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Mom the Martyr

The kids are sick so Mom will take them to the pediatrician and push her own physical back, again. There hasn't been a single piece of fruit in the house for two days, so protein bar for lunch on the way to the grocery store it is. Mom made dinner and everyone is now seated eating it, except Mom. She's making lunches, spoon feeding the baby, and cutting up the toddler's food into less of a choking hazard for when she shovels it into her tiny mouth. She'll eat when they're in bed and her food can remain warm from start to finish.

Mom just put two kids to bed and now she's being passed the toddler who won't stop screaming til she gets a book with Mama. And then it's off to the crying baby who can't settle down for the night without nursing. Somehow it's already ten o'clock and everyone is sleeping, except Mom. She's picking up socks in weird places (the toy pot and NEXT to the hamper...???) and taking a minute to herself with some Netflix, because she hasn't had a chance to decompress from the day. She is Mom the martyr. We all know one or have been one at some point in motherhood. So is it inevitable or is some of it self-inflicted?

My husband keeps trying to convince me that I do too much for my four girls. According to him, I'm the source of their neediness. He's always telling me to, "Make them wait!" and "They never ask me for snacks because they know I never have them." Or "Just sit down and eat, your food is getting cold, las niñas se tienen que aguantar." Or my favorite, "You turned them into water bottle bottle needing monsters. Now they're always thirsty."

It's true. It was definitely worse when I only had one kid and smothered the poor girl, but even with four I'm still enabling them. Although now that there are four girls I've had to lower my standards. The first child took over half the freezer with homemade egg cups, three flavors of meatballs, and green baby muffins. The second kid had store bought baby food half the time. The third kid could handle her own squeeze fruit pack at 9 months. As for the fourth? Well let's just say her first meat was a chicken nugget and she was spoon feeding herself from the get go.

She figured out how to feed herself or she risked not getting fed!
The fourth

Too often I'm killing myself, losing sleep and losing my sanity from doing too much or overdoing it. Why am I making a sandwich for one kid and a quesadilla for the other? No! Everyone gets sandwiches and that's that!

So what if my five-year-old left home with a light jacket and she's shivering? Maybe next time she'll listen (the first time) when I tell her to dress warmly. Some lessons have to be learned the hard, uncomfortable way.

When we're out and my oldest, who is 7, says she's thirsty and asks me where her water bottle is, I ask her if she brought one. No? Well then I guess it's at home in the cupboard. If you want water on demand you bring one with you.

I also stopped intervening in my kids' play dates. They're children and have beautiful imaginations that tell them unicorns are real and mermaids rule the seas. Children come up with the best ideas when they're bored and have limited resources. Hide-and-seek? Literally no materials required and a hit for all ages! Giving them ideas or telling them how or what to play was only stifling their creativity. The other day I sent my seven-year-old outside with a bucket of chalk and a friend and they planned to make life size Chutes and Ladders. Twenty minutes later they had designed a city instead and they were selling creations with leaves as their currency. They don't need me for play time, I only cramp their super cool style.

The concept of waiting and patience is hard to teach, correct, and enforce. It’s especially hard to teach when you’re not all that great at it yourself. I tend to do too much for my girls all for the purpose of avoiding whining because it's my trigger. I can go from 0 to 60 when someone stomps their feet, balls their fists and screams. So I'm equipped with snacks, water, a change of clothes, band aids, hair ties, and a small bag of toys at all times.

I'm creating high maintenance girls who don't know how to deal with a little discomfort! What I need to do is gently tell them to wait, then take deep breaths and pray for patience on the long whiney drive home. If I always cave in to the request, they'll always expect it. If instead my answer is consistently, "No, please wait," then they will learn to adjust. It's in the painful (whiney) adjustment period that most of us give in.

I'm not saying we should ban snacks and never give helpful reminders, but honestly they don't need a snack at 5pm while I'm making dinner. They need to eat the meals I prepare, so they aren't hungry an hour later. My answer is, "No, please wait." And if you're going to throw a tantrum you do it alone in your room and join us when you're calm.

They can wait because practicing patience builds character. Something the world is lacking more and more these days. We live in a world of instant gratification and by jumping at every silly request my girls make of me I'm only feeding into it. Not to belittle the verse, but to some extent Romans 5:3-5 fits this situation,

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Challenges, difficulties, and being told to wait produces perseverance, which builds character.

I can sit down and eat dinner with my family, because my oldest can get her own ketchup from the fridge. I also have everyone, right down to the two-year-old, clear their own dishes and put away condiments they can reach. The oldest has started packing lunches with a little help too. We're building character over here. All kinds of little characters.

Obviously there are exceptions. When they're sick and asking for Mama to hold them to help them sleep I'm going to hold them, do treasure hunt on their backs, and stroke their hair 'til they sleep. When they wake again at 2am I'll do it all over again. BUT, if the two-year-old is throwing a tantrum at bedtime because she decided to talk to every animal in her crib for two hours instead of taking a nap, then she can read with Papa or not get a book at all.

I don't need to be Mama the martyr. Sometimes a firm but loving, "No, please wait," is the right answer and the one they'll thank me for...someday. Plus, I'm probably in the middle of something more essential (like wiping a baby's bum) than fulfilling their dying need for fruit snacks.

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I thought I would be the one to write a book in our family but I guess you already are! You know I love the delayed gratification principle.

Brooke Ramos
Brooke Ramos
Oct 18, 2022
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Delaaaaaaayed gratification. The two words I hated most and heard second most to, "All guys are jerks." I'm definitely going to bug my own girls with those Opa pearls of wisdom.

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