Mom the Martyr: Here’s the Problem With That

By Megan Day, MS, CLC 

It is all too easy to take on the role of martyr. The archetype of mother as a martyr has screwed many of us up royally. What do you think of when you think of a martyr? I’ll tell you what I think of: a pushover, a selfless saint, a woman without any needs of her own, a woman who puts everyone else before herself, a woman that doesn’t use her voice to ask for what she needs or to complain. These were just off the top of my head. I honestly had never thought of it too much before. The message we are getting as moms is that we must be selfless – and it’s sucking the life right out of us. And it’s not realistic. I want you to define martyr for yourself right now. Then in the column next to it, I want you to define “good mom.” If you’ve received the societal messages that I have, then those two columns probably mirror one another closely. 

How about the more “modern” view of the supermom or heroine? What do you think of when you think of the word heroine? Here’s what I think of: brave, fierce, kicks butt, multi-talented, the one who saves the day, superwoman, superpowers, strong, has it all, and does it all. Here’s the problem: it sets us up for failure. Our expectations for ourselves are so ridiculously high that we cannot possibly meet them. We are hard on each other, too, and judge – boy do we judge. The other problem is that many of us suffer in silence, afraid to appear weak or scared to look like bad moms. 

Modern moms are starting to come out of the woodwork and are having more authentic conversations about what they have been struggling with in isolation. Take a quick browse through the Instagram feeds of stars like Amy Schumer or Tracy Moore and you will see the raw maternal experiences that they so bravely share with us. This is how we break through the limiting archetypes and that expectations placed upon us mothers, we have open and honest conversations about them. 

It is not only the responsibility of famous stars to share their real life experiences. No, we all carry the burden of this responsibility. Whether you are more conscious of what you post on social media and decide to share a more balanced picture of your family life or you are more honest about your crummy day when you see another mom at school pick-up and she asks you how you are doing. Allow them to know the truth because this is how you get the support you need and more important, this is how you cultivate the authentic relationships that are so necessary in this thing called motherhood. 

About the Author 

Megan Day is a certified life and career coach who transitioned out of her professional career as a genetic counsellor to become an entrepreneur. She specializes in helping moms reconnect with their personal and professional passions. She lives in Burlington, Ontario, with her husband and two young daughters. To request a free copy of Megan’s new book, the Amazon #1 Bestseller, New Mom, New Job? How to Make the Right Choice When Maternity Leave Leaves You Wondering click here.

One Actionable Step I’m Taking to Stop Mom Burn Out

“Just go play!” I growled between gritted teeth for the fifth time. I wasn’t doing anything of importance that required my child to ‘go play’ but it was the only thing I could think of saying. I swept the floor and she asked once again to help me or watch me or play with me…it didn’t matter as long as she was doing it with me. My mental state for being with my child was way passed its max and I so desperately needed one moment alone. I felt suffocated and trapped with a child who needed so much of my mental, physical and emotional attention. I had no vision of it changing anytime soon. 

I watched her dejected face as she left the room and the guilt instantly filled my weary soul. A tear rolled down my flushed cheek as I was entirely defeated by my own three year old and my role as a stay-at-home mom. 

I love that little girl so much and yet the 24/7 of never being apart was wearing on me. It had been wearing on me for so long already and yet I ignored the clear signs. I didn’t ignore them necessarily because I wanted to, I ignored them because I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t see an opportunity to have it any other way. I allowed my days as a full-time stay-at-home mom own me in a way that felt like walls were closing in with no escape. 

Yet, at the same time being a stay-at-home mom is the most beautiful and fulfilling job there can be – yes job, because it’s work too. 

How could I have allowed my job to give me so much disdain when I was doing it for three little people I loved so entirely? 

I was burnt out. 

Mom burn out crept up quickly for me and I refused to acknowledge or deal with it. It affected not only me, but every single person surrounding me. 

I was at my breaking point and it was here that I knew I needed a change. I could sit here and continue the way things were. I could continue to speak to my kids with annoyance and live in a disheveled state with a house as a disaster and a heart that was turning blackened toward all things motherhood. 

Or I could step up and take action. I could be an action-seeking mom. I could start not only owning my days but owning my motherhood to be exactly as it should be: Beautiful, Lovely, Joyous, and Peaceful. Yes, even with little ones. 

And that’s exactly what I am working on. I am taking real, actionable steps to change the way I have allowed motherhood to become for myself and my family. 

One of those very important steps was to say yes to childcare. To say yes to getting a break from my kids and my kids getting a break from me. I started with saying yes to swapping kids with a dear mom friend. And I am currently working on saying yes to paid childcare. While it is an investment, it is care that is necessary for not only me, but for my entire family. 

