by picturing how sweet it would all be. I’d picture a pink babe, smiling. My hair flowing. Quiet hugs and kisses. Sweet story times and soft lullabies.
And then my first child was born. Shortly there after, my daydreams face-planted directly into reality. (Did anyone see that coming?)
Though my son was literally the most magical and beautiful creature I had ever seen, I can assure you there was no flowing hair, no us sprawled on a blanket in a meadow of wildflowers. There was unwashed hair, circles under my eyes, engorged breasts and the occasional crying – not just from the baby. Though he was a wonderful, easy baby, it was still a difficult transition.
I can’t even begin to relay to you what it was like when my second child was born. Her demeanor was *not* as winsome as her older brother.
Motherhood is hard.
But you shouldn’t wallow in the difficulties.
The kids won’t sleep. There are Lego’s everywhere. Someone put a toy train in your oven. There are handprints all over your beautifully painted walls. Every time you try to leave the house and finally succeeded in packing everyone up into the car, someone needs to get right back out to use the bathroom even though you literally just asked them before you all got in the car. Your living room floor looks like a family of primates lives there. Your son thinks it’s
funny flipping hysterical to fart at the dinner table.
There are many, MANY reasons to be turned inside out when you become a parent.
My first two children were born within two years of one another. I had so much to learn. I had to figure out how to manage the routines of two small, busy, shrieking people. I also had to figure out how to manage them while getting to the grocery store, the dishes done and cracking the code to world peace.
There was a lot to do.
I learned something that was incredibly profound those first few years: I was selfish.
Moms, did we really think that giving birth to babies and bringing them home would still mean that our lives would be exactly as they were before? Well, apparently I did. Maybe I’m the only one…I was shocked, for lack of a better word, at how unending their needs were.
This upheaval in my life caused me to play the role of The Mom Martyr. Here were a few signs that I was in a rough patch:
“People just don’t understand… People just don’t get it….. It’s too hard…. They don’t know….”
It was an overcast, gloomy existence for a while. I was alone on an island of one. The saddest thing about it? It was self-imposed.
Make no mistake, sometimes, as parents, we hit patches where life consists of putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to survive. Teething. Potty training. Cold and flu season. Dreary winter days. They all make me shudder.
But when we find ourselves stuck there, when we derive no joy out of what we do, when we are hosting a pity party and we are the only ones on the guest list? Then something is wrong. When we are stuck in self-righteous mode, nobody wins.
Here is why you shouldn’t play The Mom Martyr.
1.) It will make you bitter
When I first became a parent, I remember a lot of counting. I counted the diaper changes. I counted the minutes spent doing late night feedings. I counted how many church services I had to miss because our babies were unable to sit quietly in my arms without offering baby babbled, “hallelujah’s!” from our pew. I was an expert at counting. Those numbers would normally only tick upwards.
And it would make me seethe.
Stop counting. Stop watching the clock. Just be. Yes, you’ll do lots of things lots of times, over and over and over again. Then you’ll do them some more. This is the very nature of having babies.
2.) It will steal your joy
While you and I are so busy worrying about how many times our children have interrupted us, woken us up from the beauty of slumber, pooped through their diapers, we’re missing something.
To enjoy them. To delight in them. They are only pink and tiny for so long before they start wincing when you kiss them and squirming away from you when you hug them for too long. Hold that baby to your chest and breathe them in. Infancy and toddler-hood will be gone one day. Enjoy it.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.
This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.
3.) It will make you resentful of other people
Sometimes, I would read the statuses that people write on Facebook about how tired or busy they are and something inside of me simultaneously died a little and reveled in the belief that one day, if they become a parent, they’ll find out the truth of what it actually means to be frazzled.
Or sometimes, when my husband would tell me about how hectic his day is, I would throw a tea towel over my shoulder, turn away and silently think that he just doesn’t get it.
Because nobody is as busy as me, the mom martyr.
…Does that annoy anybody else?
My husband will never change as many diapers as I do. My friends who don’t have littles will get to enjoy a glass of wine out at a restaurant on a Friday evening that is not punctured by requests for more juice. And sometimes, even people without kids actually work very hard and get very tired because of it.
Phew, glad we got all of those startling revelations out-of-the-way.
Is this because my husband is unhelpful? NO. Is this because my friends are selfish or something? NO!!
Yes, I expect both parents to help when they are both present. Yes, this season of life involves a busyness that some may not understand. But how am I being fair to either my husband or my friends with that type of mindset? And how is that inviting relationship with them? (Hint: it’s not)
I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to stay at home with my children. I would rather it be me that wipes their bottoms than anyone else. When I start owning my choice and my calling? Great things start to happen.
4.) Nobody wants to hear it
This may sound crass, but this is my being bluntly honest: nobody wants to hear it.
While there is room for being gently held in confidence amongst friends, while there is room for venting, I can think of no better way to alienate yourself than to constantly complain.
Sure, there is a distinct camaraderie shared between parents. We lock eyes at the grocery store while our children are pulling things off of the shelf. We know the struggle. It’s real.
We all have been there. And we will all probably be there again. Tomorrow. While trying to make it through running our errands. Venting is fine. But to constantly complain, to act like you’re the only one, to compete with others about who has had the worst day?
It’s a game that nobody wants to play.
Take it from me. Vent. Get those frustrations out. Laugh. And move on.
5.) Joy and delight.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of the ox come abundant harvests.
You cannot have children and not have copious amounts of toys in your bath tub or extra bodies in your bed during thunderstorms. You can’t have babies without midnight feedings. You can’t have toddlers without someone coloring on your wall.
You cannot have a family without mess, without chaos, without calamity.
But oh, how those messes are worth it. Like the farmer who cannot tend to a farm without the oxen, who in turn must be tended to, you cannot reap the bounty of raising children without the messes that are sometimes involved with having them.
When we really, truly measure the days spent with them versus the mess that is your kitchen after dinner or the laundry that spills out of the hampers, are you going to tell me that it’s any contest of which is less significant?
Will you tell me that you’d give up your children over the mess(es) that they make? Over the aggravation(S) they sometimes cause?
Okay, yes, on occasion I do relinquish them to grandma or I consider checking myself into a motel. But honestly, in my heart of hearts, I would not trade this for anything.
Not for the cleanest house in all the land. Not for endless Saturday nights out at nice restaurants. Not for backpacking across Europe. Not for peaceful trips to the mall….except for maybe the last one.
There you have it. Now shut your pie holes. Just kidding.