“Don’t be a martyr.”
My husband’s words sent a zing of fury through my veins.
It wasn’t the poor guy’s fault. He said the four harmless words, expecting me to hear something like my darling wife, you are important, too – please don’t feel like you have to accept discomfort in every fiber of your being in order to raise a happy, healthy child. I’m here to support you. Tell me how I can help.
But in that moment – with a half-cooked dinner on the stove, a hangry toddler velcroed to my hip and every last neck muscle straining to hold the phone blasting credit card company hold music to my ear – I heard fightin’ words.
There’s a theory that motherhood is more selfishness than sacrifice. And while I agree it’s the absolute privilege of a lifetime, can we be totally honest that it doesn’t exactly feel like a privilege to have someone else’s poop smeared across your cheek at 3am? That it doesn’t always feel like a privilege to run out in the middle of an important work meeting when “daycare” pops up on your caller ID? That privilege isn’t the first word that comes to mind in your dinner-cooking, toddler-hulking, shoulder-phoning fog?
But you know what? We handle it. We wash our faces. We silence our phones and walk back into meeting rooms. We feed the beasts, we hold them long after our biceps start screaming, we activate the credit card while apologizing for the howling in the background. And when all is said and done, I’m dang proud.
Mama, absolutely ask for help. Take care of yourself. Take time for yourself. Yes, yes, YES! All of those things! But let’s not take away the feeling of nailing a left-handed diaper change while clipping a coupon and belting Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on repeat with your shirt on inside out. You’re a strong mom, and a strong woman. And I declare it OK to feel like it.
So yes, I will be a martyr. I will, by definition, sacrifice something of great value (usually my sanity) for the sake of a cause. I’ll also be proud that in this season of life, I can choose someone else’s well-being over my own – not every second of every day, but sometimes, when it matters, or when it’s helpful, or when it makes me feel awesome.
Maybe there’s a lick of selfishness in it after all.
So, Dear Husband, the next time you call me a martyr, I’ll choose to hear your words differently. As a compliment. A proverbial fist bump. A salute to my strength and my sacrifice. I might also hand you the spatula and the toddler and go take a nap, and I know you’ll be proud.