The Blue Dress Continued

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion in the comments section of my last post. Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and made me think even more deeply about "mommy martyr syndrome." I am so happy to read that many of you have your own "blue dresses" too. And Rachel-I hope you got out running this weekend with your jogger! And thank you to Meagan Francis, the author of the "blue dress" essay, who stopped by to share her thoughts too.

Anyway, I want to address a few of the comments, which is something I wanted to do days ago, but, of course, my schedule got in the way, as it does often.

There were two "Anonymous" comments (I swear I won't bite you, mystery people. Even if you don't feel comfortable leaving your real name here, make one up and leave it at the end of your comment. It's much more personal than my now having to address you as "Anonymous 1 and 2"...and it helps me avoid spelling "Anonymous" incorrectly 15 times too).

To make things easier, I will refer to the Anonymous comments as A1 and A2.

A1 made an interesting comment. Here's what she said, in part:

Why is it that there is so much disdain towards moms who truly do not feel the need to get that one day a week to themselves away from the kids? Why is it thought that there is something wrong with those women or that they must feel like their lives are so not their own?... those of us out there who feel the way I do are just plain annoyed with people mockingly calling us martyrs and the like. Our lives are better because of our children - we don't get sick of singing the ABCs, it isn't a task for us to take 4 or more kids to the market or to the park. Why is that so hard to understand for some?

I agree with Mary's response to A1's comment wholeheartedly. A1, it sounds to me as if you have struck the almighty "life-in-balance gold" for which so many others (myself included) are still searching. You work out two hours a day at the gym. You make time for your appearance, and your interests, and you don't feel as if your kids are sucking the life out of you. Because you are actually able to take time for yourself, you don't feel burdened by motherhood. Mommy martyrs don't take that time for themselves, and give and give and give to their children to the detriment of themselves and their goals. As Meagan said in her comment, moms who do this end up miserable in the end.

There is nothing wrong with a mother who loves every minute of "mothering." Personally, this does not describe me (not even close, especially lately), but I know several women for whom being a mother is the only thing they've ever wanted, and they are happy with their lives. But for me, I am as Jess said: My running and my work enable me to be a whole mommy, and not solely a mommy. I could not hack it as a traditional stay-at-home mom. But that's just me. It may not be you. And that's okay.

A2's response nicely sums up my own views on mommy martyrdom. She says:

My mother is a mommy-martyr. She became nothing but her children, she had nothing outside of us, and when we grew up and left she was alone with nothing. I swore I would never turn into the invisible woman, that I would have something for myself and be someone that my children could be proud of. I swore this, whether I worked or not. I am lucky to have a job I love, a job I would do for nothing if I was independently wealthy. I love my children too and I love that I can arrange my schedule to be with them, but I will also be myself too.

Much as I love them, I cannot and will not live solely for my children. I do not want to wake up in 20 years and realize that I have completely lost myself to motherhood, and that I cannot identify where my children end and I begin. And above all that, I want my kids to be proud of not only the mother I am, but also the woman I am. I want them to see from my example that they can accomplish anything they want: that they can run a half-marathon, work and raise their families at the same time (although at times, it is certainly a struggle), climb Mount Everest, go to cooking school, or whatever it is they desire most.

Motherhood is incredibly important to me. I went through more than most to achieve it. But other things are important to me too. I'm still in the hunt for the balance others like the first Anonymous commenter has already achieved. And it may not come until all my kids are in school. But until that point, I will gut through the insanity of my current life. I will wake up at 6 to work and finally turn off my laptop at midnight. I will run at 7am or 11am or 4pm or 8pm because a regular running schedule will not work for me right now. And I will bitch and complain for the next few years until some semblance of normalcy returns to my life.

Some mothers might not require theirs, but I need my blue dress to keep breathing.

7 Responses to “The Blue Dress Continued”

  1. # Blogger Jesser

    You are so nice and diplomatic. I read stuff like what A1 wrote and just think to myself, "Uh-huh. Sure you do." I definitely have limited patience for ABCs and peek-a-boo and I would hope that even if I truly felt that way, that I would worry about my post-child future ... I will have to try to be more open-minded, though. It's definitely a failing I have.  

