Motherhood Should Never Mean Martyrdom

Photo: Nicoleta Lonescu/ Shutterstock
mom with a baby

We have a cultural problem when it comes to raising kids. I first faced it when I was pregnant with my own daughter. Almost immediately after getting pregnant, my well-being took a backseat to the babies. Nothing I said to my doctors about my personal concerns got through at all.

Everyone had a different set of opinions on what I should eat. What I wanted to eat and what my body was craving made zero difference to them. In fact, I actually had to argue with one server overeating sushi and they immediately called me selfish for doing so.

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After I gave up my baby for adoption, I heard another barrage of insults and caustic remarks.

One thing I quickly learned is that there was no way to win with parent shaming. Even when I explained to people that adoption was the best route for me, no one was satisfied with what I had to say. Hell, no one even cared how I felt about anything.

I can’t name how many times I’ve heard the following conversation:

“I’m not ready to be a parent nor could I provide the environment necessary for a kid at this time.”

“Yeah, but your daughter needs you. Don’t you feel shame?”

“She needs a stable environment more, and I’m there when she needs me.”

“Yeah, but you should have kept her.”

"Do you understand how rude you’re being?”

“Yeah, but...”

It didn’t take me too long to realize that in today’s society, motherhood is equated to martyrdom.

The minute a woman gets those two stripes on a pregnancy test is the very moment that people cast her wants, needs, and dreams aside in favor of a person who hasn’t even been born yet. Or, as one woman had told a friend of mine who’s expecting, “There’s no more 'you' anymore. Remember, it’s all about your child now!”

I’m sorry, but this isn’t a healthy attitude.

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Somewhere along the line, women became expected to become de facto martyrs for their families. Their needs, as well as their spouse’s needs, always seem to come in dead last.

Then, after the spouse and kids are taken care of, they need the house to be taken care of. If all goes well, mommy may be able to have a good 5 minutes of her alone time.

On the other hand, dads are lauded if they even stay near their kids and families. They’re given props for just doing fun things with kids. So, obviously, there’s a little bit of a double standard going on that no one wants to talk about.

Meanwhile, moms are expected to bring in money, cook, clean, and be sexy for the hubby, 24/7. It’s a double standard that often smacks women in the face until they realize their husbands aren’t pulling their weight, and that causes these ladies to leave their relationships.

Oh, but we also can’t have moms complain about it, either. Voicing one’s discontent or concerns about being a mommy is a bad thing in this society. No, saying anything other than the fact that it’s “all worth it” and that you “love being a mom” is akin to saying something heretical in this world.

This isn’t the way that I was raised, nor was it the way other people I know were raised. Parenting never used to be as demanding as it is now, nor was parenting ever such a struggle.

Moms in the 80s were allowed to drink wine and complain about kids within earshot. Moms in the 60s chain-smoked and let their kids go (gasp!) outside unattended. Today, moms are basically forced to be glued to their kids and are told to ignore everything else.

Most of the time, what mothers want and need goes totally unnoticed by everyone, including their spouses. And, somehow, people are shocked to find out that so many marriages end up as divorces. Somehow, so few people ever seem to notice how agitated moms tend to be or how many pills moms have to be loaded up on in order to be functional.

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Scarier still is how few people seem to notice we’re raising generations of kids who are increasingly being diagnosed with narcissism. This isn’t good for anyone, and yet this is what we push!

Part of it is the innate mommy worries every parent, including myself, has — but it’s not just regular mom worries anymore. Instead of just being worried about kids getting good grades in school, we also have become way too panicky about how people judge our child-raising techniques.

This often leads to parents feeling like they have to hover when they shouldn't, moms beating themselves up over their physical limitations, and more. People who judge, criticize, and shame moms don’t see themselves as part of the problem — but they should.

Our society has turned motherhood into a jail sentence. They turned parenting into motherhood martyrdom.

Even more amazingly, people can’t seem to understand why an increasing number of women opt out of motherhood. Traditionally, being a mom already meant bowing out of the workforce and cooping oneself up with kids for 18-odd years. This is a high price for women to pay already! 

With added shame, increased demands to "look good while momming," and round-the-clock expected hover parenting that’s also being added to the sh*tty deal, many women opt out if only because they want to stay sane.

Motherhood shouldn’t mean martyrdom but in our society, we somehow assume one implicitly assumes the other. Parenting expectations are too high to keep up with without serious consequences for the moms, the marriage, and the kids.

If I were to have had options in my birth plan, as well as people in my life who minded their own business about what I ate and drank during my pregnancy (or even just told me I wasn’t a “monster” for choosing what adoption), I may have thought otherwise about keeping my baby. However, from personal experience, motherhood has mutated into something monstrous, and neither I, nor many others I know, want anything to do with it in its current form.

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Alex Alexander is a pseudonym. The author of this article is known to YourTango but is choosing to remain anonymous.