Moms Who Are Faking It Give Us Real Martyrs A Bad Name

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shutterstock_162830894__1394199854_142.196.167.223This whole “mom martyr” thing really irritates me. It’s trumped “Sanctimommy” as the go-to insult for any mother who has an opinion about how hard parenting can be or dares to complain about any aspect of it. An essay I read this morning finally helped me understand why this particular brand of mother is so annoying – and why she’s giving the rest of us complainers a bad rap. She’s faking it. These aren’t real problems.

The latest example of the “we all need to stop being martyrs” essay comes  via Salon. In the article My Motherhood Martyr Routine, the writer owns up to the fact that maybe she works harder than she needs to on purpose, just to be a martyr. You are speaking a language I don’t understand, lady:

Five years ago, I called my husband at work and asked him to come home during lunch. Our newborn girl was fussy and inconsolable, wailing when I put her down, and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to eat anything that day, or go to the bathroom.

There was another reason I reached out to him. I wanted to ensure my husband knew that while he was at his job – free to grab a coffee whenever he wanted – my situation was dire. That day, I purposely remained in a dirty sweat shirt so he’d not only hear it, but also see it, when I declared, “This is just so hard.”

Um, what? Your situation was “dire” because you were in a dirty sweatshirt and your baby was crying? Look, I’m not discounting the fact that parenting is hard even when you do have someone else who is working so you can stay home with the baby. But just because you may be milking some sympathy from your husband because you’re bored and annoyed – doesn’t mean that some of us aren’t actually legitimately close to losing our shit because the stress of balancing a work, life, and household is a lot. A LOT. Long live martyrdom! It’s all I got.

Then there was the time I decided that, instead of arranging for a baby sitter, I’d let both children sit in on my ophthalmology exam, laughing nervously to the kind doctor as they careened around the tiny room, precariously close to the expensive optical equipment, while he peered deep into my eyes, and I think, maybe, my soul.

Presumably you had the resources for a babysitter, as evidenced by the word “decided.” You chose to use your kids and the exhaust the doctor’s patience to “one-up” your husband. Slow clap.

On weekday mornings, I sometimes bang around the kitchen making breakfast for the kids and coffee for us, still in my bathrobe while my husband is preparing for the day. Would there be time for me to shower? Perhaps not, but at least then my trials – evidenced by my unkempt state – would be further legitimized.

I think it’s admirable that she’s recognizing her character flaws and trying to work through them; not everyone does that – i.e., me. It’s just that for some of us martyrs, our problems aren’t so easily fixed. She complains about packing for vacations, passive aggressively chooses not to shower and doesn’t hire babysitters when she can totally afford them. I don’t understand this behavior. I guess I’m not really a martyr, because my problems actually exist.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go work on my next piece – “Financial Hardship Is Turning Me Into A Judgmental Bitch.”

(photo: StokketeShutterstock)


  1. Alex Lee

    April 11, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    “I just have to ask for what I want”

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      I have always said I don’t understand my fellow women who whine and complain when their husbands don’t magically know what they want or what they are thinking. I have always been one to come right out and tell my husband exactly what I want him to do or what’s bothering me- that way, I am never disappointed and we are never having stupid 3-day long fights because he can’t read my mind. I have friends who do this very thing with their husbands and I can never give them any sympathy when they whine. Grow up and voice your concerns. Tell him what you want and what you are thinking. Don’t expect him to become a freaking oracle.

    • Jessica

      April 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      My sister does this all the time! She gets mad because we didn’t realize her expectations then complains about it. I used to wonder how her husband could screw up so much all the time (which, to be fair, he’s kind of a douche) until she was complaining about something I witnessed. Now I wonder what actually happens at her house. She’s pregnant with her first now, so I’m expecting to take all her stories with a grain of salt.

    • Robotic Socks

      April 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      I’m gonna invent a TShirt where women can write what they demand on the shirt so there’s no miscommunication

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Totally agree with this one. I have witnessed it first hand with my friends. I guess the reverse happens as well – none of us are mind readers – use your words people.

    • HaydenT

      April 11, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Ha ha ha, you are so cute. I used to think that calmly and rationally addressing my needs with my husband, discussing potential problems, and problem solving was the way to go. I was upfront, direct, rational…and totally fucking dumbfounded when I got no support of any kind. Nothing.

