Mom’s Such a Martyr – Parental Sacrifice and the Six Year Challenge

One of my many differences with people in the parenting groups and with the prevailing climate in the gentle parenting movement is around sacrifice, around parents looking after themselves as well as their kids, because it’s important to model self-love and care, and because we figure happy, less stressed-out parents will have more success with their efforts to make the gentle change in their parenting. All this and more, and it’s obvious, impossible to deny in theory . . . 

 

 LOL. Of course I’m kidding!

 

My contrariness is not easily intimidated. I don’t know if you, the postulated reader realize it, but I’m kind of living on the edge here, when I start these sorts of rants, often the subject of my critique is something apparently unassailable like this. This is a high wire act in my mind, unconventional thinking, and it’s not easy. But with every new aspect of my study here, I’m gaining confidence and I don’t think I’m going mad. Fooling myself that I’m winning any points in these arguments doesn’t seem overly difficult or complex, which tells me I’m not so far diverged from the reality of things. Of course, for a curmudgeon, this is where the fun is. So to it, then.

 

This generation’s allergy to parental notions of sacrifice has some strange roots. The image of the sacrificing Mom is that of the Nineteen-fifties middle America, thing, Dad off at work and Mom at home, a slave to the house, the laundry, the kids, and of course Dad, and Mom lives out her life never doing a thing for herself, a martyr for the family. That, yes, a horrible standard for Mom, working twenty-four seven and the most hardworking of Dads not working those hours at all, home time being largely off-time for Dad. This is a situation at which to rebel, and when I was young, it was Women’s’ Lib, the women’s’ liberation movement, or more generally known then as today, feminism, that broke the spell and let us all know that this sacrifice was neither ‘its own reward’ or the model anyone should set their daughters up for.

 

All right and proper, not strange, I know, but here it is: was that also not the time and culture that beat the crap out of their kids, out of our parents, us and our friends? (I’m fifty-five as of this writing.) I know, right, parenting blogs and feminist blogs and never the twain shall meet, but, folks, it’s all one world out there. Our martyrs passed on their second-class citizen status and associated abuse to us, right? I know, many acted as protectors, shielding us from our more violent fathers, but really, in that demographic, who raised the kids? All I’m saying is, I get it, that culture of “sacrifice” was bad, that model needs to go, for both feminist and – childist – reasons, no argument for that larger thing: that whole culture needs to change, absolutely.

 

But (and here come the comments), was the sacrifice really the problem in it?

 

If it seems to be, I think it’s only because of its close ties to abuse, that Mom’s sacrifice means she allowed herself and therefore us to be abused. Does the feminist movement want to say that Mom was complicit in her own and her children’s’ abuse, that is, is Mom’s shared guilt what they want to shine a light on, or should we not just keep the parenting talk focussed on abuse? Abuse is the real scourge here, focussing on sacrifice is oddly misogynist when we’re talking about abuse or parenting, it’s a form of victim blaming – as though there are impersonal, automatic cycles of abuse with lives of their own, but these martyr women, they’re making a choice in it, like they’re the only ones who are. It just smells off to me. Mom may have done it as an adult, but abuse is still abuse, even if we seem to volunteer for it. It’s the driving force in the dark side of our parents’ and grandparents’ parenting and Stockholm Syndrome in itself is a reaction, not a cause. All I’m saying is, Ladies, mothers, feminists and those who are both especially, yes, no-one should model that, that was some misguided sacrifice indeed.

 

To give the devil and the dark side it’s due, though, some bullshit in the name of a virtue is not a new thing in the world, and many a callous abuser has beaten his chest and cried about his “sacrifice.”  As Dark Side as I can ever be: is the flip side of ‘happy parents are gentle parents’ an ultimatum: ‘Call me out on my bullshit and I will beat the tar out of this kid?’ Misreads and abuse exist for everything, including sacrifice; it doesn’t mean things can’t ever be the good, proper versions sometimes. Sacrifice was our mothers’ and grandmothers’ immediate personal problem, their battle, and maybe still many ladies’ battle today, and solving it saves women, absolutely. Suggesting that fighting this battle somehow saves children, and that the two groups, women and children (read adults and children) can never be in conflict, that one’s gains can never negatively impact the other, however, isn’t right and it’s not helpful. Your fight for freedom was and is against the men, the adults. It’s still OK to sacrifice a little for your kids.

 

How sacrifice hurts us as children is only one of the many, many ways abuse hurts us. Let’s keep our eye on the prize.

 

So. ‘One of my many differences.’

