Does Motherhood = Martyrdom?

by Gigi Ross on January 10, 2012

A few months back, I read an article on the Wall Street Journal about Nickelodeon and when moms grab their TV time.

The article was mildly interesting, but nothing earth-shattering. It said what mom bloggers already know: moms are influential and corporate executives are now gearing their marketing toward moms more than ever.

Far more interesting was a series of male reader comments on the article. The first man said:

Anyone wondering why women have not yet reached income parity with men, need only to read this article, or watch the 2nd hour of the Today show any morning, or any old episode of Oprah (my wife used to say: it’s 4pm…turn on Oprah! I bet it’s about women and self-esteem!)

A recent study showed that women watch 11 hours more TV each month than men. I find this true even in my own house. This works against women’s self-interest.

This glorification of motherhood is a little overdone. Yeah, yeah, it’s SO hard to be a mommy. Well guess what? It ain’t a walk in the park to be a daddy either: Trying to make enough money to support your wife and kids, long term concerns about paying for college, constantly reading textbooks from 9pm to 1am to improve one’s earning potential, instead of watching shows to “unwind”, yet still make enough time to take kids to soccer practice. Enough!

and the second male responded:

No it isn’t. The glorification of fatherhood is just underdone. I know full well my stay-at-home wife has a hard job. Is it as hard as mine? Some times, but then again, she gets to experience all the little precious moments that I just hear about.

Life has trade-offs.

to which the first guy responded:

I don’t disagree Kurt. Stay-at-home motherhood is a job in which the stress and effort level is generally low, but never really ends. It does allow for things like television in the middle of the day, especially if the kids are school-aged. Sole-breadwinner fatherhood is a job in which the stress and effort level are much higher….but for about 8 hours, then it is low but bumpy for the next 16 hours, then it repeats. I think the “area under the curve” is about the same.

Both are difficult jobs, but popular culture, and about half of society (guess which half?), seems to think that motherhood is martyrdom and fatherhood is a cakewalk.

My first instinct was to respond back with a flaming comment, hackles raised, about how goddamn hard it is to be a mom, how thankless it can be, how lonely and isolating it is, how it can be 99% drudgery some days with no reprieve in sight.

stay at home mother

But I stepped back for a minute and tried to really think objectively about what this guy was saying.

It’s pretty goddamn hard to be the breadwinner. It can be thankless. It can be isolating from your kids. It can be 99% drudgery. I know because my husband’s told me so.

So what would happen if working dads were allowed to bitch and moan about how hard it is to be them as much as we’re allowed to bitch and moan about the bummer parts of motherhood?

They’d be called pussbags, I’m certain of it. I’m also fairly certain that a tit-for-tat battle over who works harder and whose job sucks more would ensue.

Moms, however, are not only allowed to bitch and moan, we’re encouraged to. Would the mom blogging community even exist without this dynamic? Certainly there’s more to our community than bemoaning the typical tough day with the kids, but it is a significant component. The challenging parts of motherhood are the common bonds that help us connect and feel less isolated.

Is this guy is an exception or the rule…do guys generally think moms make themselves out to be martyrs? Do they think we make out fatherhood to be a cakewalk in comparison?

And if they do, should it matter?

What I know for sure is this.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years playing martyr and secretly carrying the belief that my job was harder than my husband’s.

Until August of this year, when the roles reversed in our house. Currently, I’m the sole breadwinner. While I work from home, I do it full time. The entire fall, I didn’t take my kids to school. I didn’t clean the house. I didn’t cook meals. I didn’t take charge of homework. My husband did.

It was goddamn hard. It was thankless. I felt isolated from my kids. It felt like drudgery most of the time. I felt enormous pressure to provide for the family. I longed for my old job know, the one I had complained so much about, the one that was so much harder than my husband’s.

My husband did that same grind for years and years before I did, going quietly into work every day, without real complaint, without engaging in a competition about who works harder.

I have no answer – only questions:

Should we all be martyrs?

Or should we all just suck it up? Own what we do and complain less? Acknowledge that moms and dads work equally hard?

Do we actually minimize ourselves when we spend too much time trying to prove how hard it is to be a mom?

What do you think? Do we spend too much time being martyrs? As a society, do we discount the role of fatherhood and the pressures that it brings?


Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen January 10, 2012 at 3:32 am

Parenting is just hard. You want the best for your kids and you slso need some me time for your sanity. My preschooler recently told my husband, “Dad you should help Mom out around here.” (??!! Yes) But sometimes I like to be left alone. I have my pace and I get all out of sorts when he clears the table and piles the dishes on the counter where I want to place the clean dishes as I go. This isn’t life- changing stuff but still. My husband (of 10 years) and I have found our groove. Sure parenting is ever-evolving but we work it out. I’m glad that I’m not expected to keep the lawn mower gassed up. And please for the love of all that’s good stop messing with the washing machine settings. 😉

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Ha! I love it. Yes, I am happy to not kill bugs and work on the car and I think my husband’s fairly happy to not have to deal with my daughter’s girly issues. And I am with you on sometimes liking the house to be left to me. Since my husband’s been at home, he’s put things all out of order in our kitchen. :)

Little Gumnut January 10, 2012 at 3:37 am

very interesting post and insights. I think you’re right we don’t appreciate dads as much as we should do and the pressure/drudgery of providing for the family. but owch it hurts, we’re (read: 1 am) so used to thinking we’re the ones who have it harder.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Yep! It is a hard mentality for me to break out of!

Barbara January 10, 2012 at 4:36 am

Both roles are hard. Life is hard. Having children grows the parents up quickly and adds a lot of pressure. It’s wonderful, it is worth it, but it is hard.

