This post is part of a series sponsored by Invisalign. I’m documenting my daughter’s and my experience with Invisalign clear aligners, and we’re receiving complimentary treatment as part of the program. (PSST: you’ll have a shot at complimentary treatment, too! Stay tuned for an announcement in a few days.)
What’s up with moms and martyr syndrome?
Years before Invisalign invited me to join the Mom Advisory Board, I consulted with an orthodontist about my crooked teeth. Despite braces in middle school, my teeth had moved enough that my front tooth stuck out and my lower teeth were a mess. (The picture on the right is the best I could find.)
I wasn’t miserable but I knew the problem would get worse as I got older.
I asked the doctor about Invisalign. He examined me and said that I was a good candidate, and that treatment length and cost would be about the same as braces (about a year, and in the $5000 range).
That evening, I discussed my findings with my husband. We talked about the finances, determined we could afford it, and he encouraged me to go ahead. In fact, he tried to convince me to go ahead, because he knew something before I did.
He knew I would never go through with it.
Not even if I need it
The idea of dropping that kind of money on something we didn’t need seemed crazy. Heck, I wore my last pair of jeans until they were literally see-through. (No kidding — while putting them on one morning I noticed light coming through the fabric.)
But why? I clearly needed new jeans. I didn’t think twice about replacing my kids’ worn clothes. Cost didn’t deter me from encouraging my daughter’s interest in the fiddle. Or signing my son up for summer camp. Or cheering on my husband’s various hobbies.
I have no problem spending money on stuff that promotes my family’s learning and joy. But when spending money on myself, I hesitate, even when the spending is warranted. More often than not, I talk myself out of whatever-it-is, even when my husband urges me to go ahead.
I’m not alone. Many moms I know let their self-care needs and wants fall off the budget.
The image of the “sacrificing mother” is so enduring and ingrained it’s easy to mistake martyrdom for generosity. But it’s one thing to offer your kid the bigger slice of cake, and another to forgo your self-care, curiosity and joy. Do this long enough and eventually the whole family will suffer.
I learned this the hard way. When my kids were younger and I routinely ignored my own needs, I became irritable, exhausted, and sick. (My clothes looked pretty shabby, too.) I chipped away at my ability to care for my family by not caring for myself.
Modeling self-care for kids
Taking on the martyr role also communicates a troubling message to kids (especially daughters): to love someone, you must sacrifice yourself.
The last thing I’d want for my daughter is for her to run herself ragged taking care of everyone but herself. And I would hate for my son to unconsciously expect that from a future partner. And yet, that’s exactly what I was modeling in little and big ways every day.
Your well-being is valuable
I’m not suggesting a “them-or-me” mentality. Taking care of your family while taking care of yourself isn’t an either/or situation…it’s a perspective shift. Self-care might be as simple as scheduling a check-up or buying a new pair of jeans. The point is this: your well-being is worth a devoted percentage of the family budget.
I’m slowly getting better at this. I recently replaced all of my holey socks.