 

I don’t mind some sacrifice. Yes, I’m a cultural Christian, and while that doesn’t mean I agree with the sacrifice of human beings in the literal sense, nailed to trees, I do think sacrifice is, at least in it’s better forms, a good thing, a moral act. In fact, it’s a big part of my planned cure for abuse and punishment in the world. In it’s most practical, generational terms, what I’m advising is that some punished and also possibly abused generation swallow that pain and find a way not to repeat, in fact to sacrifice what they see as a “normal, happy life,” live with the pain and troubles their childhoods left them with and keep their fucking hands off of their own kids, even if they think “raising their kids right” will make themselves feel better. That is gonna feel like some sacrifice, I won’t lie to you.

 

I felt it, believe me.

 

I can’t imagine how many times I’ve told the half-joke that I sometimes wish I had beat my second daughter up at least once, just so that during all the frustrating times with her afterward, I could have just closed my eyes for a second and treasured the memory. Man, it would be nice, once in a man’s life to bark an order and see it swiftly carried out. That is an immediate gratification I have rarely enjoyed, believe me. I have fantasies of personal power, my worldview tells me we all do, and I have happily (usually happily) sacrificed getting the payoff those fantasies promise.

 

In practical terms in a slightly shorter time frame, I would say the sacrifice of our inheritance of parental power needed to last until my younger daughter was old enough to talk and reason with, old enough to understand things, and as I remember it, she was five or six. She was born a full three and one-third years after our older one, so the difficult years, where we manually did everything we might want to train our kids to control themselves for, were then over before ten years had elapsed from the first one’s birth. I mean, ten years into our life as parents, we never had another cause to consider punishing. This when the teen years were still before us, and they aren’t anymore. We sacrificed, and it paid, sorry if that sounds ironically old fashioned.

 

We sacrificed a lot, all the other things, besides the sense of parental power I will save for another post, but there was a lot of work, and we had opted out of much of normal life around normal families, we sacrificed the support normal parents get from each other. Not kidding, it was a lot, but again: for six years after the birth of your last child, then it’s payoff time. Not kidding about that either.

 

 

Conclusions

 

That old model of family life, yes, that was bad, let’s do away with that, but let’s also make sure we’re fighting the real devil here, not some victim proxy. Mom’s sacrifice didn’t help, but abuse and force, these are the issues that shape us, negative things like these. Sacrifice is still a moral tool, with a legitimate existence. Do we imagine that in harsh, unforgiving nature, sacrifice on the part of parents is not a survival adaptation for the young and so for the species?

 

Having said that, part of what was wrong with the model of Mom’s martyrdom is that it never ends, the payout is never made. They thought the payout was our success and our happiness – but again: they whooped our asses while they said that to themselves, so that payout maybe never came either, right? Sacrifice for nothing really isn’t, in hindsight. What I’m offering you here is old-time, tried and true sacrifice, hard work for actual results.

 

Face that Mom and Dad were and all your friends and colleagues are wrong about the benefits of any sort of punishing, and hold back your punitive urges until your kids are six years old. Make that sacrifice and see what happens. And don’t get me wrong, be nice to yourselves, that part is true, it will be easier if you’re getting breaks. If, however, when it gets hard, and you can’t help but feel you’re somehow repeating Mom’s errors, over-sacrificing, I promise you, six years. Six years of feeling like something of a fool, six years of letting your kids get away with stuff you never would have gotten away with, six years of feeling like your inner child has lost a fucking lottery, and after that the hard part is behind you – a decade or two earlier than it was when our parents parented us, if you recall. For my wife and I, it meant it was that long before it ever got any easier for many of the parents around us, and neither the strictest ones nor the least so were immune, which, BTW, fits the social science study data.

 

Some sacrifice is a good thing, sometimes.

 

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

 

 

#SixYearChallenge

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Comments (24)

  1. GoldenPig2012

    We all DO sacrifice for love, that’s…………….what we do. Be it parents for children, a lover for another, a spouse, a child for an aging parent or, hell, a young parent. That’s part of love? Right? We WANT to do whatever it takes to see the one we love happy. We do it freely, willingly and without regret, even if it doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped. Moms do sacrifice, be they working moms, stay-at-home moms or whatever. So do dads. The cover for abuse? A shame, a disgraceful shame on the abuser.

    January 17, 2016
    1. Neighsayer

      see response to penny, above, plus, I’m talking methods, and they’re talking effort, I suppose. Of course, that’s cover for punishing dynamics, because my argument would save them ten or more years of difficulty. Trouble is, everything’s so ‘positive’ over there, I never got a chance to tell them that part!

      January 17, 2016
      1. GoldenPig2012

        Well, I referred to your response to “penny above” and then……………well, still lost. I thought, ha ha ha ha, we sort of, agreed. Now, I see “cover for punishing dynamics” and saving someone ten years of something. I don’t know what’s so “positive” or where “there” it is positive.
        Here’s the deal. Just leave me behind, no…………….don’t try to pick me up and save me because I’m, obviously, too damn stupid to keep up with you. I’ve been a parent for almost 30 years, I’ve tried to change and you’ve left me on a hard right turn. That’s my fault, I’m old. No…………go on…………….save yourself.

