The Mommy- Martyr Crown

large-pageant-prize-tiara-8704-6As each woman walked out and took her place on stage, I sized up my competition.

Each one, was:

  • Beautiful
  • Intelligent
  • Resourceful
  • Unique
  • Dedicated
  • Incredible
  • Struggling

Each was dressed perfectly in her own style- and donning the perfect shoes.

I thought: “I might be in trouble.”  And, I hoped the beads of nervous sweat on my face would look like glitter to the judges.

This was our moment. We were vying for the crown. The crown I wanted! The competition was fierce. It was game on. I put my shoulders back and took long (hopefully) confident, strides across the stage, praying I wouldn’t trip.

The music slowed, then quieted. The announcer made her way across the stage to ask the “crowning” question of each contestant. “This is it. This is when I win.” I listened to each answer and mentally edited my own in preparation, as the judges made their way down the line.

Each woman gave her most heart-felt answer.

Each answer was more impressive than the last.

What was the question?

“What is the hardest kind of mom, to be?” With each answer, my sure- win seemed to float off like balloons at a toddler birthday party.

Not exactly the type of question you were expecting in a pageant, is it? Okay- so I lied. Kind of. I’ve never done a real “formal gowns, bathing suits and lights- type pageant.” That would be my nightmare. After three kids and more years as a mom than I care to count, the idea of a bathing suit competition is enough to give me hives.

I have, however, competed for the Mommy-Martyrdom Crown—plenty of times. My answer to the winning (or losing) question is rehearsed and polished. It sounds like this:

“Staying home is the hardest. It’s a never-ending job. The loneliness is paralyzing. The redundancy of my days is exhausting. My husband doesn’t understand.. Sometimes I’m so desperate for adult conversation, that I hit the “play” button on my answering machine, just to hear the outgoing message. Making ends meet on one salary is like playing budget Jenga. If you pull out one paycheck, and the whole tower crumbles. Sometimes, something random knocks it over anyway. Like: unexpected co-pays, prescriptions or eyeglasses. At the end of everyday, I feel like someone takes a giant dry-eraser and obliterates everything I did. The next day, I do the same things all over. I wonder if it even matters. I love my kids, but some days I want to strangle them. Sometimes, I wish I had a job, just so I could have a 20 minute break- or better yet- quit. Being a SAHM mom- is hard.”

The answers of the moms I’ve competed with are equally polished and often-even more heart-wrenching. A working mom shares feeling torn in two by her responsibilities and calling, at work and at home. She desperately needs a clone. A widowed mom describes her sudden loss and the subsequent financial pressures. A divorced mom describes the friction with her ex-spouse and the difficulty of co-parenting. A single mom shares how hard it is to be on her own. A married mom shares how hard it is to manage her own needs, her spouse’s needs and her children’s needs all at the same time. A young mom talks about how hard it is to be respected and an older mom shares her struggles with feeling exhausted and torn between caring for her children and aging parents..

Each of us is sure that our experience is the most difficult. Because, it is—for us.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like I need to compete for the Mommy-Martyr Crown.

Have you competed for it?

The truth is it’s a one-up-mom-ship contest. A “My life is harder than yours–so- you- should- not complain.” It gets pretty ugly. Fast.

The thing is, no one wins. Sure, a winner is momentarily crowned, and the rest of the contestants line up to congratulate her: “I don’t know how you do it.” “I could never do that” However, the words offered as awe-inspired affirmations, quickly become walls.

The newly Crowned Marty has convinced herself- and others- how awful her life is. At the same time convincing others how petty and lame their struggles are. Everyone loses. We lose because we disconnect. We disconnect because we feel can’t be authentic. We can’t be authentic. We fear we’ll be judged. The truth is, we’re so busy either trying to top each other, or feeling guilty about how “easy” we have it, that we can’t connect.. Intimacy is lost. The winning Martyr Mom is left crowned, but miserable and alone, and the runners-up, feel guilty.

As I stood on that stage—Ok we were actually around a table, and there was no crown, but you get the picture—I wondered what would happen if we simply, stopped competing.

What would it look like if we could learn to hear and understand the struggles of others, without comparing them to our own? What if we set aside the Mommy-Martyr crown for the crown of friendship?

What if we learned to respect each other’s challenges?

Respect: (From the Online dictionary) Noun-

To esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.

What if we esteemed each other’s choices? What if we valued each other as excellent whether we are the same, or different?

Deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

What if moms showed deference to each other’s positions? What if we offered proper acceptance of each other’s struggles? We just might turn a competition into a connection.

We are all:

  • Beautiful
  • Intelligent
  • Resourceful
  • Unique
  • Dedicated
  • Incredible
  • Struggling

Because: mothering is hard.

How can we stop the pageant? Maybe, it’s as simple as respectfully walking off the stage. Together

To Think About:

  • Have you ever competed for the Mommy-Martyr crown?
  • What’s your polished- pageant speech?
  • In what ways has the competition for the crown, affected your relationships?
  • Do you ever feel like you can’t share your struggles because they are too minor, or too overwhelming?
  • Have you ever lost the Mommy- Martyr pageant? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you ever won? How did that feel?
  • What would happen if you stopped competing?
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