By: Gigi IbrahimCC BY 2.0

Last week, I asked offbeat mamas via Facebook & Twitter: “What steps do YOU take to help you avoid mama martyrdom?” I got some great responses, which helped me clarify the issue for myself.

It basically boils down to this: I do not want to have a monogamous relationship with my son.

I’ve read a lot about “mommy martyrdom” because it freaks me out. It seems like a LOT of mothers shoulder this burden of “I am the only one who knows how to care for my child,” and while the result can be an empowering sense of mama bear “RAWR! YES I AM THE MOTHER DAMNIT!” it seems like it comes with a heavy tax…

One mother I talked to described it as painting yourself into a corner — if you think you’re the only one who knows how best to deal with your kid, you trap yourself in a little box where noone else is allowed to help, and then the burden is all on you, and then you’re exhausted and people get alienated and then noone else bothers trying to help (because they’ve hit road blocks with you telling them they’re doing it wrong) and then there you are: frazzled and feeling isolated and overburdened. I have fears come up because it seems like not only do you risk losing track of your own needs, but you also put strain on your relationships with those around you. “I’m so exhausted, this is so hard, you have no idea how much energy this takes — OMG WTF ARE YOU DOING?! DON’T HOLD THE BABY LIKE THAT, JEEZ!”

For me, part of why I wanted to be a mother is because I feel like I want to enjoy seeing my child with my partner and family. Obviously, I’m beyond excited to have a close relationship with my son. But I’m just as excited to sit back and watch Andreas fall in love with him. This has actually made me think positively blasphemous thoughts like, “Would I wean my son from breastmilk earlier if it meant that he and Andreas could bond more?” It’s a question of priorities — what will serve my son more in the long run: the health benefits of a year+ of breastmilk, or the relationships and bonds he forges with people other than me? I have no idea!

As an only child with pretty fucking awesome parents, bringing a grandchild into their life is also hugely important to me. My parents are cool and I really want them to have another little brain with which to share their wisdom. And then there’s so much other family! I’m so excited for our son to spend time exploring the wilds of Montana with Dre’s mom and her partner, to sit and read books with Dre’s dad, and to get to spend time with Dre’s siblings and their kids — there’s a total baby boom happening on that side of the family and there will be 3 cousins within 18 months of each other! And then there’s the greek chorus of crazy grand-aunties (my mom’s sisters). And how could I forget my stoner cousins who like to do “broga” yoga with Dre every Christmas? I want to give my kid a life filled with a whole community of amazing hilarious smart wacky family and friends — not just give him ME AND ONLY ME.

I don’t want to be my son’s one-and-only. I don’t want to micromanage his relationships with his community and lift him out of other people’s arms with a “Tutt, tutt: you’re doing it all wrong!” I want him to have a full range of experiences with the people I love. As an added bonus, these experiences might mean that I’m able to retain a bit more time to myself, and a bit more time for Andreas’ and my partnerhood, separate from our parenthood.

This comparison may be dumb, but I’m going to pull out my machete and stumble through the misguided allegorical thorns anyway: one of the big lessons I learned from my wedding was that the sense of community and contribution of people around me was more important than controlling the outcome. The cake? Who cared what it looked like as long as Susannah made it! The decorations? Meh, whatever: as long as it was done by the Sarah’s, that’s all I really cared about. The food? Serve whatever you want! As long as Andreas gets to dictate the vegan menu, and Dallas & Erin have fun preparing the food, I don’t really care.

I’m hoping that this same philosophy can come into play with parenting. Does Dre sooth the baby in the same ways I do? Meh, who cares: as long as the baby is soothed and they’re falling in love and it allows me to doze off. Is my mom as careful about the baby’s schedule as I am? Eh, as long as the baby is happy and developing a relationship with his grandma, that’s awesome! Is Nana’s cabin completely childproof? Pshaw: as long as it’s just minor injuries and Nana’s there to kiss the scrapes and bruises, it’s all probably fine. Obviously, I want Andreas and me to drive the core of the philosophies that play into how we raise our kid … but there are other people I want to be a part of it, too.

Clearly I’m writing this from a pre-parenting perspective — who knows how I’ll feel once the little dude arrives. But I think it’s a good idea to get one’s parenting intentions out there. As Hafidha Acuay Osuna said to me on Facebook:

Believe that other people (partner, parents, friends, etc.) have worthwhile things to teach your child(ren). That way you don’t feel like your child is better off spending 24/7 with you.