Maureen | Tatter Scoops January 10, 2012 at 5:25 am

This is very thought provoking piece, Gigi. I was once a stay at home mom with ex husband who traveled up to a whole month which was super difficult. Then now, I’m a working single mom and I miss out on a lot of things about being a stay at home mom especially the times with my son and trying to balance everything. So, basically parenting is hard work. Either you’re single mom or not, it’s not a walk in the park once you become a parent.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Never a walk in the park, but you do get a peek at the flowers and sunshine a little bit every day :)

Vinobaby January 10, 2012 at 6:33 am

Great piece. This is actually something I have thought about often. I don’t know that one role is necessarily harder than the other, they are just different.

I would be envious of my husband because he got to leave the house, have a change in scenery, and talk to other adults (in person!) about things other than baby poo. Yes, he had to deal with it when he returned home, but he had a separate world to escape to for a while, even though it was extremely high pressure.

Was it easier or harder? I don’t know. Just different.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Exactly…not harder…just different.

Alexandra January 10, 2012 at 6:55 am

Oh my gosh..

I just don’t know about the men who comment at the WSJ like that.

I have felt like I won the lottery every day of my life since 1995.

I love being home and have been grateful for every day of it.

I am the first woman in my family to be able to stay home.
I am not bragging, I am just publicly stating I am grateful.

I never saw a woman able to stay home in my entire family….so this is new, and exciting, and I am very, very fortunate.

I never expected to be able to stay home. I grew up thinking I’d have to work as my mother, my grandmother, my sisters had to.

For this to have happened in my life, is a life I never dreamed for myself.

No expectations of it….maybe that’s where the bitching of others comes from? Maybe they’ve had it in their families for generations and expected to be a SAHM as a given and not as the privileged minority that it is?

I don’t know and I won’t judge.

I just know I am damn fortunate.

I could not take the pressure of providing for my family the way my husband does. He works hard, and has never complained about it.

He feels fortunate that he has what he has when he comes home: children and no other worries other than that I feel I need to pull him in on.

He really has never complained.

And I am happy with being home.

It’s the rest of the crap… :)

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm

You have a great attitude, and a great family. I think that says it all!

DGMommy January 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm

You are thinking about it in just the way I am trying to! With gratitude and positivity for everything you have. I don’t fit into either category and neither does my hubby as we run a retail wine store together. When one of us is working the other is with the kids. I also work from home when I’m at home with the kids and pretty much do all of the housework. It can certainlyoften be described as drudgery, but it’s drudgery that I’m exceptionally grateful to have.

I wish the people in this country and the world at large would try on a new outlook! Instead of competing for who has the harder job, or who has the most to complain about, let’s affirm each other, motivate and inspire each other to do the best we can in all areas of home and work and life and be glad for every moment we have. Or at least try to be! Gratitude, optimism and positivity takes practice, but it can be acheived. And you’ve done it, Alexandra! I think you rock!

Diane January 10, 2012 at 7:03 am

Great discussion! For a Tuesday even. My hubs and I get in these cycles occasionally. We call it ‘mutual unappreciation’. We both have to take a step back and acknowledge that we are both valuable and indespensible in our roles. We are a team. The wheels would fall off if we didn’t work together and we would become another statistic of a failed marriage with kids. It’s damn hard and it should be. The people you see that DON’T work that hard selflessly for their families, well you know how they turn out. Every now and then, though, we get a glimpse that our hard work is paying off: An unsolicited thank you, a perfect performance on the flute or on the field, a son who leads his football team in prayer, or a brief few minutes when all six of us are in the car to dinner and there is no bickering. Thanks for making me think today, Gigi, and appreciate. You are the best!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm

a lady I used to know once said, “all you can hope for each day being a parent is 5 amazing minutes. The rest is really hard work.” I think that’s the glimpse you speak of so eloquently.

Kristin @ What She Said January 10, 2012 at 7:29 am

I really don’t think this is a black and white issue. Yes, there are many women who martyr themselves in the name of motherhood. I’ve done it, my friends have done it, and for better or for worse, you’re right – the mom blogging community was more or less built on it.

But many women – and often they are the same ones who at times act as martyrs – also celebrate motherhood, warts and all. So, I think it’s unfair to make blanket statements like, “Motherhood is martyrdom.”

Not to mention, I think a lot of people – many of them men – view being a SAHM (or even a WAHM, for that matter) as being a cakewalk in and of itself. Which we all know is as untrue as the perception that fatherhood is somehow “easy,” when clearly it’s not – it’s all the things you said it was.

That first guy made some valid points, but unfortunately they were lost in his bitter, jaded tone – dude’s clearly got some personal resentments to work through. And I completely disagree that motherhood is a job in which the stress and effort level are generally low as compared to fatherhood. Both roles can be equally difficult (and rewarding, for that matter), even if in different ways; both encompass their own challenges, as well as their own joys. So, why make it a game of tit-for-tat?

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Definitely not a black and white issue. That’s why I posed this whole discussion more as a question than a statement of what I think, because there are so many dimensions to it, as the commenters here today have so sagely brought up. I just love hearing everyone’s angle on it. It’s been one of my favorite posts/comments to read from my whole blogging career.

Jacki January 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

I am curious how this discussion will look in 5 years, now that more and more fathers are taking on the role of stay-at-home parent.

Quite honestly, no matter what position you are in, the grass is always greener on the other side. I have never been a stay-at-home mother, although I could have been at one point in my life. I chose to work outside the home because I knew that I could not handle the stress of being with my son and only my son day in and day out and never really having any time off. Having a 24/7 “job” was not something I could handle.

