Martyrdom and motherhood

So I am driving south away from my family for a week for some much-needed r&r. Counting Stars comes on the radio and I am feeling elated, so I blast the music and screamsing along. I feel free like I can breathe, and as sudden, as it came it goes, and feelings of guilt set in. What kind of mother celebrates leaving her children? A soulless monster, that’s who. My job as a mother is to sit there by my children looking at them, telling them how wonderful they are, providing everything they could ever possibly need without ever thinking of myself. I realize that part of this is false. It is a fabrication of my own unrealistic standards of myself that is a seed from childhood. But these irrational thoughts and expectations are not just my own creation, there is without a doubt a martyrdom that comes with motherhood, and that we mothers perpetuate that cycle for ourselves and for each other.

And I wonder are we even aware that we are doing this to ourselves and each other. I have thought about this for a long time and I have some theories. The first is that this is the adult form of slut-shaming. We as women are raised in a culture to put each other down because resources are so limited for women that we have to actually fight each other to get anywhere. When we are younger and single this manifests a slut-shaming. There’s a fantastic book on the subject called Slut! Growing up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum if you need further inspiration this subject. I believe that martyrdom in motherhood and imposing this on each other is the matured version of slut-shaming.

I have also recently been studying the chakras, which are seven points of the body through which energy flows. Each one has a specific location in the body and certain attributes that are attributed to it. The fourth chakra or the heart chakra as it is known, when out of balance creates martyrdom. What I find so interesting about this is the heart chakra is also the chakra of unconditional love, and so it makes sense to me a mother’s unconditional love when out of sync can easily and swiftly turn to martyrdom. This idea that everything that we do has to be for a singular cause from dawn to dusk. The danger is then turning this imbalance into the standard. Being aware of this is ideal because you can actually do things to balance the heart chakra. This website has a lot of great ideas for opening this chakra:

And lastly, I have to say that if you’re reading this and all of a sudden you start thinking of a particular woman in your life that is creating this dynamic for you, themselves, and for others have a conversation. Bring to light this struggle that we are putting upon each other so that we can work together to create a different culture. Let us build each other up as mothers not put each other down. When we see a fellow mother struggling in the grocery store, instead of thinking about how you would do it differently offer her help. When you’re visiting a friend’s house for a play date and their child is out of control, get down to the ground and connect with that child, offer them a different experience. These moments are invaluable when we can actually share tools with each other as parents. I think parenthood is absolutely about creativity. I am constantly racking my mind for ways to do things differently and all the other mamas out there or doing the same thing. So when we can conserve our resource pool we’re saving each other ample amounts of time and energy.

So my call to action is this: we as mothers are the only ones that are going to change this and it goes beyond motherhood, but compassion for fellow women in the workforce, and love life and camaraderie, colleagues, friendship, and motherhood. If we choose to tackle these tasks together we will be an unstoppable force. And if we choose to try to do these things separately it is only going to get harder.

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