      No discussion; he would just sit there and look at me while I talked in his general vicinity. I would ask for help and nothing would change. Things he agreed to do…didn’t get done for YEARS, if at all.

      Oh no, addressing problem solving like an adult got me worse than nowhere. I no longer love or respect my husband, and there are many times I straight up hate him.

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Well that’s just really sad. I’m sorry that he isn’t willing to work with you.

    • Alex Lee

      April 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      We’re not saying “Open communication will definitely solve your issues 100%” – your situation is proof of that.

      What we are advocating is – NOT communicating at all will NOT help your situation – so at least let your feelings be known. It seems to have helped the mom-martyr in the original post.

      I hope you find a good outcome from all of this.

    • Emil

      April 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

      That sounds maddening. My situation is different but I totally get that it is not as simple as “just ask” for most people.

    • K.

      April 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      I did this–expect my husband to be a mind-reader in the first few months of staying home with the baby. I think it was because I was pissed off he had freedoms I didn’t, like not having to wake up 3x per night to breastfeed and stuff like that. Irrational, but true.

      I was also mad at the baby for not being attentive to MY needs (“Oh YOU get to eat, but I haven’t eaten in 12 hours! Why don’t you care, baby, WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT MY NEEDS!?!”)

      Yeahhhh…early motherhood was not my finest moment.

    • inNM

      April 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      When the husband and I started dating, I made him promise to always do two things: never stop cooking for me, and always communicate with me. I told him that I had seen what happens when people hold resentment in for years and then blow up over the most inane little things that had nothing to do with the real issue. We promised that we would address issues head on, with the understanding that if needed, we could let the other person know that we needed some time to cool down before addressing the matter at hand.

    • DeanaCal

      April 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Thumbs up for the cooking!

  2. Kay_Sue

    April 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Martyrs are a pain, regardless of who you are. It’s not just moms. If you are purposefully making your life harder, and then complaining about it…that’s annoying.

    Legitimate venting is different, and most of the people that matter to you can tell when you are legitimately venting, I’d wager.

    • Robotic Socks

      April 11, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      What you women don’t know is that us men at work, we’re just eating buffalo wings and watching football all day long.

      (also trolling on Mommyish)

    • Kay_Sue

      April 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Oh, I know it. Because my husband bugs me via text while I am doing shit **all the time**, always with the excuse that he’s doing a job that has a “long runtime”….when I know, I just know, he’s pigging out on wings. And he knows how much I love wings!!!

    • Kay_Sue

      April 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Also, his work is legitimately catering his lunch today from a local BBQ house and I am totes jealous because they ARE REALLY REALLY GOOD DAMMIT AND ALL I HAD FOR LUNCH WAS A SAD TURKEY SANDWICH. #NotFair

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      My work caters a lot and all it does is make my ass fatter. Feel better? 😉

    • Kay_Sue

      April 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm


    • Robotic Socks

      April 11, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      Get a divorce Kay!


    • Kay_Sue

      April 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      He’d laugh at me if I suggested it. He knows me too well to think I’d actually want to raise his hell raising spawn on my own. 😉

    • Robotic Socks

      April 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      ppsshh, conscious uncoupling means joint custody

      he gets em 50% of the time!

    • AE Vorro

      April 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      Well said. The few Mommy Martyrs I’ve encountered were General Martyrs long before the kiddo(s) arrived – they just transferred that energy to the kids, which makes sense because parenting is huge. These extreme types think that everything they do is harder for them than anyone else and would do so with or without kids.

  3. Kendra

    April 11, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I’m pretty sure I have a few of these kind of people on my FB. Over-exaggerators and one-uppers fall into this category. There was a girl I used to talk to on a social media app, and she was constantly blathering on about how her baby didn’t sleep AT ALL last night or how she didn’t have ANY TIME AT ALL to get anything done. I’m pretty sure those were not completely true statements. I haven’t figured out why yet, but for some reason, there are people who want the world to think their lives are incredibility difficult.

    • AP

      April 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      There are a lot of people who create problems for themselves or refuse to take actions to improve bad situations, simply so they can complain about how hard their lives are. You’re in charge. If you don’t like it, fix it!