However, I do really miss the opportunities to help out at his school, attend all his school programming, and being able to do things like grocery shopping, cleaning, etc when he is in school so that I can enjoy him when he is around.

Our household does not have a stay-at-home parent, which quite honestly seems to add to the stress. No one is able to make it to all those events, no one can clean during the weekday and must pack it in after work or on the weekends.

So no matter what, there will always be good things and bad no matter the role.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Jacki, I totally agree that the two-working parent house has a completely different set of stressors that are probably even more complex. and I think you’re right, this discussion in 5 years may be very, very different.

Elizabeth Flora Ross January 10, 2012 at 8:24 am

What a great, thought-provoking post! My hubby and I have had this conversation many times. We try hard to appreciate the roles we each play in our family. Neither is easy. Both have positive and negative aspects.

I will admit I can get into a “my role is harder than yours” mentality at times. And so can my husband. But there is no place for that in a healthy relationship. So we talk it out and work hard to make sure we are both feeling supported and appreciated.

As far as the Mommy as Martyr. I think that can be the perception, but it comes down to the different ways men and women process things. Women like to talk things out, and recently we do that more on the internet than in person. We need support, to be understood, to connect with those who get us. Can it be overdone? Yes? Can it come across as whining? Yes. But it can also be very healthy.

Men have traditionally been expected to suck it up. Maybe they do not feel comfortable opening up in the same way. I do see more and more dads getting online and sharing their perspective. And doing that very well. And I see moms and dads talking about their various roles and challenges and feelings. Let’s keep that up!

Overall, we need to work to understand each other, within and across genders. And I just wrote a blog post in response to your blog post. Sorry. :)

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I love your angle on this, that the martyr thing is a function of how we process. I think you’re on to something there, and I hadn’t considered that. The whole Mars/Venus thing is probably at play a lot more than I had thought about when writing this post. I do think some of it is societal expectations, too.

Lea Ann January 10, 2012 at 8:34 am

I can’t speak for every stay-at-home mother, but the reason I hate it is very simple. I am very good at something that I like doing, and I am not being allowed to do it.

Perhaps the martyrdom of our female species stems from the misuse and neglect of our intellect. Forced to use our grand IQs to dig dirty socks out of sofa cushions, we have nowhere else for our former problem-solving master-of-the-universe capabilities to manifest themselves. And, naturally, we then are jealous of the only other adult we see everyday.

I say channel this resentment and manage up.

It is only when your husband starts doing all the ironing that you can truly feel vindicated.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I agree that underuse of our intellect can definitely contribute to those negative feelings – especially with women who have had successful corporate careers, like you and I had and many of my readers have had.

Missy @ Wonder, Friend January 10, 2012 at 8:39 am

It’s funny, Gigi. I wrote a draft yesterday along these same lines. At least it started along these lines and then bunny-trailed off into what I think will be at least two different posts. Therefore, it’s still in the draft folder! 😉 BUT, my point here… I had one… My point is that here’s a topic close to many hearts, both men and women.

Mark and I talk about it often, about how each gig has its perks and each gig has major drawbacks. Mark, I believe, is the wise one in our house. He looks at it like this: we’re both the parents, and at any given time as such we have different roles to play. But we share a common goal, which is to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. In order to do that, we have to meet certain criteria (food, clothing, shelter, and, oh, LOVE). All of these things require time and effort on both of our parts. When he put it that way, I felt this kind of lightness. Less guilt and stress over who is working, who is not, who has the harder job, who gets to watch TV. We each have things that stress us to the brink, and we each get some level of downtime – these things flux, and so we flux with them, giving sometimes (a lot, sometimes) and getting other times.

I know – I’m rambling. My apologies for the long comment.

You know, I think a little complaining now and then is good for the soul. A LITTLE complaining. But in general, I am SO sick of comparisons between mothers, between women, and even between mothers and fathers. I’d like for us to accept that in any sample of people we’ll find some who do more than their share, some who do less, some who require little thanks and praise, some who need a parade of appreciation. But if the end result is a solution that’s working for an individual family, should we really care how they got there? I know it’s not as simple as that. Nothing ever is. It’s a place to start, though.

Done rambling, although I could go on and on. So maybe I’ll go finish that post! 😉

Pamela January 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

Amen to that! I agree!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Mark’s perspective is one that is a lot like my dad’s.

He says, “Marriage is NEVER 50/50. It’s always going to be a bit skewed. One day you may have to pull 90% of the weight because your partner can’t. the next day, your partner pulls 90% because you can’t. And you have to be okay with that.”

I never really understood the power of those words until we had kids.

Brittany {Mommy Words} January 10, 2012 at 8:45 am

The grass is always greener. I am a broken record on this in my head, to calm me down and to my kids, because I am mom so I say crap like that and money doesn’t grow on trees ALL the time.

Gigi, I think you know from us talking about it that I have deliberately stepped away from posting on the hardest days in any tone that implies it is just me and not my husband. I started to feel a real negativity in the blogosphere towards our roles as mothers and more importantly, towards our kids. For a while I was seeing post after post about (even sarcastically) wanting to sell them or escape from them or curse at them. I know they are in jest, and are making mothers feel less alone, but they were bringing me down and making me hate the role I have as a SAHM who works in the wee hours on my blog.

It is hard to work and hard to raise kids and almost impossible to keep our marriages together if we are pitting our roles against each other all the time. So, reflecting on both roles and trying to smile and look on the bright side is actually helping us.

