Today I have two seventeen year olds. I do not have identical twins, but rather what some call “Irish twins.” My oldest and middle children are six days short of a year apart. And there are only fourteen months between my second and third. I was very busy making, having, and nursing babies. I was and have been told by many that I have my hands very full.
Like all parents, I have and I do. I love my kids unconditionally. I would sacrifice my own life for them at any time if faced with that decision. But, as we all exist on this earth together I will not give up who I am in the name of loving them more.
I refuse to be a martyr mom.
Glennon Doyle says it nearly perfectly in her book, Untamed:
“Mothers have martyred themselves in their children’s names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most, loves the most. We have been conditioned to pour out our love by slowly ceasing to exist.
What a terrible burden for children to bear—to know that they are the reason their mother stopped living. What a terrible burden for our daughters to bear—to know that if they choose to become mothers, that this will be their fate, too. Because if we show them that being a martyr is the highest form of love, that is what they will become.” Glennon Doyle, Untamed
In 2004, after the birth of my second child in less than one year. I was lucky enough to meet my amazing friend Kara at the local gym. Kara’s strength, intelligence, and general ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ attitude was magnetic at a time that I was searching for guidance. She mentored me in lessons of honesty, confidence, and letting go of worthless emotions such as worry, shame, and guilt. I sadly don’t remember how I met Kara, other than her young daughters also frequented the ‘Kids’ Club’ and we at first would end up unintentionally choosing treadmills next to each other. One day general pleasantries morphed into a raw and honest friendship that never ended up reaching much further than those treadmills, but left a lasting impression on my heart and soul.
Every Monday we would meet at 8am to run. Our warm up included fun weekend stories and small talk/catching up. As we ran not only did our bodies heat up, get in the groove, and finally give in to fatigue- but our conversations went from surface based to deep confessions and heartfelt honesty about all facets of life. Kara shared many of her life’s errors and also how she did learn and continue to learn from them.
She taught me about the importance of taking care of yourself first so you can be the best mom and wife you can be.
When I would mention feeling guilty over leaving my kids in the playroom for 2.5 hours so I could workout, chat with friends, and often take a shower, she would tell me to let go of the guilt. She taught me that although we often think that guilt is productive, but it is a worthless emotion if we don’t plan to change our actions. Doing something we enjoy and feeling guilt at the same time only negates the joy.
These lessons resonated with me and put me on a path to love my children while still honoring myself. I will not cease to exist. I will not be a model of disappearing out of love.
I will not feel guilty while doing things to honor myself.
Now my kids are high schoolers, reaching adulthood and preparing to leave the house. We sometimes struggle but we still laugh daily. I often have a hard time navigating this season of life. But, I accept that they are going on to be themselves. They are confident. They are strong.
I have modeled that real love is honoring yourself and coming together with others who love themselves as well. Not pretending while suffering in guilt. REAL self-respect, self care. Self love for the one and only you.
Honoring your needs allows you to truly follow and trust your passion. You will be able to establish boundaries and prioritize your goals. You will not hide behind anyone, especially not your kids.
Go after big goals and make them a priority in your daily life. Be a role model rather than a martyr. Kids will continue to take all you are willing to give. But, even if they seemingly want everything from you in the present moment. they do not want to grow up to be the reason that you didn’t live as you. That is too great of a burden to bear.
I would love to say that part of refusing to be a martyr is that I never let my kids win. Well, I don’t let them.
Halle laps me in the pool (several times) when we swim together and always beats me out of the water in a race. Deaken beat me in overall in a race for the first time in 2019. Quinton always crushes me in the run. They try their best and I am extremely proud of them. But, I don’t claim their wins as my own nor do I remind them of all of the sacrifices I had to make to be their mom. We race together as teammates.
Love you to love them. You will all benefit from it.
Someday, you will be able to be equals, all on the same team.