Don’t Call Moms Martyrs Just Because They Complain Like Everyone Else

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I’ve never met a person who doesn’t complain a little and I probably never will, unless I run into the Buddha himself. People complain about their jobs, their weight, their neighbors, the crappy selection of produce at Pathmark, the weather, their boss, their slow Internet connections, their lukewarm coffee, their crappy service at lunch… I could do this all day. Everyone complains. For some reason, when moms do it – it’s the most annoying thing in the world. I refuse to be labeled a “martyr” because I bitch about parenting occasionally. I reject your label.

I think the problem is, the stuff we complain about is pretty banal. Staying home and caring for kids isn’t the most exciting thing in the world; I’ll give you that. Sorry complaining about my boring existence makes me unbearable – but we all do it.

If you ask me how I slept last night, the honest answer is “Not great. My toddler woke up twice and my infant wanted to breastfeed all night because she’s teething.” But I guess I should just say, “Fantastic!”

If you ask me what I thought of the Oscar Movies, the honest answer would be, “I only saw Despicable Me 2. Oh and Gravity because my husband and I were able to go on ONE movie date last year.” I guess I should just say, “Haven’t seen them all, but plan on it!”

Being a mom – especially one that works from home can be really isolating. If I had to put on a happy face every time I talked to my friends, I don’t think I could make it. I need to tell them how hard my life has become for me occasionally. I understand being annoyed by moms who bitch about something like their kid’s disrupted nap on Facebook – that is totally stupid. But validating the narrative that moms are always complaining is just as stupid. I don’t think we’re more guilty of it than anyone else – I just think our problems are more likely to be seen as “no big deal.”

Frankly, there’s a line being drawn in the sand – and it’s not by moms. It’s by people who insist that we need to shut up about the trials of our lives. I’m sure I could go to the Facebook page of any one of the regular commenters of a site like GOMI or STFU Parents (sites that I love, by the way) and they would be full of complaints too. It’s a human condition. Not a mom one.

Basically what I’m saying is – get off our backs. If you have a friend who you think complains too much – maybe you shouldn’t be friends anymore. Because I know when my “friends” vent about their lives, I like to offer a glass of wine – not roll my eyes.

(photo: Stokkete/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • Lee

      I think my complaints about my kid crapping on the floor are just a valid as my complaint about having to be at work at 6 am Monday for 3 hour hour drive to America’s butthole for 2 hour site visit. So hear, hear!

      • Justme

        They might be as valid, but do people really want to read about them on social media?

    • jsterling93

      I am a mom and yes it is fine to complain. However most of the mom’s I hear being called martyrs are not just complaining they are trying to one up other people or are trying to show how as a mother they sacrifice SO MUCH MORE than other people. An example would be me telling someone I barely slept last night because my son woke up at 3 am and wanted to play and their response being “Oh I never sleep. I have to stay up all night washing my children’s clothes by hand because of their allergies and starting the work on the food I make by scratch every day and feeding on demand. You are so lucky to get 4 hours a night.” That person is a mommy martyr who just enjoys being a martyr.

      • Kendra

        YES! The one-upping on facebook is crazy. You see it all the time on STFU Parents. Someone posts something simple and basic like “Great, my kid is sick and I have to miss work now”. Crazy mom then posts “WELL…if you were a SAHM you would never get off work EVER and you would ALWAYS have sick children. I have 70 throwing up all over me right now!!!! Then you’d really know what sucks!! Ha Ha”. There in lies the problem. I’m not sure why some women think that having a worse situation somehow makes them better than someone else. It’s so odd.

      • CrazyFor Kate

        Exactly. It’s not the complaining, it’s the one-upping that bugs me. That is when you earn the title of Mommy Martyr!

      • AP

        I wouldn’t call complaining martyring, but some people complain about situations all of their own doing. That’s martyring. “I spent ten hours shopping for little Dudley Diddlekins because he can’t have fewer birthday presents than last year.”

