I Don't Know About You, But I'm Done With The Motherhood Martyr Act

It's true when they say motherhood is hard. There's nothing else like it and you really can't define it, describe it or relate to it until you become one and experience it first hand. They also say that nothing can prepare you for it, which is true too. But more than how unprepared I was for keeping a child alive, I was most unprepared for the constant deluge of martyr messages that would come my way once I entered the stay-at-home-mom club.

"Being a stay-at-home-mom is the hardest job in the world. I wore the same shirt three days in a row. When my head hits the pillow, I wonder what I accomplished. My heart is so heavy because the job is never done. I can't remember the last time I had a full nights sleep. I'm so exhausted, I just need a moment to myself."

Over time, I found these messages making their way to my heart. Wrapping around it and tightening their grip, telling me that it's okay to constantly vocalize and lament about my complaints, hardships and woes as a mother. In fact, I started finding that the messages began to create frustrations and indignities, not just highlight them.

I began feeling like I was supposed to wear a spit-up ridden shirt all day. Like I should be in a constant zombie state. Like toys on the floor must annoy me every single minute. That motherhood should be difficult, dirty, disgusting and tiring - and if it wasn't, I was doing something wrong.

It seems today's stay-at-home mom has become a new kind of citizen. We've elevated her to an angelic status, a martyr for the greater good of society's future. She has become a self-sacrificing saint, tirelessly wading through her duties of chauffeur, chef, maid, accountant and administrative assistant all while covered in puke and throw up, with the sound of crying babies and screaming toddlers in the background. While she recognizes how blessed she is to soak up cuddles and kisses from her littles all day, deep down she is unhappy, restless and searching for a greater meaning among the diapers and pacifiers.

She's allowed to complain unhindered, wearing her victim-complex badge loud and proud, front and center, because she will always win the, "Who has it the hardest?" game. A game that seems to only have one contastant - the SAHM.

As a SAHM myself, I see it (and have participated in it) more often than I care to admit. We conglomerate together, in person and even more so online, rallying around our "woe-is-me" status. We lament about how no one understands our job, envying "other people's" ability to finish a still-hot cup of coffee, not have their noses singed by the stank of bodily fluids, and to start their day with a shower and end it with clean pants.
We wallow in our sleepless lives, the stress of taking three kids to Target, the fact that we have to hide in the bathroom for a moment alone, how we're covered in stuffed animals all day, (Ahem, above.) and the trial of having to make breakfast each morning while simultaneously cleaning up last night's dinner and quelling arguments over who gets to play with the digger. And while we'd say we're the most blessed people on the planet to get to stay home with our children in a heartbeat, it seems our lives are highlighted by injustices that no one understands - yet we long for others to know of, to feel both pity for our lot and wonder at how we somehow manage it all.

It's a fine balance, this line we toe. On one hand, everyone needs a space to vent, to have their feelings acknowledged and affirmed, to know they are not the first to feel these things and they won't be the last. It's healthy and necessary to talk through what we're going through, and a SAHM needs a support system just as much as anyone else.

But there's a difference in venting and complaining. And I feel, particularly online, it's a line we've crossed all too often. It's become not only tolerated to express our sighing and grumbling over yogurt on the walls, the 15 loads of laundry in the basement and having to cart two screaming children to the doctor's office with us, but it's expected and reinforced that we let everyone know just dire our situation is - in hopes of receiving some accolades and affirmation for our self-sacrificing ways.

It seems talking about the life a SHAM leads has become more than just an outlet where we can identify with each other, encourage each other, and move on to the next sleepless night. Instead, it's now often moved to griping and complaining about how exasperated and annoyed we are with our duties, children, spouse or all-together life. It's moved beyond just a type of healthy group therapy to become a self-depreciating pastime and hobby - and it's definitely something that we all seem to be enjoying just a little too much.

And as for me, I want out. I came into motherhood with visions of frosting and sprinkles and while it's no cake walk, I think motherhood is a whole lot sweeter than the dish I've recently been served up by my peers. I'm done with the motherhood martyr act. I'm done indulging in every little difficultly as if it just adds to my victim resume. I'm done feeling like I need to live my life in an unkempt state, like I need to feel frazzled and worn and just a little bit out of control all the time.

The woe-is-me act just makes motherhood harder. Thus far, motherhood has been some of the best years of my life and I don't need outside messages telling me that it's harder than I perceive it is. There are certainly days that I need a quick wake-up-call to remind me that I'm making it harder than it is, but do I really need to hear that I'm not viewing it has hard enough? I don't need more reasons to throw myself a massive pity party - I can generate quite enough on my own, thankyouverymuch.

Yes, motherhood is hard. And being a SAHM comes with it own unique difficulties. But so does everything else this life throws at us. Let's stop throwing rocks on the mountain of martyrdom we're building by complaining together, and instead mute our natural desire for self-pity before it can creep its way into all our conversations. I think we'd all find our day is filled with less frustration if we unwrapped the victim message that is wound so tightly around our hearts. Let's hit the brakes on our stress-filled dialogues containing all the reasons why we have it the worst and remember why we'd really say time and time again, deep down, that we have it the best.

It's a good life we lead. Let's not make it harder than it is.

Like this post? Here are some of the top posts in my "Motherhood" series. I also share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue)Twitter (@oakland_avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!