…Amen!


2015 UPDATE

Author here, five years later. A few people on Facebook wished there was an update on this post, so here I am.

I’m happy to say that things turned out pretty well. When I was pregnant in 2009, I was super worried that my controlling, Type A, managerial personality would make me a controlling micromanaging mom… in reality, that’s just not how things turned out at all. I’m a pretty low-key parent, and my kid spends a lot of time with his extended family, and I don’t have any interest in meddling with it. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I don’t know if this is because I really set the intent NOT to be be a martyr, or if it was just the luck of circumstance… but re-reading this post, I gotta say that yep. It all worked out about how I’d hoped it would.

Comments on How I want to avoid mommy martyrdom

  1. I second that Amen. I am not a mom yet, but I know that when I have kids, they are not going to take over my life in a negative way… meaning, I'm not going to be one of those people who ONLY identifies as a mom and that's it. Moms can have personality, too!

    Ariel, you are a hot mama.

  2. i have a MIL that drives me completely insane, and i think part of the reason for that is because she is one of those women who became a mommy martyr…when she got married, she went from whoever she was and became Wife. then when my DH was born, she became Wife and Mother. it's like she has no other identity. and that scares me. on one hand, she so pushy and smothering about this kind of thing that it completely annoys me and my first instinct is to push back, deny her (because 90% of the time i completely disagree with her anyway…she's super conservative and, well, smothering in her parenting tactics and i was raised in a much more free-spirited atmosphere), but on the other hand, i don't want to turn into her by trying to avoid her.

    tough sitch. but i have 5.5 more months to debate this in my head, and it may not be an issue anyway, since all of both my and DH's families live very, VERY far away.

  3. I'm vey lucky with my post life with my little one. I never felt like the martyr. Everyone in my family and my insignificant others family are always willing to lend a hand. we also have the "baby boom" we have 3 now all within 2 years of each other. On top of that we have tons for friends having babies or had babies within weeks of my son.

    but the most important thing i think i do with my son to prevent me from being a mommy martyr is including him in everything. since birth he goes every where with me. he's such a great temperament and loves being out of the house. to him he's the first explorer to explore the unknown. the way he looks at everything and everyone while we're out is just awesome.

  4. I love this perspective, but it can be a really hard balance, especially if you are raising your kids in a way differently than your family (specifically parents and inlaws) raised theirs.

    Our son spends two days every week with his Nana, my mother-in-law. We try to express to her that we want her to take the reins, get him out to do whatever she wants, but that there are one or two things that are no-nos for us, and that certain childcare recommendations have changed since she had children. (One, for example, is television. We went so far as to get rid of ours so it wouldn't be a fixture in his life.) Unfortunately she argues with our requests instead, then ignores them, and so we're put in a position where she thinks WE are doing it wrong and WE don't know what we're doing, and its kind of terrifying.

    Television is a sort of lame example, because it doesn't show how fear-inducing it can be to leave your kid with someone who won't listen to you and has "their way" of taking care of a kid. Our family has also argued with us over: Giving Jonah cold medicine, Letting him be in the pool by himself, Letting him cry-it-out as a young infant, etc.

    It boils down to a bigger issue in parenting, and that is that no one wants to hear that something they do with a child or did with a child was "wrong"… for our family its like accusing them of a crime to suggest that you shouldn't rub Vicks in the mouth of a toddler when they have a cold, because "that's the way we did it when you were young and you were fine." So if you have family and friends who are not up-to-date on childcare, (which Ariel, it sounds like you are lucky enough to have family that is informed and respects your decisions), it is hard to strike a balance between trying to everything yourself and letting other people take over for a little while. I do think my family, and my MIL in particular, have so much to teach our son and a lot of love to give. Its just trying to find a way to balance what they have to offer with the mothering instinct of making sure he's cared for properly.

    • Rodrigues I'm really happy to hear this perspective, too. I'm also finding it difficult to say "we believe in doing things this way" without it being heard as "the way you did it was wrong." Parent are especially difficult – when either set of grandparents-to-be notice that we're doing something differently than they did, their feelings are hurt. It's a tough one.

