Raising Needham: Does Being a Mom Mean Being a Martyr?

It doesn’t matter if you are a mom or a dad; making time for yourself is the key to parenting sanity.

I don’t consider myself a martyr, but when I admitted to friends that I hadn’t been away from my kids overnight in years, I began to rethink things. 

The weekly all nighters, the hourly feedings and the screaming fits are over. Well, to be honest, the screaming fits still happen—just not at four in the morning because of diaper rash. So doesn’t that mean that taking time for myself should be easier?

Maybe the problem isn’t the kids; maybe the problem is me.  

Well, that’s a load off my shoulders. I thought my kids were dragging me down. It turns out I am dragging myself down. I am the one who stays home with the kids so my husband can go on four (yes four) boys' weekends in one summer. I am the one who makes sure the soccer and ballet outfits are clean and ready to go, and I am the one who stays home from a wedding because we couldn’t get a sitter.

Oh no, I am a martyr!

My husband, it turns out, is perfectly happy skipping a few outings, doing laundry and “taking one for the team” as we call it and staying home with the kids. I just need to ask and not assume I will be the one making sacrifices.

So this is the year of me. I am going to go to New York and visit my friend for the weekend. I am going to tackle the new job that came at the perfect time, and I am going to ask my husband to take the kids to the park so I can read a book in peace. And it all starts now.

Actually, it started yesterday with an all day meeting and overnight stay in Boston. I was going to race home after the meeting to do school pick-up and dinner but my husband said he could handle it and my friend suggested I stay after the meeting for dinner. What started as a meeting turned into a chance to reconnect with colleagues and not worry about driving home at all hours of the night.

My first attempt at being the anti-martyr mom started off perfectly. The kids got off to school with Dad, and I got to shower in peace. The meeting went perfectly, and I was excited to see a text from my husband saying he had not forgotten to pick up the kids. So I called home during a break to say hello.

Rookie mistake. My son was in hysterics, and I couldn’t calm him. He had a rough day and wanted me to come home. The martyr in me wanted to drop everything and race home to him. My husband assured me that everything would be fine, so I fought back the tears and went back to my meeting. Not a minute went by for the rest of the night that I didn’t think of my boy, his tears and my guilt.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

I had to regroup and get back in the game. This is the test millions of parents endure every day, and I had to push forward. And I did. The day turned to night and the night finally turned to the next morning when I would see my little cherubs at pick-up. My daughter leapt into my arms and my son sighed with relief at the sight of me. My daughter said she missed me so much her stomach hurt.

That night after dinner, as we all played Connect Four in the living room, I looked at my happy family no worse for the wear after my night away and smiled. Martyr Mom be gone! I can do things for myself, not feel too much guilt and have a happy family, too. 


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