  1. I love this.

    I don't have kids-and I dislike that I even have to qualify that, and I know some will stop reading what I have to say after that confession because "I can't possibly understand." Despite the fact that others feel free to comment on medical ethics, court cases, and other areas where they have no training or education- it seems as though commenting on motherhood is for MOTHERS ONLY.

    That being said- I feel like I've seen an influx of articles, blog posts, etc. about how hard it is to be a SAHM, how it's THE most important job (which in my opinion diminishes a) other relationships the child may have with caregivers, their father, grandparents, etc., and b) diminishes the lives of those who cannot or choose not to have kids) and the toughest. The martyr complex is ever present and constant and it exhausts and annoys me. If for no other reason than one you so astutely pointed out- most SAHM's CHOOSE this, make HUGE sacrifices for it. I think a portion of this stems from an insecure place- a need to validate the choice, especially in the cases where women gave up careers to do so.. "This is WAY harder! Super hard! my job was EASY compared to this!" -- it's not healthy, and not productive. When you're having a truly tough moment- absolutely rant it out- move on. I don't doubt there are tough moments and days and seasons but the more we focus on the negative, the less we're able to appreciate the positive.

  2. Love love love! I think this goes for motherhood in general, and not just SAHM! It is hard, but it's also the most awesome thing in the world, and I try to stay positive about it!! Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. THANK YOU!!!! *Personal rant coming on, watch out. lol* I am SAHM to three kids, ages 4 and under. I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to read all the never-ending blog posts, facebook statuses, and buzzfeed links about how awful and tiring it is to be a parent. (Taking it one step further than you did, but I think this applies to ALL parents, not just SAHMs or mothers in general.) My husband and I say all the time, nothing has made us happieror more complete, as individuals or as a couple, than raising our children and building this family side by side. OF COURSE there are hard days - or weeks. There are rough times no matter what life you choose. But, girls, this motherhood thing is the GOOD STUFF. And whatever "season" of motherhood you're in, it will pass soon enough. So holdonto your hats and enjoy the ride, I say. haha Love, love, love your blog! Thanks for sharing. xoxo

  4. "I'm done feeling like I need to live my life in an unkempt state, like I need to feel frazzled and worn and just a little bit out of control all the time."

    Yes! This is a dangerous lie that keeps us from being effective followers of Christ, wives, and moms. As long as we keep believing that we 'have' to live only in survival mode when we have young children, we'll keep missing wisdom that can help us live to God's glory in every moment. This is another reason why we need to learn from older women who have gone before us - so we can know how to manage our households and discipline our children in a way that reflects an industrious spirit. Not to mention God says that true beauty in a woman comes from a gentle and quiet spirit - which means that we should be moms who aren't constantly in a state of stress or panic, and this is lovely to the Lord!

  5. Very true @Carolyn Roe - it likely does go for all moms, but lately I just feel like I've been hearing it most from the SAHM's. : ) Glad you connected with it!

  6. I agree - disheartening is the word! That's exactly how I've been feeling and it's so hard because I do believe it's important to be relatable and to relate to others, but it seems like it's just the negative stuff lately. My husband and I are right there with you and yours - nothing makes us happier than to be a parent! And I love hearing how you're still feeling that way with three kiddos!

  7. So true about learning from older women and their example! I'd be curious to know if every generation was like this, or if it's mainly the internet age. My guess is that while it's not new, the message probably spreads faster, further and in more force than it used to thanks to the www. And yes, a gentle and quiet spirit is most glorifying to God and we really have no reason to live in such stress if we are truly trusting him! Thanks for sharing your wisdom Em!

  8. I think you're completely accurate when you say there's been an influx of articles about how hard it is to be a sahm. Apparently it's the cool thing to write about these days. :) And while I do feel there's totally a place to write about such things - I mean, kids give a person A LOT of material - but there's a definite line between being relatable and being a total downer. Like you said, "rant it out and mooooooove on." Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  9. As I was reading your blog, I couldn't help but think that this is definitely a negative side of today's internet culture. When I was raising my kids, yes, there were occasional rants about a tough day, but it would stop with next door neighbor, who was also a sahm, and we could identify that these happen once and awhile and move on. No internet to rant to! But with all the women blogging about their bad day(s)I think the one upmanship can rear it's head and it's sometimes harder to "control your tongue" when it's online, so one might have a harder time showing restraint!

  10. You are so right that the victim/martyr mindset is an easy one to take in life. I think it is human nature to play the victim. You could have a good income that pays the bills, but you can't afford that vacation to Cabo that your friend takes every winter, so poor you. Or you could be the friend who takes the vacation, but you actually put it on your credit card every year so now you are in debt up to your ears, so poor you. It is so easy to see the downside to our lives. I am blessed beyond what I deserve and I still find it far to easy to whine about what I don't have or what was hard that day. This is a good reminder of two things. There is a bright side that is beautiful if we choose to look at it, and no one likes a whiner. I need to take my advice to my 2-year old and "Stop whining, use your happy voice."

  11. My mom tells me that ALL the time, Renee!

  12. Such a good point! I definitely think it's harder to control your tongue, er fingers online. Both because it's so prevalent and easy to find people who will endorse the rant, and because you can hide behind a screen. It's a new day, this internet age. :)

  13. Yes, totally in human nature to play the victim! It is always amazing how humans can find a way to complain about their "lot in life" no matter how "easy" they have it. Love what you said about the advice for your two year old - happy voice is right!