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Mom or Martyr?


by Shann Vander Leek

A whopping number of women are working full time jobs and raising families. We are professionals, employees, entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and friends. Some of us even do our best to be everything to everyone, but at what cost? We working moms must start to pay attention to the quality of our lives.

If you were to monitor one weekday in your life, what would it look like? Would this description sound familiar?

Wake up, take a shower, make breakfast, pack lunches, get dressed, get the kids out the door, and, if you're lucky, get yourself to work on time with matching shoes. You go to work, make decisions all day, then it's time to pick up the kids from school, make dinner, help with homework, get the kids in the bath, do the dishes, maybe a load of laundry, and get the kids to bed. If you are married, you and your partner share a wilted smile and connect before retiring for the evening.

My question is, are you making anytime for YOU or have you become a martyr? If you ever display or exaggerate your discomfort or distress to obtain sympathy or admiration, chances are you are behaving like a martyr.

It's been my observation that we sometimes allow ourselves to get stuck in Energizer Bunny mode, we just keep going and going and ... Then we find ourselves overwhelmed by all that we HAVE to do.

For example, my friend is a working mother of three young children. She often complains that she never has time for herself. She is stressed out, tired and in need of a break before she has a meltdown. Yet when family and friends offer to share some of the load, she declines. She normally uses one of many excuses like she really shouldn't be away from the kids after working all week or she needs to focus on completing errands, chores, etc. Sadly, she's becoming her own worst enemy by not allowing any time to nurture herself.

What is behind the martyr mindset? Where do we come up with the idea we should shoulder all of this responsibility on our own? It's my belief that it's from a long line of women who unknowingly passed the baton to their daughters. My grandmother spent most of her time raising her family, cooking, cleaning and shopping. My mother worked a full time job, and spent the rest of her time raising me on her own, cooking, cleaning and shopping. In our family, this also included some sort of crazy compulsive cleaning gene. I can't remember the last time I visited my mom when she sat down to relax and visit before 7pm.

When my daughter was born I realized that in order to be a healthy working mother, I needed to take better care of me. This was not some feat of strength, simply the choice to start doing things beyond my family life that brought me joy. My sister in-law cannot believe that I make time for meditation, yoga, coaching, walking and writing. She would never allow time for these 'interruptions' with all she has to do at work and at home. The last time we spoke, she asked me if I ever feel guilty about taking time for me.

Guilt is a dirty word when it comes to taking care of ourselves. It is time that more women explore interests outside of the family. Choosing an extracurricular activity will contribute to being a happy, balanced and more loving woman, wife, mother, employee or entrepreneur.

Understand, this is a process that may take a while to perfect. I still have moments when I wind myself up like a top and spin through the house doing the laundry, updating the family calendar, picking up the clutter, all while eating a meal bit by bit from the kitchen counter. Eventually, exasperation sets in and the occasional guilt trip is thrown at my husband. Thankfully our family believes in the eradication of guilt throwing and receiving. When I start to throw a guilt trip my husband will say something like, "Honey are you trying to make me feel guilty because you are behaving like a lunatic?"

For whatever reason it seems like we can get tangled in all we have to do, which left unchecked can turn into a real issue. As working mother's, we do not have to behave or feel like martyrs. Maybe we just need to ask for and accept some help. We are allowed to be direct, honest and ask for what we need. Women who do too much must start taking care of themselves along with everyone else. How is it that we can be so nurturing to our loved ones and forget about ourselves?

If any of this is sounding familiar to you, why not change your mind and allow some more time for yourself? Allowing for time to go for a walk, get a pedicure, start a new hobby or take a nap is healthy. Not only is nurturing yourself okay, it's absolutely necessary to function well in the other areas of your life.

Here are a few suggestions to get yourself centered:
1. Create Joy--Observe and record ten things that make you happy every day.
2. Be Quiet --Schedule 15 minutes each day to be peaceful .
3. Ask for Help--Practice asking for help at least once each day.
4. Spoil Yourself --Treat yourself to a special extravagance once each month.
5. Make Time For You --Schedule 30 minutes each day to do something just for YOU.

Start taking better care of yourself and your needs today. After all, your life is not a dress rehearsal!

Shann has been a mentor for most of her life. This natural ability along with coaching a talented sales force for 11 years prepared Shann for professional life coaching. Shann's personal style and direct approach have guided and inspired many in accomplishing personal and professional challenges. Vander Leek is a professional life coach in northern Michigan and is certified by the Coach Training Alliance. Shann Vander Leek may be contacted at http://www.truebalancelifecoaching.com or shann@truebalancelifecoaching.com

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