        January 17, 2016
        1. Neighsayer

          I got myself in trouble on a FB group, buncha nice ladies who didn’t wanna hear they were bad because they punish . . . that’s what this is about

          January 18, 2016
          1. GoldenPig2012

            Well, gosh…………why didn’t you just say it like that (for me in the first place? Well, if you remember a few years ago, I was somewhat miffed about how you placed me in the “abuser” category for spanking or grounding or depriving my kids of their whatnots. No one likes to be called “bad” or an “abuser”, but…….you DID eventually change my thoughts about such things by NOT calling me those things, but by reasonably explaining your thoughts. I bet you could convince this nice buncha ladies, too, if you wouldn’t use “bad” and “abuse” to describe the behavior until a little later into the conversation. Or………….not. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.

            January 18, 2016
            1. Neighsayer

              No, I’m creating my own FB Hate Group, the Parents Haven’t Got a Clue Klux Klan! No, it’s “Not Safe For Parents” and I’ll let ‘em know at the door that they are the adults and that there is no crying in baseball, that parents’ hurt feelings will not be a criteria for moderation. It’s going to be a safe place to critique parenting and status quo attitudes can read quietly or leave. One place where the ubiquitous, unquestioned “normal” will have no place – I mean, a place where we help you keep your kids safe from you.

              .

              I can go to those groups to try to pry a diluted, positive sounding version of my message into their talk, but I gotta have one place where it’s all laid out and as brutal as it needs to be to be real. This movement suffers from a lot of well intended “nice” ideas that apparently don’t even convince their own proponents, if we allow that most of them are probably punishing their kids, just in the nicest possible way. There’s no science behind it, and science has said that parenting choices don’t matter, other than the ones that get your kids killed or badly, undeniably abused. But science does say that the medium amount of parental authority is slightly better than less or more, so that’s science’s position, authoritative, non-permissive parenting, and that ain’t behind them, or me, so someone needs to discover the real functions in this drama or this gentle parenting movement will never be real. You should come find me there, you’d be a great asset. It ain’t out there yet, you’d be member number four. Or give me a secondary FB account to invite.

              January 18, 2016
  2. belladora

    I never have been hit or beat by any one, never mind my parents. I come from a family of 6. I do remember my brother getting “beat” for doing something wrong. I seem to remember it was trying to hit one of us girls. LOL

    January 18, 2016
    1. Neighsayer

      science news from 1998: individual parents don’t matter, we don’t leave an individual trace, not with out abusing them, anyway! Children are raised as a group function, it’s all the adults in a human group raising all the kids, and then still it’s done by proxy, the kids learn what they learn from each other, and youngers from older kids. So th point is not that we got hit so much, is just that we knew we would be, if, right? You and I might not have got hit, but we got that message, right, so we either behaved or didn’t get caught, some from column A, some from column B?

      So it’s not what our parents did, outside of flat out abuse, it’s what they will do, what they might do – and that’s enough, right? I don’t need first hand experience to know to avoid bears, kids don’t need first hand experience to feel that any adult, even and especially their parents is disposed to hurt them somehow if the kid does something to cause the adult a problem.

      .

      I’ve recently realized that because of that, my completely unpunished children were never really protected from the threat, they probably instinctually feared me their whole life and felt the greater social environment’s threat. I couldn’t save them the threat and the fear, only the actual trauma. For our kids not to live in fear, the whole group needs to change.

      January 18, 2016
      1. belladora

        I have sent this to my superiors to be reviewed and commented on intelligently. From my point of view, you would have to go through with one threat so they would know there are consequences. I do not mean to beat them..LOL ~ I came home from work once and the kids had not done their chores. I raised the roof and made them clean while I sat there. Had they not seen that display, I doubt they would have cared . It was psychological warfare.

        January 19, 2016
  3. GoldenPig2012

    neighsayer…..wow? A “hate group”! I am, almost, speechless. I’m not sure where to start in my speechlessness. ha ha ha ha

    1. Parenting isn’t baseball and I’ll cry if I want to, you don’t get tell me not to cry or whine or argue. In fact, if you remember, we “argued” quite a bit in our beginnings.
    2. “Read quietly or leave”? Well, how on earth are we to learn if we cannot debate the merits of each point and make a rational decision?
    3. I understand your negation of “watering down” or using “nice” ideas to get your point across, if you had, I’d never be, sort of, on your side of this.
    4. Honey, you underestimate yourselves and others who agree with you. This “gentle parenting” movement or thing IS real, ask my 25-year old son after he saw me parenting his 3-year old brother. Oh, it’s REAL.
    5. I doubt I’d be an asset. I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever been one. But, you can bet your booty I’ll be there.
    6. What the hell is a “secondary FB account” for you to invite? Oh, wait, you mean ME on FB? See? I’m too old for this.