    • This reminds me so much of the OBB post about expectations…because sometimes you may not realize what your expectations are until someone violates them, around marriage, child rearing, and so many other things. I love that you are so aware of this and actively working to strike that balance, as hard as it is, because you want what is best for your son. 🙂

    • this is exactly what i fear with my MIL, and it's already started happening. i had mentioned not wanting to use bumpers in the crib with this little one (suffocation and SIDS hazard and all that), and you'd think we were planning on beating our child in the head with a meat mallet by her reaction. and she doesn't work, so she's already "offered" (i.e., begged) to come out just before my due date and stay as long as i "need" to "help out" (i.e., take over). i wonder what her reaction would be if i told her i didn't need her. it's definitely going to be a challenge striking that balance with her, especially because this is the first grandchild. if you have any tips or ideas you could share on how to deal with a pushy, overbearing, outdated Mother who's lost her identity (i.e., her children are grown), i would be very grateful.

      • I will also share this anecdote: So, I'm a second generation weirdo — the offbeat daughter of offbeat parents who were the result of relatively mainstream families. Growing up, my grandmothers were VERY different from my parents, and there were all sorts of interesting frictions.

        My parents were hippies who were trying to raise me on gender neutral clothes and low-sugar foods. And what did my grandmothers do? Send me frilly dresses and smuggled candy into the house whenever they visited! And you know what? I loved 'em for it, probably in part because it was novel and so different from what my parents did.

        Despite their frustrations, my folks seemed to recognize that ultimately me having a relationship with my grandmothers was more important than me eating carob and wearing brown corduroy pants all the time. And as I got older, I was able to form my own opinions about my grandmothers' values … which, ultimately, were completely in line with my parents.

        All this is to say … the first step for dealing with a "pushy overbearing outdated mother" is to just step back and let her do her thing, trusting that it's coming from a place love for her grandchild and that by the time your kid is old enough to have their own opinions on grandma … they'll likely agree with you. 🙂

        • you forgot the capital 'M' on Mother… 😉

          of course, you're absolutely right. i guess i'm really showing what a n00b i am to all of this, really. i've been so caught up in the "OMG i completely disagree with almost everything she does!" that i never stopped to consider the fact that simple exposure to MIL's way of doing things in small doses is not likely to have a huge irreparable impact on tadpole's life and/or personality. irreparable is probably the wrong word, but you know what i'm saying. let's face it, first time motherhood is scary! i need to learn to relax.

          i have to say though, OT, that this site is wonderful. my sister is the one who clued me into it (she's an OBB…unfortunately, i was not aware of OBB before i got married 2 and a half years ago :S ). thanks so much for the advice and assurance, and this great platform!

      • I am dealing with the (exact) same issues as you. It is sometimes so hard to stay calm and not frustrate DH or make him feel guilty.

  5. This is a really great topic and one I struggled with when I had my first child. I'm now on number 3 and am much more confident in my own parenting style because I've got nothing to prove to society or my family outside my own home. As long as my children are happy, well adjusted, well fed little beings the only people I have to answer to are them. 🙂

    Unfortunately, it didn't take me until the third child to come to terms with that. Kudos to you for thinking about this before hand.

  6. as a mom of an energetic 1.5 yr old boy and another boy due in feb i know it can be hard…alot! its hard to get out there everyday and do things. its hard when you are doing things different from the 'norm'. Where i live there are only a handful of women who i can relate to with certain parenting aspects that won't judge me….but they spend most of their time sitting around judging the how the 'normal' moms are doing things. i struggle daily with trying to connect to other moms out there….and i've had little sucess thus far. i would encourage everyone to find friends….otherwise you'll have very lonely and long days. especially if your a stay at home mom. consider yourself extreamly blessed if you have a crazy family who has so many different things to offer your child! how i crave that.

