I’m finally finished.
Nope, I’m not talking about my latest writing project (one would have to actually start in order to be finished).
I’m talking about this blog post. I’ve been working on this post since February 10th. I wish I could say that it has taken me so long because what you are about to read is an astounding chronicle of intrigue and adventure.
Nope. It’s just a blog post that life kept interrupting, preventing me from finishing in a decent time frame.
Real Simple Magazine had an article in it’s March issue entitled, How to Conquer the Martyr Complex. I read the opening lines, “Overdo. Complain. Repeat.” and sat up a little straighter in my chair. It was like the article had just grabbed me by the chin and said, “You will read me and you will learn to be better.” I read further.
“Welcome to how I roll. Biting off more than I can chew is standard procedure for me. (“Sure, I can volunteer for the spring carnival and make a résumé for my niece and cook multiple options for dinner!”) And so is feeling fried and resentful later on. I’ll corner my husband for a thorough debriefing on my saintliness, hoping he’ll be overcome by a powerful mix of gratitude and admiration (gradmiration, anyone?). Instead, he typically says, “Oh, you didn’t have to do all that.”
I put the magazine down for a minute to collect myself. How did this author know me? I don’t remember doing any interviews.
I picked the magazine back up and read every paragraph. Then I read it again. Then I put the magazine down and chewed on my fingernail while I came to a conclusion.
I think I’ve been acting like a martyr.
Lately, I have been wrestling with feeling as though I am doing the most with respect to childcare and household maintenance and doing the least with respect to writing and photography.
When people ask me what’s new and I honestly tell them, in my mind, it comes across as complaining or seeking affirmation. Fact: I’m doing the heavy lifting on the home front. Fact: That leaves little to no time for the true work that I want to pursue. To my ears, though, it sounds like “Waaa, waaa, waaa.”
This was never more evident to me when I sat down to write this post four weeks ago. Yes, I started this rant back in February. I was in the middle of making lunches and just decided, you know what? I’m not doing this right now. I’m going to write. I left the kitchen, jars of peanut butter and jelly open, bags of chips unsealed.
I went to the dining room table because office and started to type this story:
We’re in the bathroom and I’m doing the girls hair. M is on the stool, looking into the mirror. C is facing her, seated on the counter. V is on the floor, playing with some tampons and whatever else she can find under the sink. Somehow the conversation turns to working parents and C decides, “Daddy works harder than you do, Mom.”
**Insert record scratch noise.**
M is furiously making cutting motions across her throat, her eye bulging wide, and willing her sister to shut it up. C, much like V on the floor, is oblivious.
“Really?” I say, crossing my arms over my chest to get a better look at her. “What makes you say that?”
“Well,” she begins, ticking out examples on her fingers, “Daddy gets up early. He works in an office. He goes on business trips. He works long hours.”
“Um, sometimes he wears a suit.”
I nod, making sure I’ve picked up all of her points. “Gets up early, works in an office, business trips, long hours, and a suit. Okay.” I look at M’s reflection in the mirror and she is slowly shaking her head from side to side.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask C. “Because I’m about to tell you why you’re wrong.”
And from there, I proceed to read her to filth — in a loving, maternal, and educational way — elucidating on how what I do makes it possible for Daddy to do what he does. All that laundry that gets sorted, washed, folded and put away? Daddy can open his dresser and pluck out what he needs for those business trips. All the groceries, school field trip chaperoning, school function attendance, — I do those because Daddy is on a business trip, or has left early to wear his suit — which I picked up from the dry cleaners.
I was baffled then. I’m baffled now as I write this four weeks from when I first started to tell it, which is umpty-ump weeks from when it initially happened. For as much as I try to instill in the girls, I’ve failed them in that they think that working hard entails this particular set up. What I do enables The Hubs to do what he does because he doesn’t have to worry that they are fed, bathed, and clothed, going to their appointments or what have you, because I’m taking care of it. When he’s ready to go on these business trips, the clothes are clean. He can just pack his bag and go. Those early morning wake-ups and late evening returns home? He can do that because I’m spinning all the other plates. Fact.
On top of the spinning I’m doing, I’m also writing and doing photography. Sometimes. Occasionally. When I get the chance.
At the end of the day, when I’m on my own, scrolling through what didn’t get done, the writing and photography are always on the list. Then I get angry because I let happen (again). Then I try to focus on what did get done, like keeping the children alive one more day, the house didn’t burn down, everyone has clothes, full bellies, and was on time for all of their appointments that I made.
The problem with stopping and starting a post like this is that the initial spark that spurned me from the kitchen to the computer is gone. Despite the repeated re-readings of what I’ve written, I’ve lost the thread of what I was trying to say. I’ve even lost the magazine article that started this all. I’m thisclose to losing my temper with three little girls who keep popping out of their beds like Whack-A-Moles asking for water, the bathroom light on, the bathroom light off, the door open, the door closed, and one more tuck-in because (and I quote) “The last one didn’t count because I didn’t know I’d have to go to the bathroom again.”
So, I dole out water, turn lights on and off, open and close doors, and tuck blankets around little arms and legs one more time. I save what I’ve been working on, publish it, and power down my computer. No more Overdo. Complain. Repeat.
More like Do Your Best. Be Satisfied. Repeat.
Do martyr-like tendencies sneak up on you?
How do you combat them?
Tell me about it in the comments!
Also published on Medium.