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Mommy Martyrdom

Certain sayings are trops of motherhood. Especially of mothers who end up getting quoted.

For example: When you become a mother, you are supposed to love your child more than you have loved anyone ever in your life. That was true enough for me.

You are supposed to feel immensely protective of your child, preferring that harm come your way—be it emotional or physical—than your child’s way. Also true.

Having a child is supposed to make you newly interested in and appreciative of other people’s children if you weren’t so much before. Yup, that is/was true for me.

Becoming a mother is supposed to mean you read the news in a whole new way. Don’t even get me started on that one….

And having a child is supposed to make it hard for you to do or buy things for yourself.


I mean, think about it. How often do you see or read something about a “Queen for a day”, where some poor mother who feels guilty spending money on herself or taking five minutes for herself gets new clothes, a new hairstyle, and a weekend away at a spa. Of course, she also feels guilty the whole thing, has a hard time following through, and cries about how hard it is to even consider herself in any equation about family resources. Heck, half the makeovers on What Not to Wear are for moms who have lost sight of themselves. (The other half are for folks whose teenage style should have ended two to five decades ago, if you were curious.)

Who are these people? I may have let myself go and/or adjusted my habits in some regards since Simon came along, but I enjoy (and get) regular pedicures, and I enjoy (and get) time to myself to run errands, knit, read, garden, volunteer, and freelance. (Not as much as I used to, granted, but some.) And by gum I have NO problem at all spending money on myself. Barring a severe financial setback, I have absolutely no plans to keep wearing clothes until they are hopelessly out of style and/or thread-bare, I do not own “Mom” jeans (nor does my mom, for the record), and every two months the brilliant Darryl attends to my hair.

This selfishness is genetic. My mom always looked nice and tended to herself. There was certainly some sacrificing along the way, but you never saw her looking haggard, and you never, ever, see her without her makeup, AKA her “face”, on. And my Bubbie, bless her, insisted on capital “D” dressing at all times, put on make-up twice a day, thought you were naked without earrings, and tended to her eyebrows like monks tend to a shrine.

Notably, both of these women loved being moms. They were happy being moms, they were fulfilled by motherhood, and they were pretty darned good at it, too, raising independent, happy, and respectful children.

All of which makes mommy martyrdom even more mysterious to me. What purpose does it serve? Am I missing a point or justifying selfishness when I assert that if you completely lose yourself in the job, you lose something important and send your children the wrong message about a parent’s worth? I sure hope not, because I just replenished my spring wardrobe, got a haircut, had my toes done, traveled for work, finished a grant for a volunteer project, did some freelance work, and did some gardening. And in the next two weeks, I’ve got a lot more gardening and some painting to do, and several hundred pages of a juicy ghost story to read. No mommy martyr here!

3 Responses to “Mommy Martyrdom”

  1. christine says:

    Will you rub some off on me when we come visit? I’m going to end up a “What Not to Wear” candidate if I don’t watch it.

  2. Jessica says:

    You, Christine? I don’t buy it AT ALL, clothing wise. On the other hand, if you need a quick lesson in saying, “It’s Daddy/Grandparent/babysitter time, Mommy needs a break,”I am at your service.

  3. christine says:

    Ohmigosh, you have not seen me in a LONG time. I shop consignment stores now and refuse to pay full retail for my clothes. I’m sure it probably shows. I’ll live vicariously through you.

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