      Obviously some people really and truly can’t, but they’re not the ones I’m talking about…

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      I wonder if it comes from a place of insecurity. I remember feeling completely out of my element when I first became a mother and did and said things to compensate for my own insecurities. Thankfully, it got a lot better the more accustomed I became to parenting. I wonder if those that want others to think their world is impossible are partially doing it because they just want the reassurance…

    • Kendra

      April 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      I think, from those that I have seen personally, it is coming from a place of jealously toward people whose lives are different. A perfect example is the ever-so-annoying SAHM vs Working mom debate. Almost all of the SAHMs who would say horrible things like “I would never leave my kids bc I love them” or “I don’t want strangers raising my kids for me”, you could catch in another conversation saying things about how they missed their free time or missed their old jobs. The same goes for working moms who do the “my life is so much more difficult than yours” arguing. I think they are just jealous of the aspects they think would be “better”. Grass is always greener on the other side you know.

    • cabinfever

      April 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      If you’ve never been in a position where statements like those felt like the truth, maybe that’s your good fortune.

    • Kendra

      April 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Not saying those things aren’t true at times for some people, but if you have time to be on a social media app allllllll day long, then I don’t believe those statements to be true.

    • MamaLlama

      April 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Was just going to say this! I like the running tally of everything they did as a status post. …

  4. JLH1986

    April 11, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I wonder if she would have been so smug if one of her kids “careened” into the “expensive medical equipment” and the ophthalmologist made her pay for that?

    • Kendra

      April 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      No, there probably would have been another post about how unreasonable it is that they expected her to handle her children WHILE getting an eye exam, and now they want her to pay for it! OUTLANDISH!!!!!

    • JLH1986

      April 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      HA HA HA. I can actually see this woman saying that followed by “Preposterous!”

    • G.S.

      April 12, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Ugh, that pissed me off the most. I mean, it’s bad enough that there are parents out there that just don’t generally give enough of a fuck to tell Junior to quit running around and sit down to begin with, but she seriously allows her kids to carry on like animals in public JUST to stick it to her husband and get a pity party because her kids acted exactly how she’d allowed them to? Um, no. No, no, no. That’s wrong and selfish to so many people. It’s selfish to the Ophthalmologist, her kids, her husband. Seriously, what a witch. >:(

  5. rrlo

    April 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    For me the absolute hardest part about being a parent was at first the transition from being a woman to “Mommy”. That was rough and overwhelming. And the second is the uncontrollable worry and anxiety – part of it is my own doing.

    Other than that, when you have a healthy child, financial stability and some family/friends support – raising children is fine overall and gets comparatively easier the more independent the kids become. (Missing any of those components I would imagine will increase the difficulty of being a parent exponentially.)

    I really don’t understand the concept of the Mommy Martyr. What are they trying to accomplish?

    • HaydenT

      April 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      God, Jesus, I used to PRAY for my son to be able to hold his neck up. Then I couldn’t wait for him to be able to sit up on his own. I swear to god, the heavens may actually have opened up and a choir of angels sang “Hallelujah” when he was first able to sit up on his own.

  6. Robotic Socks

    April 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    NOTHING causes me more concerns than a woman who fakes it

  7. Valerie

    April 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    This sounds like a rich chick with too much time to think about herself and how her struggles are perceieved by others. #firstworldproblem

    • Ursi

      April 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      I wouldn’t assume rich but I’m 100% with you on the perception thing.

      It’s totally normal to have thoughts like these and it’s completely human to sometimes overstate your case for sympathy. But these kind of “confessions” never make me think that the person is brave or admirable but only that they not only need someone to feed into their martyr complex, but they need to somehow justify it to themselves and let everyone know how hard they’re working to do so.

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Touche. I guess I got that vibe because women without means would probably have more legitimate complaints. 🙂

  8. K.

    April 11, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    On a teeny tiny note:

    I don’t understand it when moms complain that they can’t put the baby down because it’ll wail. Seriously–I don’t get it.

    I mean, am I the only bitchface mom who’d put her kid wailing in his crib because I didn’t want to take a dump in my pants? Do these moms wear Depends or something??

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      I always dump my kids in the crib so I can pee in peace!

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Hell yes. I have taken many a bathroom break with a shrieking kid trying to bust through the crib rails.

    • Maria Guido

      April 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      It’s the only sane thing to do, really.