I do have a side note though…I wish my husband didn’t travel so much because I would trade the hysterical fits my son has at dinner and the hysterical fits my baby throws at bedtime for those same hours at my husband’s job. Why? Because in those times I feel defeated and I struggle to keep my cool. It is then that I feel the whisper of martyrdom.

Wonderful thought provoking post!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Yes, you and I have talked about different dimensions of this topic at length (and never did a collaborative post we talked about on it!). it is very hard to escape negativity once embroiled in it. I fall victim to it very easily since I tend to be a “glass is half empty” sort of person anyway. That’s why I don’t talk much about my husband on my blog – he is definitely only discussed when he’s ancillary to the story. It has helped me not slide into that behavior at least on the blogging side.

I think that we all have to be okay indulging in a little martyrdom and self-pity every now and again. It’s just when it becomes the rule and not the exception that it begins to be destructive.

Nicole @MTDLBlog January 10, 2012 at 8:52 am

This is such a great perspective on a long debated issue Gigi! I often think my job is harder than my husbands most days – even though logically I know that his job requires of him a lot too. And having to be responsible for the primary care of our family has to be stressful. Thanks for bringing in an insightful way to think about it! Well written!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

thanks, Nicole. I’m glad the post prompted such good discussion!

John January 10, 2012 at 9:00 am

This is something near & dear to me . . . I mean, I’m the worker, and Duffy is the stay-at-home. I know she doesn’t have an easy job . . . so, I come home and try to take as much of the parenting as I can. I try to do the shopping, and the cooking, and the cleaning, and the bedtimes.

For at least an hour a night, I try to make it so that she has some time to herself . . . but, well, when this happens, it makes me feel like I’m “just the means” and things get really, really bad.

I don’t have an answer here . . . well, improved communication never hurt anyone. And getting upset and involved in mudslinging on comment posts never actually accomplished anything.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I don’t think there’s a real answer to the question either, which is why I didn’t offer one up. My husband took a lot off of my plate when he’d come home from work, like you do…and I think he at times felt a bit of the “where’s MY “me time?” It’s so tricky, but now that our kids are older, it’s much easier for both of us to offload the other. I actually encourage him now to go do things on his own, whereas when the kids were little, I felt resentful – and I think vice versa.

Mandy_Fish January 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

Martyrdom is destructive. It’s destructive to the person who has accidentally adopted this feeling about his or herself and it’s destructive to the people in a relationship with him or her. No one benefits from martyrdom and martyrdom has a strange sort of infectiousness. Your post is a wake up call to those of us who are prone to adopt that martyr-like posture, myself (a working mom) included.

Nice post.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm

You describe it really well – a strange sort of infectiousness. totally true. As I said to another commenter, I had to separate myself from some friends a few years ago whose attitudes towards being a SAHM and their husbands in general were so negative that I started to be “infected” by it.

MommaKiss January 10, 2012 at 9:18 am

This is excellent, Gigi…I always love your honesty.

We have a different dynamic in my house – where we both work full time away from the home. Now that he travels most of the week, I’m the 8-5 “work MK” and the every-other-hour-of-the-day “mom MK.” Which gives me rights to be somewhat off on the weekends, when Mr. Kiss is home.

We both know it’s hard for the other, and we try to realize the issues.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I think as long as everyone in the house agrees to the dynamic…kudos for making it work.

Megan January 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

My husband and I had this discussion after I mentioned the stupid Anderson show coming up about SAHM vs Working mom.
He gets up to be at work at 7 am, kisses his sleeping son and tells him its all for him. I can’t find work right now anyway so I am home. He handles both the drudgery of working on cars with the same kinds of problems every day but he does it in the rain and blazing summer heat. He feels the pressure of being the sole breadwinner.
He does miss out and I let him complain. And he let’s me complain about hard days or stress, which I don’t handle well.
Definitely media has glorified the mom. I’m thinking especially tv where the dads can be the butt of jokes while mom is the smart responsible one. And its not fair.
in the online society, where women are free to complain about their lives, it can turn into a chorus of womens complaints, and there is no outlet for many dads save their own homes or workplaces, so hopefully their partners hear them and support them.
This is a must read, Gigi. Sending it to my husband to read at lunch!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Megan, I couldn’t agree more that TV seems to poke more fun at men these days – Modern Family’s dad (while I love the show) is a perfect example of the “bumbling idiot” that doesn’t really do anything. and yep – men don’t have the outlets we do. Maybe that’s a good thing for them. Sometimes I think having the outlet gives me more permission to moan, which has a snowball effect.

Pamela January 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

I agree here too!

Pamela January 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

This is a thoughtful post and I enjoyed reading it as well as the comments. I agree that the competition between moms and between moms and dads has gotten to be too much. There are different pressures and struggles associated with work in and outside of the home. Not more or less, just different. Each situation, each job, each set of kids is DIFFERENT, so how can there be an across the board answer to this. Over time, the stresses of working outside the home can be easier or harder depending on work load, job changes, supervision changes, the same for at home; the stresses with different aged children change as well. Sacrifices are made by everyone in a family and it is when we stop appreciating those and start looking to be superior that we risk damaging our relationships. Its ok to unload after a bad day at work or home; that’s what friends, and presumably partners should do for each other, but when it becomes a competition or fodder for criticism, it’s time to take responsibility for our own feelings and ask for help if needed rather than fault finding and blaming. Thanks for helping us reflect on this ever present issue!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Well said!!! So glad you stopped by!