    January 18, 2016
    1. Neighsayer

      1. You know the reference, right? A League of Their Own?

      2. " . . . how on earth are we to learn if we cannot debate the merits of each point and make a rational decision?"

      - LOL! WhoTF does that?

      I’m sorry. Is that what you were doing when you first met me . . . ? LOL, I’m sorry . . .

      3. It was the reality that got you, right? I just worry that people can’t hear it screamed, so how can they hear it whispered?

      4. LOL, OMG LOL

      5. see 4. above

      6. Yeah, I’m not fishing for your real name and address, I’m happy with your mind, even anonymously . . .

      January 18, 2016
      1. GoldenPig2012

        1. OF COURSE I know the reference, one of my favorite movies.
        2. LOL my ass, I did that, I thought that was what we did the first two years. Is it your intention to demean intellectual discussion? (said in a haughty voice with my nose pointed in the air) and laughing.
        3. No, it wasn’t “reality”, what a useless word since each of us have our own, it was your calming down from “bad” and “abuse” to connecting punishment to long-term consequences without calling me names.
        4. It’s true. Laugh all day. It’s true. I’ve even become, sort of an………….advocate? with my son and his wife as they raise their 18-month old.
        5. eye roll
        6. I’d PM it to you, not just puttin’ it here for all the crazies to see. Ha Ha Ha Ha

        January 18, 2016
    2. Neighsayer

      Hey, how would you like to be the face of the Six Year Challenge? You’re not quite at the halfway point, right? Terrible Twos, that is a very natural and engaging starting point! Three more years and a bit, maybe a monthly blog . . . quarterly blog? Whaddayasay?

      January 18, 2016
      1. GoldenPig2012

        What the hell is a “Six Year Challenge”? And, it wouldn’t really be my actual face, right? My face is not always something you want to see. My son is three years old. I met you when he was five months old. I started trying to exercise “gentle parenting” when he was about 8 months old. (that’s how long it took for me to stop being pissed off because you called me, my mother, my grandparent, their parents, etc. “abusers”.)
        What the hell would I say in a monthly or quarterly blog? Tell everyone how pissed off I get when I WANT to spank my kids ass and don’t? Or, how good I feel when I lie down at night after NOT whooping his contrary ass?

        January 18, 2016
        1. Neighsayer

          Yes, yes, exactly! Say exactly that! For the six year challenge, re-read the last paragraph of this post . . . sigh. You don’t even read them anymore, do you?

          and OK, maybe I did find nicer words with you . . . but I’m sorry, you’ll be my first and last convert then, cuz I’ve lost that ability, I’m pretty sure.

          January 18, 2016
          1. GoldenPig2012

            Don’t be an ass, of course I read them. I might get lost every once in a while, but I read them. I read it, I just didn’t…………….connect the good stuff to me. What? It takes time, lots of it for your information, to change.
            If you can find “nicer words” for me, well, hell, you can find them for anyone, I am a most disagreeable sort. I’m surely not your first, certainly won’t be the last to find what you say makes sense. You’ve lost nothing, you’re in the wrong venue, which you are, apparently, changing.

            January 18, 2016
        2. Neighsayer

          plus of course, you can start your story where you like, the bloody Mayflower for all I care. Hey, when I give you a job, it’s yours to do as you will! No hurry and no pressure, but you’d sure be welcome to.

          January 18, 2016
          1. GoldenPig2012

            Hmmmmm, that is an interesting project, I must say. Will I be edited?

            January 18, 2016
            1. Neighsayer

              I’ll proofread if you like, but I won’t censor you. I’ll be watching other folks like a hawk, I expect most stuff won’t pass my criteria. But I’d want you as you are, in your own words. I trust that you get me and you’re not going to get on there and say a little spanking is OK or something . . .

              January 18, 2016
  4. This comment has been deleted
  5. GoldenPig2012

    Neighsayer, no proofreading necessary. I am what I am, say what I mean and don’t believe I’ve ever been less than that, especially with every aging year. Spanking “feels” like something that is OK, especially “in the moment”, gosh don’t I know, but…..NOT spanking feels even better for EVERYONE (once you get past the moment).

    January 18, 2016
    1. GoldenPig2012

      And the moment WILL pass. Heck! I’m ready to blog now. If I wait for you to get it up and running, I’ll forget all this “in the moment” stuff. I’m old.

      January 18, 2016
  6. Neighsayer

    was i too subtle? Do you get the sort of attitude I’m combatting/ridiculing here? Someone somewhere in Maya, the world of illusion (OK, FB) gave me the impression that me saying parents need to try harder to be gentle, you know, not to punish, was me, as a man, telling moms they’re not working hard enough, or sacrificing enough for their kids.

    January 17, 2016
  7. Neighsayer

    also, see response to GP, below.

    January 17, 2016