Sitterhood is one way we can take actionable steps to becoming the best moms for our kids. If you are a stay-at-home mom like me, the occasional care is a realistic way you can take the actionable step of avoiding mom burn out with a break here or there as much as needed (both for you and for your kids). 

I dare you to give it a try alongside me – let’s see how we can allow the days we spend with our kids be that much more intentional due to healthy breaks and saying yes to help. 

By: Esther Vandersluis

Trauma after childbirth

Before I had kids, I always thought of childbirth as a natural, magical and joyous experience. Yes, I knew it was going to be extremely painful but I also thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance. I was excited about giving birth. It was going to be the happiest and most memorable experience of my life. After all, both my mom (who had birthed 3 daughters) and my sister (who had birthed 2 sons at that time), had very quick and easy labours. So why would it be any different for me? 

The birth of my daughter couldn’t have been anything further from “quick and easy”. After 32 hours of labour, my midwife finally looked at me and said “I think it’s time you had an epidural”. I had hoped for a natural birth, but in that moment I would have welcomed anything that would take the pain away. About 10 hours after the epidural, my daughter was finally born. I didn’t know it at the time, but as soon as her head appeared the midwife noticed she wasn’t breathing. To make matters worse, her shoulder was stuck. A senior midwife was called into the room for support. She reached her arm in and managed to free my daughter’s shoulder. As I waited for my daughter to be placed on my chest for some skin-to-skin bonding, a group of doctors and nurses rushed into the room. I had no idea what was happening. I looked over at my partner who was praying next to me. They quickly got her breathing and took her out of the room to NICU. I finally got to meet my daughter for the first time about two hours later. This was not the magical experience I had imagined. 

It took me a long time to convince myself and my partner that we should have another baby. Eventually we assured ourselves that the next time would be different. That this time we would know what to expect. So, four and a half years later, I was ready to give birth again. 

We got to the hospital in the middle of the night. My contractions were already a minute apart and I was filled with confidence. The midwife had done a quick examination and given that I was only a couple of centimetre dilated, she suggested we walk around for a bit. As we walked through a dark and quiet wing of the hospital, my water broke. It was like a scene from a movie. I felt a huge gush and then water poured right through my pants and onto the floor. I dropped to my hands and knees and couldn’t move. The intensity of my contractions increased drastically. My partner ran to find a wheelchair and wheeled me back to labour and delivery. After examining me again, my midwife had decided to call in a doctor. The baby’s heart rate was low and there was meconium in my amniotic fluid. We were going to have an emergency C-section. 

As I was being rushed into the OR, a nurse asked “would you like us to keep you awake? I’m sure you’d like to see your son being born.” I tried to say “yes” but as I opened my mouth I began to vomit and couldn’t stop. Then the nurse said something like “that’s not going to work, we’re going to have to put you under”. And I was immediately placed under anesthesia. 

When I woke up, I was incredibly swollen and attached to all kinds of tubes. I was told my son was doing well but being kept in NICU for a few days. The doctors explained that my son was born just minutes after I got into the OR, but briefly afterwards my blood pressure became unstable and I had experienced excessive bleeding thought to be secondary to an amniotic fluid embolism. What should have been a 45 minute procedure, lasted over 3 hours. I had lost approximately 4.5 litres of blood. Luckily, the doctors were able to save my life through blood transfusions.

That day, the blood transfusions continued and I was being examined frequently. A few hours later, my heart rate spiked and I had significant bleeding from the incision site. I was taken for a CT scan where they discovered I had internal bleeding. They needed to place another IV in but were out of options on my arms, so they put a central line into my neck (a long thin tube placed into a large vain above the heart). After the central line was in, I was back on the operating table under anesthesia. 

I woke up the next morning in ICU. One of the nurses that came in to examine me said “you know, you should consider this your birth as well”. Shortly afterwards, the nurses brought my son up from NICU. It had been more than 24 hours since he was born. Holding him for the first time didn’t feel the way I expected – I felt detached. In my head, I actually questioned if they had given me the right baby. This feeling of detachment would last for weeks, which also resulted in me feeling incredibly guilty for feeling that way.

Over the next couple of days, I was showing signs of improvement. I was still on blood transfusions but things were starting to look more stable. One of the nurses wheeled me out of my room to shower. As we went down the hallway, I saw a pregnant woman looking like she was about to go into labour. I was completely consumed with anxiety. I needed to save her. I needed to tell her not to go through with it! I quickly realized that it was too late to “save her” and hearing those words would no doubt terrify her. In that moment, I also decided that it’s probably better not to share my birth story. I didn’t want anyone to think that they might have the same experience.