  2. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    I didn't comment on your earlier post, because I wanted to think on it (and it's allergy season, and I'm in a bit of a cloud at the moment.)
    I'm not a mommy martyr, but I do think there is a line that can get crossed. Just like you can go too far in doing only for your kids, you can also go too far in doing only for yourself. I think it's a balance that has to be struck and it's a balance that's different for every family. For us right now, I don't spend much money on myself -- we're a family of four living on a teacher's salary. But, we are spending time and money on our fixer upper house and learning lots in the meantime. It's fun for us to do as a couple and I don't feel that I'm losing out. I think that's the big thing. Yes I stay home, yes I scrimp and save, but I'm also learning something new most days. Now, if only I could make myself get in more walks, things would be grand.  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Well, Jesser, it's quite sad for your family that you are so miserable in your role as mother that you think someone is lying when they state that they are truly fulfilled and happy as a mother and never wish for their life pre-child or longingly wait for those moments away from their kids. You're that person who we find so annoying - the people so inept at mothering that their only solace is to assume that those of us that are happy must be lying or demented. You would worry about your future post-child if you found joy in singing to your children their favorite songs over and over, or found happiness in playing hide-and-seek 5 times a day with little ones who don't understand the concept but still giggle in excitement over the game? I don't. I know that I am nurturing my children and providing them with an environment that is comfortable for them to explore and grow. Just because I sing songs to my children or play 'childish' games with them and set up make-believe tea parties doesn't mean I don't also keep up to date on news, politics and the like. I still have conversations with other adults. I have a PhD that I earned during 3 pregnancies and newborns. I am blessed enough to be able to stay home with my 4 children as my husband's career provides us with a very good life. Rather than assume that others are lying to make your shortcomings seem okay or acceptable, try to appreciate what you have in your role as mother. Try to focus on the positive rather than the burden you feel your role as mother has become. And yes, I'm sure I 100% appreciate and love my role as mother. I am happy, accomplished and healthy. Being a great mom that others look to for support and advice is the thing I am most proud of. If you actually have the audacity to insult someone for being proud of being an incredible mom...well, you have more failings than you know. I know there are more women out there like me who just wake up everyday and look forward to the day ahead with their children. How could you look at those little faces and feel any other way? Yes, children cry, they get sick, they scream in tantrums, they don't sleep all night, they aggravate each other, they don't listen to rules all the time...THEY ARE CHILDREN. They are finding their way - learning. That's what they do. Why is that so surprising? Why is it so difficult for people to deal with and why, if you found it unbearable and unmanageable the first time, would you have more children?  

  4. # Blogger Jesser

    Dear Anonymous: I truly hope that you are as happy with your life as I am with mine. I wish you and your family all the best.  

  5. # Blogger Allison

    I think I am a pretty good mother to my kids. However, I fall short in many, many ways. But, I keep striving to be a better person and mother, knowing that I am going to make mistakes along the way and I don't have all the answers. I, like all mothers, am motivated by love and am trying my hardest to do what is best for my children, whom I love more than anything on this earth. For some, this is immersing themselves completely in motherhood. For others, this is keeping a lifeline to the outside world. The point is, we are all trying to do what is best for our children and we keep striving for balance, remembering that humility can help us look inside ourselves and continue to grow as mothers and as individuals.  

  6. # Anonymous Kell

    Jesser- I too am inclined to think those people are lying to make things tolerable.... Maybe this is my own shortcoming. When I was a new mom of twins I suffered terribly from PPD and "those mothers" the ones that were perfectly happy in their beautiful child centered lives, drove me deeper into depression. I wanted to be that mother but I was not and it hurt terribly. PPD is an ugly thing and it has scarred me in ways I can't begin to describe. I cannot believe that "those mothers" enjoy every moment but I believe that they have found peace and contentment in their lives, as I have now too. I love my job (I have said that before), I am lucky to have a vocation I adore. BUT I don't love my job every moment and I don't love all aspects of my job. I feel that if I did I would be a little 'Stepford' if you know what I mean.
    Anon- you ask how you can feel any other way than you do... well how can you not have a range of feelings everyday? How can you look forward to every moment. Cherishing each moment is different from looking forward to it.
    I am a good mother. I realize that now. I am a good mother in spite of the fact that *gasp* my children are in day care! And *gasp* I like to go out with my friends occasionally. And *gasp* I buy things for myself. I am a good mom because I don't think I am a great mom... I am constantly trying to be better. If you already think you are remarkable there is little time for self-examination and if there is no self-examination there is no growth. I am constantly learning I am an adult and it is my job as a human to be in a constant state of learning.
    As a child I never considered being a SAHM because I did not want to be like my mother. I was embarrassed of her for much of my childhood, and I never want to be an embarrassment. It was not her SAHM status that embarrassed me, it was that she let herself go, and I associated that with staying at home. I see now that isn't the case but again we are all products of our own upbringing.
    And Kristi- I use the Anon label because I am lazy, it is easier than entering a name!  

  7. # Blogger Kristi

    To the First Anonymous Commenter:

    I am happy for you that you've found total fulfillment in motherhood, that you've been able to achieve a balanced life, that you make time for yourself on a daily basis, that you look forward to and enjoy every single second with your children, and that you believe yourself to be a great mother.

    I have to say, though, that I find your utopic life somewhat incredible. I have a pretty wide circle of "mom friends" of varying ages, education levels, and socio-economic statuses. There isn't a single one whom I would say is as satisfied with her life as you contend you are with yours.

    Motherhood is messy. It's complicated. It's stressful, it's physically and emotionally exhausting (or at least it is for many of us). But it's also fulfilling and joyful. I don't feel that those of us who are honest with our feelings and admit that it's not rainbows, puppies, and daisies all day, every day, are any less "great mothers" than moms like you, who don't require "me time," and who don't tire of constantly entertaining their kids.

    There are some who might fit the definition of "inept at mothering." However, someone who finds joy in being with her kids, but who also does motherhood a favor by readily admitting that there's more to her life than building block towers and playing hide-and-go-seek isn't one of them.  

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