Ginger January 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

I also think that arguments like these ignore the ever growing group of parents that either don’t fit this mold, or flip it on its head. SAHD, WAHM, WAHD, etc, etc, etc. I’m the mom, and the primary breadwinner, while my husband is a stay at home dad and freelancer/artist. My paycheck is 85% of our income, so in a lot of ways, *I* feel like that guy from the WSJ. With the added bonus of mommy guilt that (from my experience) men don’t get the same way.


To say that my job is harder than my husband’s is to minimize the work he does and the sacrifices he makes. To say that his job is harder than mine minimizes the work I do and the sacrifices I make. We both have stress, we both have struggles, we both miss things we wish we didn’t. But we also both are doing the best we can for our family, and we try to remember that.

I think, though, what we’re ALL looking for (me, that guy from the WSJ, and everyone here in the comments) is an acknowledgement that, while it may not be hardER, it is hard. I know that the times that I play the martyr the most are the times when I feel like NO ONE is acknowledging the role I’m facing…and the same for my husband. I know it goes a really long way with my husband when I notice and acknowledge the work he’s done all day with our son, or how hard it is for him to pass up freelance work due to lack of time, or how frustrating it can be to spend all day with a toddler. I know how much better it makes me feel when he says, “honey, I know it’s not easy to bear so much of the financial stress of our family, especially while balancing being a mom too, while feeling like you’re missing stuff at home.” It’s really easy to get caught up in OMG my life’s so HARD (I do it all the time!), but stopping to take time to look at your partner and think of what THEY’RE doing (whichever side of the equation they’re on) goes a long way.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

So true.. We all just want acknowledgement that what we do is hard. And I imagine that your situation is even more complex. Each family has its own individual idiosyncrasies!!!

Suzanne January 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

Wow, this is a great post and a really thought provoking topic. I think there are two different issues at work (well, actually a lot more, but I don’t want to write you a novel). The first is moms and our tendency to turn any discussion on motherhood into a whinefest about how hard it is. I am probably even more guilty of this than most people – I often forget that being a SAHM is a job I WANTED, not something I’ve been tricked into and forced to do. And yet I spend way too much time thinking about how much easier my husband has it at work because he gets a lunch break.

The other is the issue of WHY dads seem under-appreciated. As a society we put a lot more value on a job that provides a paycheck than on parenting. The bread-winner’s choice to work is validated every two weeks when someone literally puts a number value on it (although jobs traditionally seen as women’s work are still incredibly undervalued…but that’s a discussion that would take a lot longer to have). So yes, dads probably aren’t encouraged to complain about how hard they work but it’s mostly because they are being shown on a regular basis that their work is important.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Fabulous point about the paycheck.. I had not thought of that, and you are so spot on!

I wish I had less of a tendency to complain. One thing that helped me aw deciding early on that my husband would not be a major part of my blog. I think that really helps quell the urge to go overboard and keep our marital ship a bit more right-sided.

Fab pinterest post today, BTW. I pinned it!:)

Wendy January 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

This is such a fantastic topic!

My husband and I have this conversation a lot – maybe too much – and it often turns into an argument. It starts out with me saying “I’m tired” and he will say “I’m tired too” and instead of it just ending there it totally turns into a competition of who is more tired from our day. And it’s ridiculous!

I realize how hard my husband’s job is. He works extremely long hours and doesn’t sleep well at night. He sees our daughter for maybe an hour before she goes off to bed and the time we spend together is half that before he hits the nest.

But would I want to trade with him? No way. This SAHM gig is pretty damn great. I think moms complain more about child raising and domestic duties because we think we have to.

So to answer your question, moms need to suck it up. We chose this role (and so there isn’t a misunderstanding – the SAHM who is choosing to raise her children rather than putting them in daycare) and so we should just do it. I feel VERY lucky to be home with my daughter and though I might be tired and have grumpy moments I would NOT trade this for sitting in an office or working in retail for ANYTHING!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I agree. This post originally ended with “we should all suck it up” as a statement, but I decided to make it a question. The problem is WHY do we feel like we have to complain?

I’ve left friendships with gals who were so incredibly negative about their SAHM status it started to affect my own attitudes and marriage.

MEL January 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

So, as the current sole-bread winner (with a stay at home wife), I think there’s some truth to both the salient points above.

1. Some S@H moms complain a lot; whether or not one calls this “martyrdom” is a matter of semantics. I know my wife works incredibly hard and needs breaks (which I provide whenever I can and if she accepts them). It’s a tough job for some 16 hours a day (longer if you co-sleep/nurse). But some of these moms probably could use some perspective (as you gained during your role reversal). It’s tough to judge another w/o walking in their shoes.

2. Fathers’ roles are largely undervalued in general, and the 9-5ers (especially those who don’t get to work from home) have some legitimate (and different) stress stimuli. For me personally, there are primarily two: a) constant financial stress, and b) not getting enough time to spend w/my daughter. During the week we schedule her nighttime routine at 7pm, which means I get 10 hours with her during those 5 days. Think about that for a quick second (that’s probably less time than most of us spend on the internet during the week). That’s peanuts and doesn’t provide nearly enough of the bonding time an involved parent wants. But I’m stuck; no quitting, no taking time off, no working from home, and even guilt-ridden “breaks” of my own (used to try and keep my sanity).

I think ultimately this constant back and forth is unproductive. Both the breadwinner and the S@H parent can recognize that both of them have gotten dealt a tough hand and support each other, rather than running a competition to see who has it worse.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I agree completely. My husband really felt disconnected from our kids when he was working FT but there was no other alternative. Sometimes those challenges can bring you together; other times, tear a couple apart.

Leigh Ann January 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm

“MY job is more difficult/rewarding/important/stressful than yours. Why? Because I’M the one who does it.” —Love that! It’s so true!