      • JJ

        Exactly, I 100% agree. Complaining in moderation I have no problem with since we all complain to some degree, parents or not, but having to one up people all the time with your parenting suffering is to much. What’s that… you made post about being sick! Well try being a mom with sick kids when you are sick too! There is no rest and no takes care of you so consider yourselves lucky. Gosh I would love to go shopping and spend money on new shoes or clothes like you non parent people but I actually have kids to buy stuff for and as a mom I just can’t treat myself ever. I just have to make so many sacrifices as a mom now. Yeesh ladies, can’t we complain like normal people without having to beat everyone else on facebook/social media at the suffering Olympics too.

      • Karen Milton

        Generally sentences that start with “Oh yeah? Try…”. It’s never followed by anything awesome.

    • Frannie

      Amen. This is exactly why I stopped reading STFU parents. It has it’s bright spots (like when they post the horrible baby names) but mostly it seems to have become a place to bitch about your friends with kids behind their backs because OMG who cares about what your kid did – you’re a breeder now, your problems are irrelevant.

      • Magrat

        That’s why I don’t read it anymore, too. I’ve seen too many posts on there excoriating moms for daring to mention their kids on Facebook.

      • jsterling93

        Agreed. I stopped reading for that reason. They have an attitude now that you should never mention having a kid on Facebook because no one cares. Well no one cares about your dinner plans or your work out but your gonna post that. I post about a lot of things and that includes what my kid did today. If you don’t care just keep scrolling.

      • Harriet Meadow

        I have friends who bitch about their Facebook “friends” constantly posting pictures of their babies (not me, of course, because my baby is really cute, or at least so they assure me). Meanwhile, every day they post AT LEAST one picture of what they’re eating or drinking. No. One. Cares.

      • squib

        Or their pets! Don’t forget their pets!

      • Frannie

        The final straw for me was a post where she teased a woman for asking which gas stations were full service so the sleeping kids wouldn’t have to get out of the car to go into the store with her to pay or something like that. I mean, is that really such a horrible thing to ask? Then she gets pissed if you dare say “wait til you have kids of your own.” I’m sorry, but when your kid is napping in the car the last thing you want to do is wake them up to go into a store for two minutes because it’s against the law to leave them unattended in the car. I have been known to invent errands in other towns or go on extended joy rides just to ‘enjoy the silence’ a little longer.

      • squib

        I think the point of that one was that the person who made the Facebook clearly had internet access, so it seems like it would have been a lot easier and faster for her to just Google it.
        I love STFUP, but some of the commenters are a little extreme. I think phrases like “crotchfruit” say a lot more about the person using them than the kids they’re commenting about.
        And the commenters will frequently get into discussions about their pets on a site where they’re making fun of people who think everyone wants to hear about their kids. Dudes, I don’t give a crap about your cat, and why do you think it’s interesting to discuss?

      • Frannie

        Right? I don’t want to see your cat or your lunch.

    • Kendra

      I think ALL people are complaining too much on social media. I don’t go on Facebook to see what people’s problems are, I go to see exciting things in their lives. I realize I can just scroll past it, or whatever, but in general, I feel like it isn’t the right place for the constant complaints. Occasional rants? Have at it. But I don’t enjoy anyone posting daily complaints on my facebook about anything, whether it be starbucks lines, cars on the road, weight loss, or not getting enough sleep.

      • Holly

        I get a lot of one-word “sigh” posts, or “whatever, I’m done” posts. I think it’s an interesting combination of fishing and complaining. Irritating, regardless.

      • OhHeyDelilah

        Yes! Facebook is turning into a misery Olympics. If I see one more cryptic, attention-seek-y, whinge-fest of a post, i’m going to explode. I stopped posting on FB entirely about two years ago because I realised one day that I was getting caught up in creating status updates that showcased my life in a particular way (Witty! Pithy! Quippy! Quirky!) so that people would see me and my life in a particular way. It was a horrifying moment. And yet, I still log into FB to rage-read other people’s status updates. WTF is wrong with me?!

