Martyr Mothering

Being raised in a small community, I grew up knowing what it was like to be “raised by a village”. My mom had plenty of friends with kids and we all spent time at each other’s homes or under the care of each other’s mothers. Be it for 10 minutes, an hour, overnight or sometimes even longer. My mom and her friends all helped each other out and took turns doing favors when it came to childcare. It benefits everyone – mothers and children alike.

I moved away from that small community in my 20’s but since having my kids I deeply miss the “it takes a village” mentality. I always envisioned that I would raise my kids with that type of motherly community. I long for the ability of being able to drop my kids off at a girlfriend’s house while I run errands and in return looking after another mother’s child while she does the same (and also having play friends for my kids).

My kids are still wee at 34 and 16 months but besides daycare or my parents, they’ve never had a babysitter. I feel like that’s not right – but I'm not sure how I'd go about finding one. Again, in the small town you know everyone, making it easy to hire your neighbor’s teenager for a couple of hours on a Friday night. But in the city, I don’t know all my neighbors and have no idea how to go about finding a sitter. I certainly don’t feel right about hiring a complete stranger to look after my kids. Too many things could go wrong. Too many bad things could happen.

Some of this I do blame on myself. Maybe I’m too controlly. Maybe I make myself into a martyr. Maybe I’m too chickenshit. Maybe I think I'm the only one who can care for them "properly".

This past Saturday Steve was fishing and I was home with the kids all day. I was trying to get some much needed housework done but the kids were restless and whiny and fighting and crying. It was frustrating to say the least. At one point I went downstairs to throw a load in the washer and Ruby came with me (Linc was napping). My tenant had the door open to her suite and as I was chatting with her, Ruby just walked right in and headed for my tenant’s daughter’s room where she happened to be playing with… a friend. I immediately called for Ruby to come back! My tenant laughed and said it was totally ok and Ruby could stay and play if she wanted. “No, we really need to get back upstairs” I said. I went in to grab Ruby and found her happily playing with my tenant’s daughter and her friend – both who are 7 years old. The girls asked if Ruby could stay and play with them. Again I said no and tried to persuade Ruby to come upstairs with me. She wanted to stay and play. The offer was made again by my tenant for Ruby to stay and play for a while and the sweet little girls playing with her wanted her to stay too.

But I made Ruby leave and come back upstairs with me.

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Why couldn’t I just let her stay? There was no safety issue. I fully trust my tenant, she is a great mom and a good person. Her daughter and friend are sweet and kind and were excited to look after Ruby and play with her. Ruby could have just come back upstairs at any time, at her leisure. And Ruby would have enjoyed it. And I would have too.

So why didn’t I allow it then?

Part of it is that I am trying to keep from getting too chummy, too soon with my tenant. I like her, she is about my age, we have some similar interests. But I am afraid if I get too friendly then I lose the landlord/tenant relationship and perhaps things could go south. Is that wrong of me? I felt like if I left Ruby down there to play then I blur the line of landlord/tenant and border on being friends.


Friends?! Why wouldn’t I want to be friends with the nice woman who lives in my basement? I suppose part of that comes from my last landlording experience which was a DISASTER. And part of it is the controller in of me.

Continuing on with being honest, part of it was also me being in martyr mode. I am responsible for my children. I do not want to seem as though I am pawning them off on unsuspecting people whom are not family. I should just struggle through the rest of my day on my own with no help. (Why can’t I accept help?)

Part of me was also concerned with the age difference – but I’m not sure how valid that is. The girls were seven years old and Ruby’s not three yet. I didn’t think they wouldn’t have the same play interests (even though they were playing with a dollhouse and Ruby LOVES dollhouses). I also feel like Ruby can be unruly and doesn’t listen when she’s told, no. What if she got into something and she wouldn’t listen when they told her to stop?? Except that she’s usually really good when she’s around people other than her immediate family. And again, she could have been sent back upstairs at any given time.

The more I think about the situation the more I am pissed off at myself for passing up this opportunity. I had the chance to have a little break, for Ruby to get to play with some new girls, for me to make a connection with another mother – and I blew it. And for reasons that, upon assessing them, are probably not all that legitimate.

Am I the only person who does this? Does anyone else martyr/mother like this? Do you struggle to allow yourself to connect with other women? And make up reasons to validate that? Am I allowing my fear to control my kids?  Or am I legit in my ways?