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      I also used to drag the exersaucer into the bathroom doorway and take nice loooong showers. You have to get creative but you can still have your pre-baby life bathroom-wise. 🙂

    • K.

      April 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      I definitely had my son chill in his bouncy chair on the floor of the bathroom. I have a picture somewhere of both him and the dog sitting there like, “We poor buttercups are getting damp 🙁 “

    • Alicia Kiner

      April 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      I did this too!! My son when he was up to a few weeks old, and our chow chow watching over him. Every time my son cried, that dog looked at me like, “well, your kid is crying. Are you going to take care of him or do I have to bite you?”

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Both of my kids have pressed their face against the shower glass and watched me shower close-up 1000 times…

    • Valerie

      April 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Bwahahaha. Just stop before they can say “Momma, where did the hair go from your privates?”

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 11, 2014 at 6:47 pm


    • calichick

      April 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      But if you put your kid down for ONE SECOND they will need therapy for life because you abandoned them, you horrible bitch of a mother! Call child protective services ASAP! The sad thing is I wish I could put *sarcasm* at the end of that, but there are seriously mothers who think like that, I saw a mother reamed because she put her kid in a pack and play to make some lunch, even though the kid was happier there than being held!

    • Zettai

      April 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      God I am cracking up

    • damngoodserver

      April 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      I didn’t mind dumping my daughter in her crib… until she learned how to crawl out of it and bust in on me in the bathroom. 🙂

    • SA

      April 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Bouncy chair for showers….Bumbo resided permanently in the bathroom floor. Plopped her in that and peed hands free!

    • etbmm

      April 11, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      I was like that as a new mom. I mean, I *did* put the baby down, obviously, But it was hard. The sound of him crying was like nails on my soul’s chalkboard. To this day, I cannot explain why it was so hard. I can only assume it was hormones, PPD/PPA or some combination of those things. I have gained enough distance to know that I was being irrationa.

    • K.

      April 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      You’re supposed to find it distressing when the baby cries–it’d be weird to me if some mother was like, “eh, whatev.”

      I think that’s the assumption, though, that if you DO allow the baby to cry, it means you don’t care. But it’s okay to stand back and say, “Well, you’re not starving, you’re not hurt, and you’re not wet/dirty and my own needs are more pressing than yours at the moment, so mommy’s going to wash her hair/pee/answer the door.”

      We had the same sort of training to do with the dog and crate-training. She whined and whined in her crate and we just sort of had to be like, “You’re fed, you’ve been walked, you’re safe; I’m fine. You should be fine too.”

    • etbmm

      April 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I see what you’re saying. I wasn’t one of the moms you were talking about above who complained that I couldn’t put my kid down. I just always picked him up if he cried. I didn’t complain about it but I was exhausted. You and I had different approaches, and I don’t really related to the crate-training analogy, but don’t begrudge our differences. I had a friend who took a similar approach to you that I felt was judging me though. She said things like ‘the baby’s not gonna die from crying if you have to eat’, and although it was probably meant to be reassuring it felt like she was just eye-rolling me. Now that my hormones are not in disarray, I think the ‘your needs are met, now I need to have mine met’ approach makes perfect sense!

    • Kendra

      April 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      I was very much the same way, and in some ways, I still am. I don’t deal very well with her crying. I just don’t. I would just soon address it and correct the issue, than to have to hear it for a few minutes and my stress rising the whole time. I have also gotten those kinds of comments from other moms and it does feel like a judgment. As with most things, I think this is one of those things that you just have to go with your own instincts about.

    • K.

      April 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      I didn’t mean it as judgment–I was just trying to offer a different way of thinking about it, because it appears to be giving you anxiety.

    • LiteBrite

      April 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      I was like that too at first. It was hard as hell for the first few weeks, but eventually I realized that I was going to have to let him cry alone otherwise I would never be able to eat, pee, or shower ever. (Not necessarily in that order.)

      And yeah, I know I was being irrational too. I blame it on the lack of sleep. Not sleeping always makes me weird.

    • jane

      April 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Thank you so much for the perfect phrase to use when people confuse your/you’re and their/there/they’re. Nails on the chalkboard of the soul. So true.

      But on a more serious note, I felt the same way with my daughter and I do think that it was some PPD. My son wasn’t much of a crier, but it just didn’t bother me in the same way.