Leigh Ann January 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm

This is such an eye opener, Gigi. After writing my post, I really did start to think that we moms put ourselves on a pedestal sometimes and grieve about how hard our jobs are. The stay at home parent has to deal with young kids all day, never gets a break, feels unappreciated. The working parent has to work all day, then come home and STILL be the parent, still doesn’t get a break (this might weigh more heavily on moms, I’m not sure.).

I forget sometimes that my husband goes off to work, has the weight of being the (only) breadwinner, then comes home and immediately takes a lot of the parenting off of my plate before he even puts his bag down. So often he comes home from what might have been a really tough day, then has to deal with my possible bad mood or general end of the day attitude, and he barely even blinks. I have to remind myself that he doesn’t have it all that easy, although his work days are generally not stressful. But he doesn’t get much of a break either.

Most of us chose to be parents. There’s no preview to tell you how hard it’s going to be, but in the long run, we made this conscious decision. We knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Agreed with it all, Leigh!

I hate to think the # of times I dumped the kids off on my husband the minute he walked thru the door and started in with “the kids sucked today….”

Those days are fewer and farther between as the kids age…and thankfully do.

Ashley @ It's Fitting January 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Gigi, they did an interesting piece in Time a few months ago addressing part of this issue. Namely, who works harder? It was actually determined in the article, after lots of research and interviews, that both the man and the woman are working equally as hard in their individual ways.

I hid the article from my husband ;).

But I will say this. I find some days that it’s hard to NOT be the sole breadwinner, or in fact be a breadwinner at all. I have had many days where I wish I could contribute more than I do.

I also agree with previous comments that the mom-blogs have given people a place to air their grievances… But also to air their excitement, joy and pride at being a mom. The balance of the two, mixed in with the general humor of parenting is what makes some of these blogs great. Not that they are complaining all the time.

I think everyone is entitled to a little bit of martyrdom in their life. A bad day at work, a crappy day with the kids, everyone gets some time for self pity… It’s just making sure that you pick yourself up and stop wallowing eventually…

Heather January 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Wow! What a great post and a wonderful topic for discussion. I have seen more and more lately online and through blogs mothers wanting to do more and be more. I am one of them. But we want to do this while still having the luxury of raising our kids. I say “luxury” because really and truly it is. Being a parent may be be hard, I mean, we are raising human beings, but not just human beings, but hopefully respectful, good citizens of the world. Not an easy feat. But when we add more and more to our plates, i.e. blogs, twitter, FB, spending time in social media, creating a business (blog, product, service, whatever), combined with carpool, soccer practice, swim lessons, room mom, play group… the list goes on an on… then moms start complaining about how hard it is to be a mom and manage all the duties that come with it. We bring it upon ourselves.
Both sides of patenting have an equally hard job. I see how tired my hubs is after coming home from work, yet he still manages to get in some play time with the kids. My husband works HARD for us to be able to stay home and while we have had to forgo some of the niceties of life, I would not have it any other way. And I don’t complain about it either. The grass always seems greener on the other side… but if you water your own grass it will be just as green.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Wow… I love your perspective. Yes… We certainly do bring some of it on ourselves. Fabulous points…thank you for sharing. Reading this helped me today.

Amy ~ Eat. Live. Laugh. Shop. January 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The hubs (also an atty) and I agreed years ago to stop trading horror stories about how “hard” our days were. We agree both our days were indeed hard almost every day. I had lived in his world for years and knew it and he was mystified and rightly humbled by my new world. It is hard.

Both jobs.

Though I’ll take mine any day!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm

It’s awesome that you were able to come to that joint understanding.

Julie {Angry Julie Monday} January 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I’ve never been a stay-at-home mom so I cannot relate. I’m more passive-aggressive than a martyr. I think society has created so many more demands for us as mothers though. With the sports, academics, playdates, crafts, you name it, it is hard to be a mom these days. I don’t remember my mom sitting and doing homework with me, or playing Legos with me. We were kicked out into the neighborhood to play. We can’t just do that anymore. Everything has to be scheduled etc. My husband and I both work full-time. Yet, in between everything else, I make sure homework is done, laundry done, bills paid, I’m the soccer Team Mom, etc. etc. My husband deals with work stuff and making sure all of his shows on the DVR have been watched. I wish I had some extra time to watch TV but I can’t with all of these obligations. Sigh…I hate when the men folk get all nasty and comment on mom-related topics, because honestly, they just can’t relate to the mom expectations.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I agree wholeheartedly that moms seem to have much more on their plates than our moms did!

Wesley January 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Okay, this is just my opinion here…

As a stay-at-home-dad of school-age kids, in a conservative social circle where wives are encouraged to stay at home, I can say from personal experience that about half the stay-at-home moms AND dads either portray themselves as martyrs or make their jobs too difficult and then portray themselves as martyrs.

That is a long sentence.

My wife is a high-ranking manger in her company and has more degrees than a thermometer. So most days of the week she stays at work late. I, on the other hand, put the kids on the bus and then my schedule is pretty much open until I get them off the bus again. I make supper, she cleans up. While she’s struggling with homework with the kids, my night is pretty much done.

With exception to doing the shopping and running errands, I can basically do whatever I want for most of the day. Admitting that may make me look like a mooch or a goldbricker, and maybe I am. But I know that for may stay-at-homes, the work expands to fill the time, and then they complain about not being able to get anything done.

As for dealing with the stress of being the sole-breadwinner of the family… I’d do it if I had to, but I would not want to change places with my wife for anything.