  7. Great post! I just wanted to make a comment about your ponderings over breastfeeding and paternal bonding. As a lesbian non-bio mom, I spent the majority of my wife’s first pregnancy silently convinced that I was never going to be as important to our child as she would — because she would be the mommy with the lactating breasts.
    Thankfully despite not nursing, I formed a strong bond with our oldest child, and am well on my way toward establishing a similarly strong bond with our new son. What helped was 2 things: my wife’s willingness to “share” our children — she was aware of her privilege and worked to undermine it, encouraging me to take care of the baby in ways that didn’t involve breasts. Second, I was helped by my own determination not to let my lack of lactation get in the way of being a full, involved parent from the beginning. I set out to learn my children, learn how to comfort them when the breast was not near, spend time cooing at them and stimulating their minds. I may not have been the mom with the milk, but I was the mom who played the fun games, taught them their first words, helped them learn how to do exciting things like smash food into their hair.
    How this relates to men: I think a lot of male/female couples get caught in that cultural image of the nursing mother being all that an infant needs. But biology is not destiny. Since you are determined not to be your child’s one and only, you’ll be looking for ways for Andreas to bond with your son from day one. I don’t know Andreas since I’m a relatively new reader, but if he also tosses that cultural commandment away, he’ll find that he’s able to bond with your newborn son even though you’re breastfeeding, as well. It’s all about attitude and offbeat thinking.

    • thank you. i appreciate this comment so much. all aspects of a relationship, not simply the relationship itself, require a huge amount of "two way street-ed-ness", if you will. though it is vitally important for the nursing parent to cut out gate keeping (read: undermine privilege), it is equally important for the non-nursing parent to be completely involved in the process and find a niche.

    • Trista, THIS IS AWESOME! Thank you so much for this perspective. I'll definitely be sharing it with Andreas … it's extra valuable since both Dre and I have lesbian mothers, and so in many ways our relationship is based more on lesbian dynamics than heterosexual ones. 🙂

      • unfortunately, I don't have any book recommendations. Well, that's not entirely true, I do have a recommendation, but currently the manuscript of that book is sitting on an editor's desk collecting dust — the book me and my friend are writing together about being a non-bio mom. Sigh. Publishing a book is HARD.

        Anyway, I have some old blog posts that I can direct you to, and some from my own blog that I can send you (I pulled my blog down about a year ago) if you're interested in reading more about how different non-bio moms and dads handled bonding with their infants…

    • This is a slightly different subject, but in some ways the same… It has to do with your comment that 'biology is not destiny' – this could not be more true in my life. I was adopted at 4 days old, so neither of my parents had the breastfeeding or biological connection to bond with me. My mom probably also silently prayed that she would be as important to me as my bioligical mother would have been. They, like you, were both parents that patiently learned about me (and my brother), playing with us, nurturing and comforting us, and they are no less a parent to me than any biological parent could be. As long as parents are committed to providing a nurturing, healthy environment, your child will know you well – and know that you love them unconditionally – regardless of whether or not you have breastfeeding to bond over. =)

  8. Awesome, amazing post. Tangentially-but-substantially-related: my parents are work martyrs. They own a business together, and they work harder than anyone else ever has in the history of humankind. They have employees, and volunteer offers all the time, but since no one else can do it like they do….they end up doing everything themselves. It's definitely all about control issues, just the same as with mommy martyrdom.

    My sister-in-law just had baby #2, and they're really feeling the impact of the extreme mommy martyrdom with baby #1….baby #2 came by c-section so they need more help than last time, but everyone seems to have backed away because baby #1 won't let ANYone other than mommy help her with ANYthing. It's definitely a family learning process for everyone, myself included!

  9. Because my family are addicts in recovery, Im forever grateful for my husband's family and our extended community.Lyra will learn Mandarin, Southern cooking, hooping, poi, and DJ-ing, and while she does, mom can have a break!

  10. I left for bootcamp and HAD to trust my mother with my daughter. While I love being with my daughter all the time, I do have to get away every once in a while. My husband reminds me of that when I forget. ALSO, I knew he was a keeper when he married me and fell happily face-first into coparenting my three year old. Good Dads are a beautiful resource.

  11. I have seen so many wives say this kinda thing to their husband –> "I'm so exhausted, this is so hard, you have no idea how much energy this takes — OMG WTF ARE YOU DOING?! DON'T HOLD THE BABY LIKE THAT, JEEZ!", and I know how easy it is to fall into that trap… plus how often society encourages the idea that fathers don't know how to parent, only mothers do it properly.
    So I guess my big tip against Mommy Martyrdom is remembering to trust your spouse. I married a capable, intelligent man who doesn't have much experience with children, but I have to trust that he will be able to do everything as well as I do… if not better! And to leave him alone without nagging him while he does it!