On day 6 things started to get worse again. My heart rate was up and I had a fever. I could feel that something wasn’t right. The doctors took me for another CT scan and found an abscess in my abdomen. A specialist was called in to remove it and I was back on the operating table. This time there was no anesthesia. I was awake for the full procedure. 

At this point, my son had already been discharged from NICU. The nurses could no longer help with his needs and I was now responsible for keeping this tiny human alive. I had just started seeing the hospital physiotherapist who was helping me move and walk again. Thankfully, they allowed my mom to stay in my hospital room to help while my partner took care of our daughter at home. 

Day 7, I was finally released from ICU to the maternity ward. As I waited to be examined by a nurse, I overheard her talking to a another mom that had just given birth. “You did such a great job.…you got him out so quickly…you should be out of here in no time.” Every word hurt. What had I done wrong? How could I have failed so badly (twice!) at something that should have come so naturally? Tears started to stream down my face. I felt like, somehow, this had all been my fault. 

Day 8, I was discharged from the hospital. My life as a stay-at-home mom of two was about to begin. My husband was back to work and about to start travelling again. To be honest, I don’t remember much of those first few weeks home or even that first year. I was living in full on survival mode. I am so incredibly grateful for my family, who were instrumental in getting me through the really hard days and especially for their support with my daughter who was completely unfazed by what was happening. Having a midwife was also extremely helpful. My midwife had stayed in the OR through the c-section and came to visit me in ICU. Her support for my son continued once we returned home. Looking back now, I wish I had hired a postpartum doula. Having a doula around a few days a week would have been a worthwhile investment.

Four years later, a news story popped up on my phone “Sask. curler Aly Jenkins dies from rare childbirth complication”. I froze when I read the second paragraph “…Jenkins died from an amniotic fluid embolism.” I never told anyone that I had an amniotic fluid embolism. I tried not to think about my son’s birth too much, but reading that article brought out a lot of emotional baggage I didn’t even know I was carrying. I cried every night for two weeks straight, thinking about Aly and her family. I read every related article I could find. I even requested my medical files from the hospital. I had gone down a deep emotional spiral. It wasn’t until this point that I realized I might suffer from some form of postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Recognizing signs of PTSD can be hard. When I look back now, there were some pretty obvious triggers, like the anxiety I felt when anyone I knew was about to go into labour or avoiding any thoughts of my time in ICU. As hard as it was to read through my medical files, I’m glad I did. It helped me understand and accept what had happened. But what helped me the most was talking about it with my friends and family. Those conversations were pivotal in processing my emotions and ultimately helping me move forward.

If you’ve had a traumatic birth experience, I encourage you to share your story, whether it’s with a therapist, doula, midwife, doctor, a friend, or a family member. We’re so busy taking care of our children, that we often overlook our own wellbeing. It took me over four years to begin my healing journey, it’s never too late to start yours.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donates blood. Without you, I wouldn’t be here to share my story. 

A Sitter’s Perspective

I wish I found Sitterhood sooner! I’ve basically been on MAT leave for the last 3 years, my 2 girls born 15 months apart. Yeah, crazy right? To top it, I’m also new to living in the Hamilton area so I didn’t have many “mom friends” around in the thick of learning/supporting how to be a new Mama. That’s why I wish I had known of this service sooner so I could give myself a guilt free break, connections with moms who GET IT and to have that wider spread support group! Don’t get me wrong, credit to my mom and my mother in-law should be paid, but there’s nothing like a bond between another woman who is going through the exact same trials and triumphs as you are, at the exact same time! 

With all being said, when I read what Sitterhood was about I was on board! My journey forward giving support and finding other Mamas like me is going uphill!

I had already decided to not go back to work, so when I found Sitterhood it was only going to be a great fit for our family. I decided to stay home to focus on making an impact on my girls lives and other kids in our community. It DOES take a village to raise a child and kids need to be shown MORE love and kindness! Lead by example!

Think of the bigger picture for our kids. As much as we get caught up in that cutesy phase they are going into or that terrible twos we are dealing with or the homework that is due the next morning… think bigger! What I personally think is, how are we going to raise the next generation to be kinder? Show more love? Because all that bullying and fighting isn’t going to do us any good. I truly believe starting at a young age, a positive and supportive Mama village is a strong foundation for our little ones.

Sometimes for us to be better moms is to step away from our kids! It’s true! But knowing you are leaving the loves of your life with another Mama who will nurture them just as much as you, can release so many stresses! 