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I love reading your perspective. When I stayed at home full time, I felt horrible if I ever turned the tv on or appeared to relax (backyardigans excepted). I figured if my husband was working, i should be too.
On the other hand, my husband has no problems taking time out of his SAHD duties to watch CNBC or chill. I tend to want to be angry at that and then realize it’s my issue for not taking advantage of that when I had the chance!

kludgymom January 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Love this philosophy and what you did this weekend. I am better at prodding the kids to show dad gratitude than I am voicing it myself. Thanks for the reminder to take that second to do so.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson January 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

What is all this fuss?

Obviously I work harder than my husband.

He’s only an eye surgeon. 😉

Seriously, I think there are different periods where parenting is easier for one person and harder for another. When I was nursing, I was doing more at home. In addition to chores and bills, i was feeding a human. Civilizing a heathen. I didn’t want anyone to touch me or talk to me at the end of the day. Meanwhile, my husband had power lunches asaws spoke in linear sentences. I know he was working hard as breadwinner, but I was juggling 72 plates while he had 4 technicians and a scribe.

Now our child is 12 years old, and he’s all into my husband. And so I have more free time while they do manly-man things. So I think I have it easier.

But my hubby still has to clean up the barf. No matter what. That’s his job. 😉

Fun post to think about.

Gina January 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Good topic, one that never gets old!

Being a parent is hard, wether you are a stay at home mom, working mom, single mom, working dad, single dad, parenting is hard all the way around.

I do not think one group has it any easier or any harder, just different.

Courtney Kirkland January 11, 2012 at 3:22 am

I think we all have the right to gripe every now and then. It’s healthy; but I don’t think either of us are martyrs. I work from home and my husband works outside of the home. I keep our kid all day, everyday while he goes to work for 9 hours. Both of our jobs have their ups and downs. Sure, I pull a lot of late nights, and do a lot of “extra” stuff around the house, but that’s because I CHOOSE to. Each family makes a choice and I do think we should live with what we choose. Life’s too short to complain all the time.

kludgymom January 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

So true that a lot of what we end up complaining about is stuff we’ve chosen to taken on. I have to remember that, always!

Jessica January 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

I worked for years as a single mom and it was SO tough and makes me appreciate staying home that much more. I feel bad for my husband when he comes home from a long day and my 2 year old won’t go to him because he’s been with Mommy all week and needs to get used to Daddy again. But he does get a quiet ride home, with any radio station he likes and he can pee alone. So there’s that.
Excellent post Gigi.

kludgymom January 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

The peeing alone is a pretty big perk, right? :)

Amber January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am

I think maybe in our mothers’ day, being a dad was easier. There was less expected of them. But these days, men are expected to be equal partners in a lot of ways.

As a working mom, my house would not run without my husband being willing to cook dinner, give baths and do the occasional load of laundry.

I’m sure it’s a different dynamic when only one partner works, but the principle is the same. We all want to be good parents – male/female SAHM/working mom…and the trade offs we have to make for the good of our families are equally hard.

There are days when I’m excited to go to work. Others when I spend all day missing my daughter. And I know my husband feels the same.

All of us are martyrs. Moms and dads. Because we’ve chosen to bring kids into the world – and do whatever we need to do to raise them right.

kludgymom January 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I think you’re right – a generation ago, there was much less put on dads in terms of parenting. That could be why the landscape has changed a bit. And I agree, when both people work, it is definitely a team effort – every day!

JDaniel4s Mom January 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I think it is so important to remember that we are in a partnership. I am so thankful that my husband see what I do and thanks me from time to time. I try to do the same for him.

Stefanie January 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Excellent post. We try very hard not to keep score and/or martyr in this house. Do we succeed all the time? Hardly. But we keep working at it.

For me, the most frustrating part is working equally as hard as my husband but receiving no monetary value for my efforts.

kludgymom January 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

As a SAHM, we get our value back in different ways…hugs, seeing our kids achieve and succeed, etc. They are much fewer and farther between than a weekly paycheck, and that is what makes the in-between times so hard.

San Diego Momma January 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I’ve been on both sides as you have Gigi. I’ve never been a 100% SAHM, but for the last almost five years, I’ve worked from home. Because my husband works outside the house, I am responsible for the kid/dinner/cleaning stuff, in addition to earning a living with 6-8 hours of work a day.

I was (sometimes still am) resentful that I must continue to “do it all,” but during a particularly busy period a few months ago, my husband stepped it up in a big way and got a taste of what it might be like for me, while I in turn glimpsed how it was for him.

Blaming and martyrdom never work out. Trying to understand while asking for understanding? Every time.

Great post.

Ghada Vanderpool January 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Parenting is so hard and both parties have it hard, regardless of whether you work from home, out of the home, stay at home…whatever the combination each parent at one time or another will feel left out/alienated from bonding with their kids, while the other feels misaligned about how much theu have to sacrifice for the kids.
Interesting subject you’ve brought….I’ve had similar conversations with my husband.

Jessica@Team Rasler January 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I spent a lot of time over the past three and a half years (since my first son was born) arguing that my job was harder. Not because it was harder during the eight or nine hours when we were both working, but because I seemed to be the default parent who was on-call 24 hours a day. Whether I worked part-time outside the home or stayed home full-time, I still was the default parent. When I finally stopped complaining and starting hashing out serious plans with my husband about how we should balance the outside-the-work-day time, that’s when it got better and we stopped discussing who had the harder job. I think you and your husband were lucky to get a chance to switch roles. The insight that it gives us to have these Freaky Friday moments is priceless.

