Motherhood and Martyrdom

by midlifecrisisqueen on May 14, 2013

I hope all of you mothers out there had a GREAT Mother’s Day.

CBS Sunday Morning had an interesting segment this week on choosing to remain childless by choice, a decision at least one fifth of Boomers have made, and even more younger people are considering.  This is the decision I made decades ago.

I have always appreciated a bumper sticker I saw once in Denver: “Thank you for not breeding.”  This was the first and only time anyone has ever thanked me for making the personal decision that my DNA did not need to be continued into the next generation.

The reasons why we decide to breed or not are many.  I have great concern for the future of our small planet, overpopulation, and climate change.    I was raised to feel stewardship for our planet, and I also believe tolerance towards different opinions is one of the best qualities of American citizenship.

But there is one aspect of motherhood, which I find negative and destructive to both mothers and their children.  That is the model of motherhood that includes a big dose of martyrdom, with a side of guilt.

I have been studying this syndrome for years, especially during my graduate study years.  I decided to call it “selflessness,” because the true “self” is not valued unless it is “helping” everyone but yourself.  This does not reflect a healthy spirit, and I think our culture glorifies the actions of those who sacrifice themselves.  Perhaps you can relate to these feelings.

Do you feel inadequate unless you are constantly available to help everyone around you?  Are you convinced that you don’t deserve the good things in life just for being exactly who you are?  Do you see feeling good about just being yourself as selfish?

Too many women have been taught that being there for others is more important than being there for themselves.  We believe we must be constantly helping others to earn the right to be admired and loved.  We feel fundamentally unworthy of love without first paying for it by years of caring for others.

It took me years to discover this syndrome in myself.  It felt like I was always “giving myself away.”  I did this because I did not value all that I was.  I needed to be helping others to feel worthy.

I now wish we could all find new self-compassion and self-respect.  I believe this would make a better world for everyone involved.

To gather wisdom about ways to see your value and your life differently in midlife: Find Your Reason to be Here: The Search for Meaning in MidlifeMidlife Magic: Becoming the person you are inside!, and the Midife Change Workbook.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan May 14, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Thank you Laura Lee. Your words are exactly what I needed to hear at this moment.

midlifecrisisqueen May 15, 2013 at 7:26 am

And you are exactly why I do what I do Jan!

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