Under stressful circumstances, we mothers all are apt to have our resistance to temptations lowered. Sugary foods? Yes. A glass of wine or two? Yes. Trash TV? Sure.
But while each of these bad habits is arguably less than productive, there’s one that tops the charts for being particularly poisonous: victimhood.
Now I’m all about a solid spin-out session. A few nights ago, I thought I might have COVID, but it was too late in the evening to do anything about it, so I kept my husband awake lying in bed moaning on and on about a) how terrible COVID was, b) how terrible it was that I (didn’t really but thought I) had it, and c) how terrible, since I was on a roll, pretty much everything all the time in all of mankind was.
You can see I’m not proficient at reigning my own stuff in.
But what I’m talking about isn’t garden variety negativity. Victimhood is a whole different brand of negativity that leads one to wallow in one’s own misery without feelings of personal responsibility to get out of it. And you want to know why there’s no personal ownership on the misery? Because victimhood says something or somebody or somespirit else did it to you.
Stress in my life was leading me to this temptation recently. One of my children began showing signs of Tourette’s Syndrome, flailing and swearing like crazy. Another one is struggling with his social identity. Yet another works hard to manage his Autism Spectrum Disorder. It started out small, the voice. Like a whisper. But before too long, it began banging around in me so loudly that I audibly uttered it to anyone who would listen: “Why me?”
Why must The Universe make my particular brand of motherhood so stinking difficult? Why must I have so many disorders to manage and appointments to schedule at Children’s Hospital? Why do my kids struggle so, which makes me struggle so?
And since, in this victim state, it’s all The Universe’s fault, I, powerless, get to keep angrily shaking my fist at it. See how satisfying victimhood is? I see why it’s so popularized in Mom culture.
But the truth is that suffering is often not personal. Difficulties parenting are rather more the norm than not. And, as far as I know, no one ever in the history of the world promised that raising kids would be bump-free.
But if you are finding yourself sulky and powerless and victim-y about your job as a Mom – perhaps your kids are going through a bad patch emotionally that’s hard on you too or they all got sick with the flu in the same week or you’re struggling with a massive parenting conundrum that has you perplexed or it could just be that nobody’s cleaning up after themselves and the house smells like a farm – know that you’re not alone. It’s a temptation I face, for sure (As I mentioned, it goes like this for me: sugary foods, then wine, then trash TV, then victim mentality). And it’s a temptation I figure most moms around the globe face, too.
I will say that on this wild (bumpy) ride that is being a mom, I have learned a few tricks on how to combat the victim mentality, how to temper that “Why Me?” voice.
It is nearly impossible to have an air of Mom victimhood while actively and genuinely acknowledging your thanks for something. Pick something, anything, to be grateful for and give your whole attention to that feeling state for a few minutes. It’ll snap you right out of your self-absorption.
Whether it is The Universe or your partner or your kids themselves you are blaming for your unhappiness, try hard to put that blame away. You are responsible for you, and most of the time you have a vital role – attitudinally if nothing else – in whatever is making you struggle.
Play the “Who Has It Worst” Game
There are people in your life who, no doubt, have been dealt a worse hand than you (just as there are people in your life who have been dealt a much better hand than you but now is not the time for them). This might sound ludicrous, but I often imagine women at their children’s bedside in the oncology wing, children who are fighting terminal disease (If this is you, my heart mourns; you may have to dig deeper to find your image). The fact is, you may have it bad, but somebody has it worse. This offers a bit of perspective that Mom victimhood likes to strip.
Conduct an Act of Service
When we attend to others, it shifts the focus off ourselves. I recently found myself in the position to help transport a car-less Afghani refugee family’s five-year-old to her brand new preschool. During those minutes I engaged with this little one and her family, I thought not once about my problems. (It was also pretty easy, after hearing that they moved to seek safety and education for their daughters, whom the Taliban refuses to educate, for me to play the “Who Has It Worst” game, as well). Maybe it’s bringing someone a meal or offering a listening ear to a friend. Loving on others almost always raises the spirits.
Discover the Source of Your Pattern
If Mom victimhood is so difficult to knock, could it be that you learned it from someone? Perhaps your grandmother, aunt, or own mother? Sometimes diving into your childhood (with the help of a trusted professional) to uncover learned patterns can help get to the root of your response to hard stuff in life.
The key is to do something about it. Inaction is the fuel for Mom victimhood. Whether you shift your mindset or your actions, recognizing that you are, in fact, not powerless is a step in the right direction. Best of luck to you, Mamas! We got this!