Weekdaysolomommy January 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I always say that while my job is hard, I’d hate to be my husband. His travel is insane, and while my hours are long, his days often start in the 4s and end in the 9s….when he’s gone, he misses the kids so much, and when he’s here, he’s all about them and doesn’t get a break until after they go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, moms have it tough, but men, don’t have an easy ride either.

Sandra January 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Great post Gigi…really has me thinking. I do think that being a stay-at-home mom is a pretty cushy gig (I’ve done it for 16 years). But I still get irritated when I hear my husband moan about how “life has me by the balls”….I agree with you, my first inclination is to think “pussy…”
See, now I feel bad for the guy…sigh…

Naked Girl in a Dress January 14, 2012 at 6:27 am

I think, regardless of gender, there is far too much martyrdom. I believe there are a lot of unhappy people as a result. That line of thinking is not positive and uplifting. The focus of my blog is about finding those wonderful moments in life and focusing on them. It is about happiness not being a fleeting emotion. I believe people can control and guide their own happiness, but quite often choose the other path and feel sorry for themselves.

As for the gender issue of who has it harder, I coincidentally had a guest writer (male) yesterday who wrote about his frustration with negative daddy stereotypes. It has been a well-received post and generated a lot of dialog. Moms and dads serve essential roles in the family, regardless of which contribution they make to the family.

Thanks for the great article, shining a light on an important topic.

(Link below is to the article I reference in my comment)

Eric Storch January 14, 2012 at 7:26 am

This is a great post and I’m not surprised to see so many comments to it.

I have a bit of a unique perspective on this in that I’ve held 3 different positions within the family dynamic – sole breadwinner, stay at home parent and also having to do both breadwin and parent at the same time.

I’ve learned one thing from this: NO ONE should be complaining or crying martyr for what they do within the family dynamic. No matter your role as a parent, you have it hard. Period.

Yes, moms and dads do different things (traditionally), but the difficulty and stress is about equal. That’s it.

To paraphrase my favorite football coach, “Just do your job.” whatever it is. Love your kids the best you can.

Everything else will fall into place.

angela January 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I try not to take my position as a SAHM for granted, because I know it’s taking a sacrifice for me to be able to do so. There are times when I get frustrated with DH, but many of those times have to do with me being overly sensitive or stressed out and projecting some of that onto my husband.

I used to feel a little more, “You don’t know how hard I have it,” until we talke about having a third child. I got a little mad and made a comment about doing the majority of the “work,” and he countered by saying he ALREADY felt guilty and sad that he couldn’t spend as much time as he would like with our two kids, let alone a third. It made me realize that he is sacrificing, too, and we need to support each other as much as we can to make this thing work.

Great post, Gigi; I’ve been thinking about it for a few days and waiting until I wasn’t on my phone to comments :)

kisha January 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

Motherhood, nay parenthood, is not martyrdom. You should have to give up you to care for or provide for you family. I feel like we need a balance in our culture that allows both men and women to do a bit of both, without strict gender roles or the perception that we have to be perfect at either.

We should strive for meritocracy. (at risk of being spammy, i just posted a blog about this

Ideally, parent would each work about 20-30 hours a week. My frustration with motherhood seems to revolve around the shear volume of solo cooking and poop-patrol. Really part of it is the gender based expectation that I should be consumed by the cleanliness of my kitchen floor and my husband should be pardoned from the 4am crib grab because he has to get up and work in the morning.

Parenthood is work, but the ideal of a child-centered housewife/ work-obsessed (male) breadwinner is in part nostalgia for a non-existent bygone. Perhaps women have only been in the “work-force” for the last 40 years but men have only been in the factory-office-out of the house “work-force” for about 120. For 9000 years before that farming, and artistry, shop-running was a family endeavor. Mom, dad, and children were involved. Earning a living, and raising children were not separate isolating jobs vying for respect and thanks.

Stop of blaming women (or men) for not being satisfied with a one note samba. Maybe we could use technology, innovation and an understanding that every parent needs some balance to feel fulfilled. There is a way, but it will take a rethinking of what makes a happy family.
*steps down from soapbox*

openeyed July 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm

good article overall on pointing out motherhood (parenthood) is far from being some “martyrdom” role and in fact is most critical career anyone could have. Although this piece looses track of the fact that there are MANY “stay-at-home” Moms with MBA’s that were once making more than their husbands, but are the norturing one so she took on the role of doing school drop offs, pick ups, bringing kids to activities, coaching tennis, soccer whatever…..and also there are an increasing number of “stay-at-home” dad’s in USA. Don’t get too caught up in gender specific “roles”, those are same sexist people that think any daughter could possibly be less appropriate to be a “soldier” at war than anyone’s sons, when what really matters is humanitarian morals and political beliefs. The underlying message this portrays is untrue…that men still overall might “make more money” than women, when the U.S. Census data is skewed still to reflect a bogus “77cents to the dollar”, when in fact women overall make as much, many more than men in the same roles This misinformation and “expectation” is one of the reasons why the transition of “mommy vs daddy” in household’s can be so so tense these days if you let it. Yes, our society has allowed and even enabled us women to bitch and moan so much there is now reverse discrimination, especially within USA’s perpetual horrific war theme where there are STILL more young men involved than women even though no women’s life worth more than a mans. Once again, we wrongly put a price tag on someone’s life based on gender. How did I get from topic of parenthood to war? It is all about some “battle” of who does what here, when there is no gender specific role for anyone in society beyond marketing slogans What this article does get right is overall message that our children should always come first, and one parent should remain highly involved in the kids day to day lives, whether mom or dad makes no difference

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