This is Sitterhood, welcome to the Village. 

By: ♡ Laura, ~A Homebased Mama~

Visit Laura’s Sitterhood profile to connect with her for occasional childcare.

I Couldn’t Do It Alone and Neither Could She

‘Do you want to swap days to take all the kids?’

We didn’t know each other very well yet. All we knew is that we both had two kids, relatively the same ages, and we were both drowning with the responsibility of being stay at home moms. 

Her words were exactly what I needed to hear. I knew I couldn’t do this motherhood thing alone, but I was having a hard time finding how to do it alongside others. Everyone I knew was busy with their own mothering of little ones, balancing work and being home, and trying to provide the best for their family. Perhaps they all had their own villages already or perhaps I didn’t have the courage to step out and ask.  

But the truth is, most of my mom friends at the time were too far away to swap kids and most schedules didn’t line up with mine either.

Through a friend of a friend I met this mom and I didn’t even have to ask what she knew we both needed: Breaks from our kids. From swapping one day a week to planning play dates and pumpkin patch days, we began to lean on each other through our journeys of motherhood. 

Three years later, with now six kids between us, we continue to lean on each other through swaps and coffee runs. But more than this, our kids have become besties, we chat about all the things, and we have found one small way as to how to not do motherhood alone. It took courage of this friend to ask to swap days. It took stepping out of a comfort zone and forcing ourselves into a new relationship. We love to think of friendship and motherhood villages as happening naturally, with minimal effort. We like to think that the village is just there and will show up for us once the baby arrives. And sometimes it does in small ways. 

But the truth is, most of the time we need to initiate our village. We need to seek it out, find it, and then work at it. All this effort results in finding that community that we so need in each stage of motherhood.

Sitterhood has done the hard work of setting up the space to finding the people for you. Now it’s your turn. Joining Sitterhood might be a step of courage and vulnerability for yourself but it may result in the start of a beautiful village.  Isn’t that worth the step to reaching out? I think so.

By: Esther Vandersluis

Modern Mothering + The Importance of the Village

A village wasn’t something I needed before I became a mom. Before kids – I got by with a little help from my friends. A group of girls that had had my back since the 9th grade. They knew everything about me. Well, almost everything. And those things – the things I struggled with and celebrated – they faced those things, too. They could relate in some way – because being in your early twenties, losing and gaining love, chasing your dreams, exploring the world, questioning yourself – those are all relatable things. However, even with strong friendships, becoming a parent isn’t always a relatable thing. 

At twenty-six, I welcomed my first son after a roller coaster pregnancy. As the first of my girlfriends to become a mom, I was celebrated. Everyone wanted to know everything – yet nobody could understand. 

While friends were asking me what colour I would paint the nursery and what name we had chosen for our little boy, my husband and I were undergoing testing which would determine whether or not we would lose our baby. 

We shared this with some friends – and they got it – but they didn’t. 

I didn’t just need friends; I needed a village. 

After my son was born, a healthy, bouncing baby boy, my friends were there. Holding the baby and rocking the baby. They loved my son just as they loved me. As I talked about our struggles with nursing and jaundice, the sleepless nights, and my insecurities – they got it – but they didn’t. 

I didn’t just need friends; I needed a village. 

There was a time, when an entire community would provide for a mother. A small, close knit community who felt each other’s sorrows, joys, and burden’s. Who nurtured one another in times of need. Those who helped the elderly, minded the neighbourhood children, and tended to a mother in need. 

In the village, there was someone from every walk of life with every decade of life’s experience to share. The village was dependable and alleviated some of the pressures that came with parenting. 

But today, we’re so disconnected and sometimes too proud. We’re raising babies in a digital age with our physical relationships dwindling before us. Economies, job security, housing prices – they all make it seem or feel nearly impossible to settle down in a neighbourhood with our family and our friends. We feel less safe and therefore more likely to set boundaries. We have expectations. We don’t allow our children to roam free and travel in their groups like they did back in my day – and I was only a 90s kid. 

And while we can make peace with the way that things are, while we can accept that communities aren’t exactly as neat and tidy – we must begin to re-village for the sake of the family. 

While friendships are wonderful in a time of need, there’s something extra special about having a local, physical sense of community. A mom-friend you can call when you’re in the trenches – the kind of friend that can give you a “me-too” or show up unannounced with a coffee. We need to find a neighbour we can run to in an emergency, initiate awkward conversation, step out of our comfort zone. Become a part of something. 

Sitterhood was created to fill the void from the absence of the village. While the foundation of Sitterhood is childcare, it was also created to foster genuine friendships with moms just like like you – moms who understand the ups and downs of parenthood, moms who know that every once and awhile you need some time to just be you. 