      That said, I could listen to it for long enough that I could take a 5 minute shower (couldn’t hear her in there!) or go to the bathroom.

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I know someone who used to take their baby on the boppy to the bathroom. I guess mothers do all sorts of crazy things…

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I know someone who used to take their baby on the boppy to the bathroom. I guess mothers do all sorts of crazy things…

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Although, I did receive some reverse advice from older ladies who said “go have a shower – it will make you feel good and give the baby’s lungs some exercise.” I preferred to have showers while the baby slept or someone was over.

      Peeing is different though.

    • keelhaulrose

      April 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Putting my baby down caused her autism, or as it was rightfully called, frigid mother syndrome.
      J/k. It was the vaccines.

      *sits back and waits for the flames #sarcasmfontneeded

    • K.

      April 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      But the crib sheets were organic. Doesn’t organic cotton work against autism?

    • Kendra

      April 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      I had a rock in play, so it just came in the bathroom with me and she just would sit in it while I did my business or showered or whatever. Even for moms who would rather not do the “crying” thing, it’s possible to work around it. They are just being dramatic.

    • Rachel Sea

      April 11, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I don’t like listening to crying babies, so I’d rather just keep holding them, but it is not freaking rocket science to use a toilet and hold a baby simultaneously, especially if you’re in sweats, and don’t have to deal with buttons or zippers.

  9. SA

    April 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I pretty much quit talking to a VERY close friend of mine after she had kids, because it was THIS all the time. I didn’t have a kid at the time and it was always whining about how hard she had it and how I couldn’t possibly understand. She never returned phone calls and would complain that we never talked. If you asked her to go out she reprimanded you that she had CHILDREN and then complained that people went out without her. You couldn’t talk about your bad day because you should try and do that with 2 kids. She told me to take a vacation before we started trying to have kids and I told her we were planning on doing that and she scoffed and said “Must be nice”. She once told me that she had told her husband that all she wanted to do was sleep-in for Mother’s Day, then told me how mad she was at him that when she got up it was too late to go to brunch and he should have woken her up.

    • rrlo

      April 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Do you think she had a touch of the PPD or just trying to get attention?

    • SA

      April 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      I think she just enjoyed harboring resentment. She could be like that before kids, it just magnified after.

  10. Jill Loutas

    April 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I wonder if her husband ever noticed that her wardrobe choices were for his benefit. My guess is noooope.

  11. Zettai

    April 11, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Am I the only one certain that this woman’s marriage has to be in serious trouble?

  12. girlindisguise

    April 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t shower in the morning or change out of my PJs. I could but I sleep until the absolute last minute. But I don’t look for sympathy from my husband. He has a demanding, physical job. While motherhood is trying and frustrating and hard, I know my husband would rather be at home some days than farming. Sometimes, I will dump my son on him for half-hour of peace when he gets home on really tough days but I don’t go looking for sympathy because my son only napped for one hour instead of two when my husband can barely stay awake past 9:30.

  13. Ana

    April 11, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    In my experience men don’t respond well to passive-aggression. If you need help ask for it! Your partner can’t read your mind. I was getting frustrated about always having to be the one who got the kid ready and took her back and forth to daycare. I told my husband and he said “Okay, I’ll take her in from now on.” And now I have a little peace and quiet me-time to get ready in the morning and it is so nice. If I need help with dinner I ask for it and he is happy to help, but if I never say anything of course he’s going to be watching sports in the other room. If you’re pouting over a need you’ve never expressed it’s your own damn fault.

    • the_ether

      April 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a partner to notice what needs doing and do some of it though. Mine seems really good right now at recognising things that are harder for my pregnant self and doing them for me or making it easier for me to do them. I hope that carries over into fatherhood!

    • Gangle

      April 13, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      I get that. But at the same time, if your partner *isn’t* picking up on those things, being a passive-aggressive little brat about it doesn’t really fix anything. I am lucky because my husband also has been surprisingly good at picking up on things that I occasionally struggle with. But on the other hand if I need help with something and he just can’t see it I don’t just sulk about it – I just tell him I need a hand. It isn’t hard.

    • the_ether

      April 14, 2014 at 3:53 am

      That’s a really good point 🙂

  14. Beth

    April 11, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Ugh. I posted on my own blog about this very thing just today …. I freakin’ hate martyr mommies. They give us all a bad rep.

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