      • Justme

        This is mainly why I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. Because I just don’t care anymore. People don’t usually complain as much on Instagram – just post happy pictures of kids, food and scenery…much more satisfying than the rage I would feel as scrolling through FB.

    • Tina

      I totally agree with you that moms should be allowed to complain!
      Many parts of life suck, including certain aspects of having kids. But out of
      my many mom friends who are really cool, I had one who was very difficult to
      deal with when she was complaining about her life with kids. As soon as you started
      being sympathetic, agreeing that is must be hard on her sometimes and offering said glass of wine to be a good friend, she flipped it on you and got defensive as if you
      started insulting her and her kids in the first place. It never ended well.

    • Henrymama

      Well, your response to the oscar question WAS a bit martyrish. I’ve only seen one non-animated oscar nominated movie this year too. My response to that question, however, was simply “we only saw American Hustle, I’m dying to see some of the others!” I mean, you wouldn’t want someone to answer that benign question with “we only saw one because I’ve been working 80 hour weeks and spend all weekend caring for my ailing parent and barely have enough time to wash my underwear” would you? No, because that would do nothing but suck all the lighthearted energy from the room for no good reason.

      • CrazyFor Kate

        Got to admit, I would probably tie my kid to a pole with one of those baby leashes and a hamster water bottle for sustenance while I binge-watched the Oscar nominees.

        I am going to make such an awesome mom.

      • Tinyfaeri

        I think the hamster water bottle is actually a pretty solid idea for cribs and pack-n-plays. Once they’re old enough to crawl, anyway.

      • CrazyFor Kate

        Or if they don’t know how to crawl, it’s a good Darwinian exercise.

      • Williwaw

        If only the Crib Dribbler were real…

    • rebecca

      My husband definitely gives me the “you have nothing to complain about” vibe once in awhile. I really do appreciate that I get to stay home, but there are times when I gets super monotonous, or boring, or frustrating, or whatever it happens to be that day. He doesn’t want me to go back to work, but gives me thus attitude like since I don’t work I shouldn’t ever be allowed to bitch. And its not like he even has a particularly taxing job. He works from home and gets payed very well considering he spends a solid half the day playing video games.

      • Holly

        I could have written this myself.

      • thebadlydrawnfox

        I’m sorry that your husband is so unsupportive :( I wonder if there’s a way you could get him to swap places with you for a week…

      • CrazyFor Kate

        What’s your husband’s job? I want in on that!

    • Véronique Houde

      There’s a difference between good-ol’ regular, healthy complaining and venting, and the woe-is-me stuff that makes my hair stand on end. If you’re going to make life and parenting choices, not out of necessity but because you have this biased knowledge that it’s the best, but then complain all of the time about how draining it is *cough* co-sleeping, you get no empathy from me. ESPECIALLY when you’ve asked every single one of your friends for advice, and haven’t put ANYTHING significant into place because “it’s just too hard”. And then you go around talking about how parenting is SO HARD. That’s the stuff my nightmares is made of.

      Also, I think that the tone of the complaining makes a world of difference. When there’s humour, or lightness, or that you don’t get the sense that it’s the end of the world but just a frustration that you need to get off your chest and then you’re back to your happy self, then I have no issue with complaining.

      Of course, mental health is something else.

    • Valerie

      I don’t think garden variety parental bitching equals being a martyr. But I do think giving your child your spot in the bed and sleeping on the couch is being a martyr. Or wearing clothes from 1994 so your Speshul Snowflache can have a Play Station is being a martyr. Not taking a shower for a week because you’re sooooo devoted to motherhood is being a martyr. But bitching? I do that before my first sip of coffee every day. Bitching is my Mommy Jam.

    • Kay_Sue

      I don’t think that a martyr is someone who just complains. Martyrs are those that seem to make every little thing they do into some kind of selfless sacrifice.

      I have someone in my life who’s a huge martyr. You can say, “Don’t do that, I’m going to do it” and she will do it anyway…and then complain. Or she’ll do something you never asked for…and then complain.

      Those people are martyrs, moms or no.