  12. I’m not really sold on letting the grandparents have their way. Frilly dresses, television, and candy are one thing, but when I know that babies go into comas from cold medicine and ask whoever is watching our baby not to give him cold medicine and am met with “But I gave my kids cold medicine and they were fine” and then I come home to a bottle of cold medicine on the counter… it calls into question the trust you can have with “outdated” parents.

    This is kind of a sore spot for me, because we don’t have many childcare options and consequently don’t get out much, but sometimes I really am SCARED of what my MIL (basically the only childcare we have) will do, knowing that she ignores things that are not just parenting-style requests.

    • oh goodness….that is a scary thought. i should be thankful that i only have to deal with the parenting-style stuff. i hope that she respects your wishes!

    • This is more of an issue when it's about things that could actually be dangerous. My oldest was a late talker and it was suspected that he might have Pervasive Developmental Disorder (that umbrella label for Autism, Asperger's, Rhett's, etc). We got him into a special preschool. I had read an article on how cow's milk may affect those w/ Autism and figured I could try it (what did I have to lose?). My mother freaked out that he was not going to get enough nutrients because he often refused to eat anything. This was around age 3. So, she would buy soymilk and give it to him without telling me. Now, normally, my kid drinking soymilk would not be a problem, but he was used to filling up on milk and would still not eat any food. I actually had to kick her out of the house for a week. She lived 5 mins down the road, so had boundary issues there. During that week, it only took 3 days of no milk to get him eatting food on a regular basis.

  13. A couple I know with a 9 month old are still breastfeeding…and their little one is very very close to his dad. Dad still fed the baby…Mom pumped her milk starting at 12 weeks and had Dad feed the little man once a day and put him down for a nap so she could shower and read a book. Now dad feeds the little guy his dinner and gives him his bath while Mom relaxes. Dads can bond even with baby being breastfed. (Yes, I'm a huge advocate, I've seen what great things happen to babies nursed for a long period of time.)

  14. A week after that, his speech picked up dramatically. It was still difficult for her to not give him milk or soymilk even after seeing the progress he made. So, we were able to compromise at 3 cups of soymilk/ day. He had been drinking up to 6-7 cups of milk when my mom watched him. It was like a pacifer to him. Now, he's a happy 8 yo and the dr took away his PDD diag…. and he rarely drinks milk, unless it's with cereal or cookies. He still likes soymilk too.
    The only thing I can say is to pick your battles, but be very insistent on the things that matter to you. Print out articles supporting your plans, etc. If needed, try another child care provider, temp. to see if she will agree to change so that she can see her grandchild. Maybe even info from the baby's dr. Good luck!

  15. I have been reading your blog posts for a few years now Ariel and I just wanted to say that this post was, by far, my favourite piece of your writing I have ever read. You have hit the nail on the head… it takes a village to raise a child.

    I am one of five people that raise my nephew and we each have passions and interests of opposite polarity. We all have our different coping and discipline strategies. My nephew is exposed to so many different walks of life that nothing frightens him… he adjusts so well to new situations because he is used to variety.

    We five "parents" are made up of a sport junkie, a Bon Jovi fan, a goth sound engineer, a hippie midwife, and a computer nerd. We are an eclectic bunch- but we all believe my nephew should know that he is unconditionally loved, that he is kind and polite, and that he is happy in himself no matter what. I can teach him things and share things with him his mother cannot, and vice versa. He has very different relationships with each of us. And it is beautiful to see those relationships grow, and that he knows there are so many people (not just the five of us!) looking out for him. There can never be too many people to love a kid.

  16. I think this is a really important topic. I just want to throw in my opinion that extended breastfeeding does not an exclusive relationship make. My son is just now weaning at over two years old, and nursed on demand for quite a while. However, my partner and I both work part time, and we've also been trading off child-free breaks since River was born. In the early days, our agreement was that I would take him back (during my off hours) only for as long as he needed to nurse, and for no other reason. Later on I would occasionally pump milk for bottle feedings when I was away, and after a while we moved on to nursing only when I was available and feeding other foods at other times. I now spend more of my time at home than I used to, but River and his dad have an awesome relationship, and I'm one of the few moms I know who has honestly never felt that I naturally know how to do things better for some reason…probably because we were both learning at the same time.

