We need to stop thinking that mothers are meant to be selfless, always putting the wellbeing of others before themselves. That is a false and damaging myth which has been ingrained in society for far too long.
Coming from experience, I know how hard it can be to break the cycle of martyrdom when you have kids!
It’s so easy to feel guilty about wanting time without them – like we’re doing something wrong or not being good enough as a mum if we don’t put their needs first all the time. But this mindset will never serve us well because it leaves us feeling exhausted and frustrated…not to mention resentful towards who have we’ve made the sacrifice for!
Where does this idea of mothers having to make sacrifices come from?
The common archetype of a martyr is an over burdened, constantly exhausted, demand sensitive mother; which begs the question…why the mother?
We live within oppressive patriarchal structures where mothers are expected to put their children before themselves and anything else in society. It is all part of the collective mother wound and the pain felt throughout the generations, passed down from one to the next, to the next and so on.
Being a martyr never served anyone, yet it becomes a default role for so many mothers. As women, we are often conditioned from an early age to put others before ourselves. This then plays out in how mothers behave once we become parents.
Being a mum is hard. The job description alone can be daunting, particularly when you consider all of the selfless acts that women are expected to perform for their kids – from breastfeeding and cooking meals to endlessly entertaining them and ensuring they get enough sleep!
But what about the sacrifices we make on our own behalf?
How many women have you heard say they wish that their partner could do more housework or that they’d like to go back to work, but can’t afford childcare? The reality is that being a mum isn’t just about where your focus lies – it’s also about the sacrifices we make for our own self-care.
It’s no wonder so many woman feel guilty for wanting to go to the gym or yoga (or whatever your movement of choice is), without their kids. It’s seen as a non-crucial activity which is so often the first thing to fall by the wayside in favour of tending to their children.
Well, that’s waaaaay down on the priority list according to society and again a ‘luxury’ that mothers should forgo.
The problem with sacrificing yourself
Many women grow up believing that they should be selfless and do whatever it takes for their family without thinking about what’s best for them as individuals.
The end result… resentment towards those who have made sacrifices for others.
I’m guilty of this myself and would find myself often handing over my lunch to my firstborn as a toddler. She would appear with sad eyes begging for my food and I would give it up in sacrifice. I’d go without, only to then watch as she fed my food to the dog instead. My act of self-sacrifice where I’d tried to elevate myself in her eyes was not seen as such.
I was in fact lower than the dog!
So much for my sacrifice. I was now hungry and resentful. Even though she hadn’t intended me to feel that way (and had no idea of the implications), through my own martyrdom, it felt like she’d kicked me whilst on bended knee.
Falling into the matyrdom-trap
But what happens when you forgo self-care (and I’m not necessarily talking about self-care as being an hour-long soak in a bubble bath – sometimes it’s as simple as going for a walk outside and having some time alone with your thoughts)?
Your cup is being drained and emptied… bit by bit, by bit.
Think of it as pouring love and energy and all of your being from your own cup, into the cup of someone else to fill their leaking cup.
Theirs is now full…but yours is depleted.
And when you’re trying to pour from an empty cup, instead of love and feelings of abundance and joy, your actions are coming from a place of resentment. You feel this and your kids feel this.
Poor role models
Putting yourself last means not only are you neglecting your own needs but you are also being a poor role model for your own children.
Because their mother never learned or practiced care of herself, they never learned the art of doing so for themselves as they get older… and so the mother wounding is passed down the lineage.
Mothers who give, give, give but somehow are blocked from receiving. How can a child learn to accept love and joy when they witness their own mother giving hers away so freely?
Nourish the mother in order to nourish the child
Don’t be afraid to fill your cup first so you can give from a place of overflowing abundance (and not a dry well)!
Whatever that looks like for you – whether it’s giving yourself 30 minutes of complete silence or space in the day, taking a walk with no agenda other than breathing fresh air and having time alone with your thoughts, watching an episode of something light-hearted on TV whilst eating some high-quality dark chocolate (because who doesn’t love chocolate?), doing yoga three times a week or finally getting around to reading that book that everyone is talking about but you’ve been putting off because there are just so many more important things you need to do…
You’ll feel better for it.
And not only will this make you happier as an individual but also means those closest to us can reap the benefits too!
We must unlearn these old ways of thinking because as much as society would like us to believe otherwise: there will never be enough time and energy for everyone!
We need to break this cycle by putting our own needs first and not feeling guilty or selfish when wanting time away from kids so that we continue being healthy role models and aren’t resentful toward our children. We don’t want them growing up seeing us burn out with guilt and resentment.
We need to teach our children that they can’t expect everything from us, all of the time. They must learn early on how important it is for mums to take care of themselves too.
Empower your kids by showing them how self-care looks, feels and tastes!
In turn this will help them become better versions of themselves as well as happier individuals who know sustainable happiness isn’t always possible but through their own efforts they’ll be able to find a balance which works best for them – not everyone else around them or society’s expectations at large.