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  • Top Psychologist Tells Moms: Tama Na Ang Pagiging Martyr!

    Giving your all to your kids is not helping them, according to this psychologist.
    by Maria Pilapil .
Top Psychologist Tells Moms: Tama Na Ang Pagiging Martyr!
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Suwittawatpix
  • “Being tired all the time from taking care of my kids is a sign that I’m a great mom.”

    “I put myself last because that’s what good mothers do.”

    “A selfless mother equals a good mother.”

    If you can relate to these statements, experts say you might have “martyr mom” syndrome.

    What is “martyr mom” syndrome

    While moms are expected to be selfless and giving, too much of anything is a bad thing.

    “Especially women, we're conditioned or raised to take care of others before we take care of ourselves,” Dr. Honey Carandang, a renowned clinical psychologist who specializes in children and family, said during the launch of Break Your Stigma, a website promoting mental health. “I think we should reverse that, because I don't think we can take care of others if we don't first take care of ourselves.”

    Dr. Carandang, a mom and wife herself, says teaching self-care to Filipino mothers is very difficult. “[As a mom,] you’re taught that you’re supposed to take care of everybody else, and the last person to take care of yourself.”


    Where do you get “martyr mom” syndrome? According to Dr. Carandang, you probably witnessed it growing up, and from your own mother.

    “The martyr syndrome is very, very strong, because when you were very young, you see your mom sacrificing everything. The kind of parenting that you saw as a very young child, you absorb it effortlessly, without critical thinking.

    “Something stirred in you, but usually we don’t pay attention to it because it’s a normal thing to see. But if you look back and really be honest, it’s something that doesn’t feel good.

    “So now that you’re aware of it, you can start to do things that are not the same as your parents. We have a choice, and we become the parents we want to be.”

    How to break free from being a martyr 

    To break “martyr mom” syndrome, self-care is key. “The real, healthy way is to first take care of yourself, because if you don’t, you will not be able to sustain taking care of others,” says Dr. Carandang.

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    Motherhood takes up a lot of your time and requires great effort, which is perhaps why moms forget that they are their own person, too.

    “It’s very important for us to give the message to our family that we are persons. We are not mothers who just take care of our children. We are persons who have our own needs,” says Dr. Carandang.

    Self-care is a need, not a want

    Self-care is often seen as selfish and a luxury. But Dr. Carandang says that it doesn’t need to cost a thing. “Taking care of your mental health will not require so much budget, or even so much time,” she declares.

    Here are a few ways moms can practice self-care, according to Dr. Carandang.

    Enjoy “sacred time”

    Dr. Carandang suggests getting 10 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up, and 10 minutes in the evening when everyone is asleep and using that time as “sacred time.”


    “Maybe you like to listen to music, draw, read something inspirational, but use that time mindfully,” she says. “When you have those two mindful moments daily, practice them regularly. I guarantee you, it will change the quality of your day. Your task of mothering will be more sustainable, not as difficult. ”

    Take a mindful shower

    Moms, especially those with young kids, would say that they only get to have peace and quiet in the bathroom. Try not to let anyone interrupt you while you're having a mindful shower. Think of it as a break and feel the water, the soap on your skin, everything — and just take it all in.

    “Nobody will question you if you go to the bathroom and take a shower, no need to struggle and explain. That moment of mindfulness changes the quality of your day,” Dr. Carandang says.

    Take a mindful walk

    Dr. Carandang also does this when she needs a breather. If you're allowed, take some time outdoors and take a walk around where you live.


    Get creative

    Dr. Carandang says that even small things such as washing your hands or face, drawing, or an activity where you use your senses, will help. “When you are depressed or when your energy is eroded, feeling helpless or powerless, what’s happening is the events and people around you become more powerful than you.”

    Being creative is an antidote to depression. When you’re doing something creative, you reverse the process of being overwhelmed and overpower it by bringing it out to the outside world, empowering yourself and overpowering the external world.” In short, when you create something, like cooking, singing, coloring, etc, it gives you back your power or control over yourself.

    Practicing self-care is good for your kids

    Taking the time to practice self-care isn't time away from your children, says Dr. Carandang. “We’re giving the children the opportunity to give to us. It’s not good for them that we’re giving them all our time — they will think that you are just there to give their needs.”


    Dr. Carandang adds that for you to establish your “sacred time,” you need to tell your kids not to disturb you so you can establish that the time is essential for you. “They learn to respect you and your time, and not just receive.”

    The next time you find yourself transforming back into “martyr mom”, take a break. It isn’t selfish — it’s essential to you as a person to shower yourself with the love you so freely give to others.

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