  17. Didn't read through all the responses but wanted to echo what you have already written. Make sure you and Dre go out alone without the baby!!!!! I have known people who have NEVER left their kids with anyone other than family and then for only a short time. Don't do that. Even though you are blessed with a wonderful family- make sure you have another person or two who you allow your child to know and feel comfortable with.

    That being said- I breast fed my son until shortly after he turned 1. My husband was often the player and soother at other times. And yes- we both changed diapers 😉

  18. Super important topic and I think a good one for those of us who are used to being, if not control freaks then "get-shit-done" kind of people to remember when entering into motherhood. Biologically and socially I think it's really easy for the martyr thing to happen, so putting in the effort to be mindful of it I think is important.

    My prenatal yoga teacher has been great at warning us away from this trap. She recommends things like having a regular time of day everyday that is time for your partner to take over (be they the bio parent or not) so that you get a break, and they get a sense of having something their in charge of/that is theirs. Something like taking them for a walk (if your climate allows), every day regardless of the situation so that right away there's time built in where you get a break, and they're doing one on one bonding. We're planning on giving that a try. My partner — who has already had a child with someone else years ago — has also offered that at night it should be his job to do the changing, since he won't be doing the feeding. Finding some things like these that can be things that your partner just does and that you let them have some control over the execution of, will both help them to feel involved/bond etc. but will also give you the brain space to relax and let go which is a way to practice letting go in little ways until it becomes an easy habit.

  19. I really appreciate this perspective and found it an interesting read. It is indeed a blessing to have wise, "cool" parents/other family members who can have a part in looking after your child. My only concern (shared with some of the other posters), is what if you know that your parents/in-laws/aunts and uncles would feel free to share their own (more conservative) views on race/gender/homesexuality/religion etc with your kids, when those views tend to be ones that you absolutely cannot agree with, and certainly don't want as part of your child's education? Would you just explain to your child that everyone has different views, and reinforce the importance of respect for all people, regardless of those factors? Very confusing – something I will have to grapple with when it gets to that stage! That's not so much a "mummy martyr" thing though – I guess I could ask my equally open-minded friends to look after a kid instead!

    • Ok, so I'm not a parent yet so take this with a grain of salt, but going off my experiences with other people's kids… kids are smarter than we give them credit for! Even the really little ones do an astonishingly good job realizing that different people have different ways of looking at the world. Hopefully, if and when your kids have questions about why grandma doesn't like the black people, they'll come to YOU and you can help them understand that while it's always good to respect grandma's opinions, you disagree strongly and here's why. I mean, I know when I was growing up, not all the adults in my life agreed about everything. My parents wouldn't buy a TV no matter how much I pleaded as a kid, but I watched TV for hours every time I visited grandma–and guess what, now I don't own a TV.

      One way I know this is going to play out in my future family is with religion. When my husband and I got married, the most common objection to interfaith marriages I heard was, "Won't the children be confused?" I thought about it a lot, and the answer I came to was NO, they absolutely won't be! I love the idea of having age-appropriate conversations about how Mommy's Jewish and Daddy's Unitarian, and I think kiddo is Jewish and daddy thinks kiddo can be whatever they choose to be, and both of us will love the kiddo no matter what. What's confusing about that?

  20. This is an absolutely fantastic post!!! It's an incredibly thought-provoking topic. I'll go ahead and add my experience:

    Sean (husband) and I moved out of state when I was 16 weeks pregnant. In fact, we moved alllll the way across the country, to Portland, where we knew NO ONE. We knew this would be a challenge once our baby arrived, but we figured we'd handle it. So, one day in March Jasper decided to come two whole months early, and completely took over our worlds and changed everything we thought we knew. He was in the NICU for a month, and also born with this super-rare platelet condition (NAIT, it's a form of thrombocytopenia and oh my gosh, it can be terrifying). Before he was born, I was right there with you–not so much with the family thing, because neither of us are as close to our families, but one reason we moved to Portland is we wanted Jasper to experience a wider range of diversity than we felt was available where we lived (and where we are now, but we have plans in the works to move again next year). After he came so early, plus after being in the hospital and with his platelet thing, I am the first to admit I was super protective of him. Once Jazz came home, Sean was working 60 hours a week at two jobs, mostly 12-hour night shifts, and I was home with Jaspo all the time. We always had to watch him for bruises and bleeding, which could be signs of platelets going down, and I more than played the martyr role.