Adding these friends to your village doesn’t mean you leave your other friends behind. It simply means you’re adding another valuable piece to your community – an authentic source of support, encouragement, understanding and resources that will empower you through the hardest of days. 

While you may have come to Sitterhood in search of flexible childcare, we promise it will give you so much more – a little something we like to call: The Village. 

By: Anneliese Lawton

Asking for help shouldn’t be so hard

While I was on maternity leave with my son, I struggled to find a balance between caring for my kids, managing the household, and caring for myself. I know. “Caring for myself.” I’ll wait while you laugh. More than anyone, moms know that “caring for yourself” falls so far down the priority list, that it never really becomes a reality. For the moms of today, it’s not unlikely to wear multiple hats. Thanks to the influence of social media,  we all face an insurmountable pressure to be Super Moms or Mom Bosses. Raising our kids, throwing birthday parties, planning family get-togethers, getting our kids to fun activities, participating in said fun activities, all while excelling in our jobs and running a side-hustle like it ain’t no thang. Those are the expectations we place on ourselves as moms today. But unlike the generations before us, we’re lacking the support to do it all. We’re moving around more frequently and further away from our families, leaving mothers feeling more isolated than ever before.

Although I’m lucky to have my in-laws live only a half-hour away,  support calls are usually saved for the “important” things like dentist/doctors appointments, focusing on work, job interviews, parent-teacher meetings, or the occasional date night. These are all things that we can easily justify. It’s like there’s an unspoken list of acceptable reasons to use a  babysitter and self-care is not one of them.

Isn’t that crazy? I think there’s enough evidence out there today that demonstrates the benefits of taking care of ourselves. Yet, as mothers, we don’t ask for help when we’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. Asking for help would mean admitting we can’t actually do it all ourselves. It would open us up to judgement. What if people think we’re being bad mothers, needy or high maintenance? What if they think we’re being selfish for wanting to care for ourselves? After all, we chose to have kids, we should be able to take care of them. These are all very common reasons why mother’s don’t ask for help. But what we don’t tell ourselves enough is that self-care is fundamental to being a good mother. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we become irritable, stressed and overwhelmed, which inevitably has an impact on the rest of our family.

At about 4 months postpartum, I was struggling. I had a very difficult delivery with my son, which resulted in an emergency c-section, three surgeries and 5 days in ICU. The recovery was tough, both physically and mentally. Being a stay-at-home mom with two kids and a partner who travelled frequently was also tough. One morning, while I was dropping my daughter off at school, I got into a conversation with another mom about the challenges of finding occasional childcare. To my surprise, this mom offered to help. It’s hard to put into words how much her offer of support really meant. In that moment, I decided to push my pride aside and take her up on her offer. We then made an arrangement for her to take my son for an hour twice a week, while I went to a gym close by. Those two hours to myself each week allowed me to catch my breath, sweat out my stress and anxiety, recharge mentally and miss my baby. After each hour, I couldn’t wait to see my son again.

This mom in my community sparked something. She worked part time and had a daughter that was already attending school. We got to know each other because our girls were in the same class and had become good friends. However, I never would have thought to ask her for help for all the reasons I listed earlier. Through that experience, I realized that there are parents in our communities who are willing to provide their support, but we don’t ask! We were missing a space where parents could offer their support and where parents seeking support could connect with them. So I created Sitterhood.

Sitterhood is a community of parents who understand the demands and pressures parenthood brings. It allows parents seeking occasional childcare to connect with parents offering occasional childcare. There’s no judgement or guilt. There’s only support. There are parents in our communities who can help, and now it’s a lot easier to ask.

About

Ela Wojciechowska is the founder of Sitterhood Inc. She is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Hamilton, ON with her partner and two kids. She started Sitterhood out of her own personal struggle to find occasional child care while she was on maternity leave with her son. She recognized the lack of occasional and flexible child care options available, especially for parents on maternity/paternity leave, stay-at-home parents, and parents working from home with kids under the age of four. 

Sitterhood.ca is a growing community of parents. The website provides parents the opportunity to find other parents in their neighbourhood who offer occasional childcare. It’s a way to meet new parents, create genuine friendships, and build your support system. As a result, we hope Sitterhood helps parents achieve their personal goals, whether it’s better self-care, starting their own business or anything in between.

The Sitterhood blog will cover a variety of topics surrounding parenting, but most importantly, it will highlight the importance of asking for help and working as a community to build a stronger support system. We hope that parents will find these topics relatable and helpful in their early parenting years.