We are Mothers, Not Martyrs

A woman with red hair leaning on a fallen birch tree in a forest surrounded by autumn leaves, embodies the spirit of empowerment.

martyr: a person who sacrifices something of great value for the sake of a principle – victimizes themselves for the benefit of others – takes on the role of a hero

As a teacher, caregiver, and parent myself, I am frequently inundated with the rules for what falls under the “gold standard” for raising children. Are we really at that point as a society where we will be blamed and shamed for every move we make as parents? I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I overhear parents talking about the unnecessary sacrifices they make in their lives, I am often gobsmacked by what I hear they are willing to lose out on against their own self-interest. Surely there are strategies and tools we are allowed to use as parents so we can take care of ourselves or simply drink our coffee hot? The first that always comes to mind for me is the screen time controversy. How in the hell do parents survive if they don’t allow their children to watch TV? Now, I am not saying that watching TV all day is always an appropriate strategy for managing. But, sometimes this strategy is necessary for survival. Have you ever been sick at home with two children under the age of 5 with no one to alleviate you of your parenting responsibilities? I have! Have you ever been so exhausted, burned out, and touched out that you want to lock yourself in the pantry for a few hours? I have! In these moments, I fully believe that it is completely appropriate to have the TV on all day and to intermittently sprinkle goldfish on the ground to keep them fed.

The bottom line here is that being able to take care of yourself is a necessity and basic needs shouldn’t be bound by parenting rules. Exceptional parents and exceptional caregivers have one thing in common; when they’re on a crashing airplane, they put their airmask on first. It is absolutely imperative that caregivers and parents actively do things to take care of themselves, FIRST. Not second, not third, not last, not with whatever you have left at the end of the day or week. FIRST. Are you going to experience feelings of guilt and shame and distraction when you begin to implement these types of habits? Probably. If you are a person who decides you’re going to start allowing that TV to be on for a couple of hours a day so you can read and drink coffee and eat lunch and journal in peace for 10 minutes a day, the first little bit is going to be a struggle. There is likely to be that voice in your head that is screaming at you that you are ruining your children’s minds by letting them zombie out in front of the TV. And when that starts to happen, you are going to name that voice – mine is named Linda – and you are going to tell it to get lost.

We are mothers, not martyrs. There are no awards for parents who provide the healthiest lunches or the least amount of screen time or put their kids in the most activities. So here is your permission to put the hero cape down, grab a bag of chips, snuggle under a blanket, and binge-watch cartoons for a day

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