    We moved back here in June, and since then I like to think I've gotten better. Sean is working a job he loves, in a field that's relevant to his degree, and that lets him spend a LOT more time with us. Subsequently, he's spending TONS more time with Jasper, and they totally have their own thing going on. I'm breastfeeding exclusively, and (like so many have already said), it really doesn't detract from their relationship. Sean has definitely said he wishes he could feed Jasper, and in our case we took a baby who was bottle-fed in the NICU (I pumped BM), on a feeding schedule, and could sleep in his own bed and turned him into the biggest co-sleeping, on-demand feeder. He'll only take breast milk from me–he won't do bottles at all anymore. It's great, because I love feeding him, but I do think the on-demand feeding has contributed to my martyrdom, if only because I am literally the only person who can feed him, and it's AMAZING how fast a day goes by when you're working in 2 to 3 hour increments, and a lot of the days I don't feel like I get much done work-wise. I'm (as you know) working as photographer again, and since Jazz is breastfeeding he and Sean come with me to all of our events, weddings, and sessions.

    Ummm…yeah, this got really long, and I'm mostly rambling. But I think my point is that some mommy martyrdom is almost normal in the beginning, or at least..I don't know. I think in our case it was definitely understandable. And we also don't have the most supportive family–I'm still getting asked by family members if Jasper really has to eat as often as he does, or told that I feed him too much. It's even more frustrating because he's actually caught up with the full-term babies born when he was, and it's mostly due to the breastfeeding, and his own natural awesomeness.

    And as for the soothing thing..that took me FOREVER to let go of! Hearing Jasper cry is rough for me, and for the first few months anytime Sean would try to sooth Jasper it would always be different from what I was doing, and Jasper would protest because it wasn't what he was used to, and I'd get huffy. Now I'm INFINITELY better at letting them work it out on their own, because it's true–you can't have it both ways. Some of my happiest moments are when I see Jasper and Sean together, interacting and doing what they do and just loving one another.

    SO! Sorry this is so long. You just got me thinking, and hopefully my experience can help you in some way.

  21. I love this post so much. I'm not a mother and won't be for a few years, but when I have kids I worry a lot about this. My friends and I refer to it as 'child worshipping' and not only do I think it's detrimental to yourself, I think it's detrimental to your children too.

    I read this awesome article that apparently stirred a ton of waves where a mother said, "I love my husband more than my children." Apparently a lot of feathers got ruffled (not so shockingly) but I loved the metaphor she used. Her and her husband were the sun and their children were these little planets orbiting them. It makes sense though, as wonderful as being a parent is (I imagine) eventually your children are going to leave. They're going to go off and find their own special someone and make their own solar system and they're not going to want you there for every second. I think sometimes the horror stories you hear about mother in laws from hades comes from these same people who (and by no means do I think they're doing it out of intent to harm or be cruel) were mommy martyrs. Is there really any other way to react when your entire being is devoted to being your son's mom and then one day he brings home the girl he's going to marry? How do you NOT get jealous when your whole identity is crashing down around you?

    I was raised by my father and he always made his philosophy clear- it was his job as a parent to raise me into a functioning, independent adult. One day he was gonna be gone and I was going to need to know that I could depend on myself and yes, I was going to survive. Because that's another thing when I have children, and why I'm going to try hard also to avoid mommy martyrdom– my mother's death was not expected. I can only imagine how much harder it would have been for my father had my own mother been a 'martyr' because he would have had no idea how to take over the reigns. I hope when I have children my partner will feel like even in the worst case scenario, he'll still be able to raise our kids.

  22. Thankyou.
    The fear that I won't be able to trust my husband to "do it right" whatever "it" may be at any given time, is one of the reasons we don't have kids yet. You've all given me a lot to think about.

  23. If you want to combine the benefits of breastfeeding and "daddy-feeding", could you express milk into bottles and let Andreas do the holding and delivery half the time? Just a thought!

  24. I haven't read through the comments yet so I'm sure I'll have more to add — but the breastfeeding/daddy bonding thing? Easily solved with an electric pump. I pumped and she got a bottle every night from Daddy and I was able to feed her from my breast just fine for many months.

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