      • Emme

        Oh boy do I have a friend like this. We went out to a casual lunch and she insisted on paying, waved away my money, thwarted my attempts with the server to split the check. I knew she couldn’t really afford it, and I finally convinced her to accept five dollars. “Oh thank you!” she says. “This is coffee for like, a week!” Dude…

      • Kay_Sue

        Yeah, that’s annoying, whether it’s someone who has used their uterus or not. And you know it’ll come up in casual conversation again and again in most instances, because that’s how martyrdom works. It’s no good if everyone’s not acknowledging that you made SUCH a sacrifice.

        They’re not bad people. They just have an annoying habit. I’ve got a few myself. ;)

    • DBoc

      But so many moms DON’T complain like everyone else. They complain like only a martyr can. Complaining about being called a martyr makes you that much more of a martyr. Enjoy basking in your ironic martyrdom.

    • DBoc

      Can’t take it?

    • Guest

      I think complaining is fine, but if your purpose for complaining is to impress me then you are a mom-martyr.

    • Victoria

      As other commenters have said, it’s not complaining as it is a certain sort of complaining, especially when there is an obvious solution. Complaining because you can’t find a babysitter is in bounds. Complaining because you can never have a night out even when you have family in the area willing to watch your preschool age child but you refuse to take them up on that because Dr. Sears might think you’re a bad parent or child might be deeply traumatized and wind up in prison and it would be all your fault because you left him with Grandma for three hours (I had a friend who really thought this way) is martyrdom.

      Also, I think there is something to be said about martyrhood and policing other people’s complaints. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Unless you have children, you can never, ever, ever complain about X.” Or “You don’t know what it’s like to be tired unless you have a kid,” etc. And I’ve seen moms do this to each other as a subtle means of shaming each other for parenting choices. “Yeah that must be exhausting for you, but imagine what it would be like to do all that while still breastfeeding your four-year old.” “Being a mom is hard, but it’s even harder when you don’t put the baby in another room for the night.”

    • C.J.

      Usually the mommy martyrs were martyrs about something else before they had kids. Everyone complains once in a while, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with complaining about kids. Kids are big part of parents lives. Most people complain about things that are a big part of their lives, whether it be their jobs, their parents, their spouses or whatever else is in their lives.

    • jerseygirl17

      Everyone complains, but mommy martyr is a specific subset of moms. The type who are always bitching about doing “the hardest, most important job in the world!!!!” or posting that they are “a nurse, a chef, a personal assistant, a mechanical engineer, a rocket scientist, and a partridge in a pear tree” (PS – from a nursing student, you are not a nurse. If being a mommy makes you a nurse, then being a nurse makes childfree RNs mommies of multiples. Think about it. ) There’s normal complaining, then there’s insisting your problems are SO MUCH WORSE than the problems of a childfree person could ever be. If you’ve ever said something to the effect of “you can’t be tired, wait until you have kids!”, you are probably a mommy martyr.

      • OhHeyDelilah

        THIS! We’re all entitled to a good whine every now and then, but then there’s that handful of people who spend all their time moaning about how hard their life is as a result of the personal choices they’ve made – personal choices that ALSO bring huge benefits to their lives. Like parents who bitch and moan CONSTANTLY about how hard it is to have kids/how they never get any sleep/how other people can’t understand what it’s like to be tired or busy, OR like other people (I’m not just talking about parents here) who crap on endlessly about how many hours they have to work a week now as a result of that huge promotion they got (that also gave them tonnes of extra money). Don’t get me wrong – a good old vent to friends is totally reasonable, but when I have to hear EVERY SINGLE DAY about how much harder your life is than anyone else’s (when seriously, it’s not), I switch off.

    • indianfeminist101

      Honestly, it is not complaining- but the ‘holier than thou’ tone that gets called out, I think. These moms don’t just expect a glass of wine and a sympathetic ear, but to be acknowledged as superior people for sacrificing their sleep and life for the future generation. Those are the ones. Not moms who genuinely just want to vent out and go back to their life.

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