Burnt Toast Martyr

If any of you are a member of FlyLady, then you got this testimonial. Normally I don't read the testimonials, but for some reason, I read this one. It's pretty powerful, so I'm posting it here. It is reprinted with permission by FlyLady.net, member (FlyBaby). I don't know who the woman is who wrote it, but I would like to thank her. She makes an excellent point about what we do for others but refuse to do for ourselves. Enjoy! Dear FlyLady, This goes right along with saving the best things for company and not using them for ourselves. As I read the testimonial from the lady whose mother passed on un-used wedding gifts, I started thinking about burnt toast. When I was growing up, my mom always insisted on eating the burned toast. It didn't matter how many pieces she fixed, she always had to have the worst ones (slightly burned, mangled, toasted heel when we were out of bread, etc). And not only did she insist on eating the burnt toast, she always did so with a self-satisfied smug look on her face... kind of a "look at me, I'm so saintly for martyring myself this way" look. She always said it was the mom's job and not to feel sorry for her. I was eating breakfast with my dad and DH the other week and we (my dad and I) were both remembering her burnt toast attitude and how it made us both feel. Let me tell you those were not the best memories of my mom for either of us. I ended up feeling guilty for not wanting to eat the burned toast (or sometimes envious... I wanted to be a saintly martyr too!) I'm proud to tell you Marla, in my house burned toast is FOR THE BIRDS. Literally! If I burn it, I crumble it and and put it on the back porch for the birds and make more toast. I love myself too much to eat that burnt toast, and I love my DH and two DS too much to pass on those confusing feelings or make them look at my martyr face in the morning. I shared my attitude with my Dad, and he said he was surprised that the birds would eat burnt toast and worried for a moment about if it there was a point beyond which toast should be fed to birds (charred?). We both ended up laughing at the idea that my dear mother would eat food that she probably wouldn't have considered good enough to feed to the wild birds in her yard. LOL! I started to wonder just how many other instances of "burnt toast" there were in my mothers life, much less my own. How many times do I give the best to my family and settle for far less for myself just because that's what my mom did? Ouch! In five minutes, I realized ** I take my children to the doctor when they are ill and keep their immunizations up to date. But I won't even take a day off when I am sick because my mom taught me that is what moms do... we don't have time to be sick. (don't even ask if I'm up to date on immunizations, I know I am not) ** I insist that my husband get his cholesterol checked twice a year and adjust our diet to help him keep healthy and off of cholesterol meds. But I won't do the same for me because that is what moms do... it would be selfish to focus on my own needs. ** I buy my husband his favorite pens to use for writing at the house. But I "make do" with whatever I find in the junk drawer because that is what moms do... we don't need anything special. ** I plan our menus to accommodate my DH's favorite foods and DS's picky toddler preferences. But I don't buy any of my healthy favorites because (say it with me) that is what moms do... we don't need special treats. ** I make sure DH and DS get to the barber regularly to make sure they look clean cut. But I go 6 months between haircuts for myself because... that is what moms do.... we can't be self centered and pamper ourselves. ** I buy my DH new athletic socks at his request. But I keep them for myself (even though they are too big) since they have fewer holes than the ones in my drawer because... that's is what moms do... Ouch. I never realized just how much mom was teaching me in the mornings as she scraped her burned toast. I think I love myself enough to quit doing that. I want my own children to learn a different lesson. I want my DS's to grow up and expect their wives to love themselves... because THAT is what moms should do! Copyright 2006 FlyLady and Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved, No reprint to other email lists or websites without FlyLady's permission. You have permission to forward to a friend. Check out our website: http://www.flylady.net/index.asp


Blogger Cheryl said...

Ahh, don't we all play the martyr sometimes?

Some sacrifice for the benefit of my children and husband can be good, though. Yes, I can sacrifice that new outfit because DH needs a nice suit for work. Yes, I can sacrifice the last piece of cake when #1 ate all her vegetables to have it. Yes, I can sacrifice my maid service for a lawn service! (little plug there for my blog)

I was taught early in my marriage to never keep score. However, I have always tried to maintain a balance between my needs and those of the family. There are times when I tell the kids to go to the playroom and play quietly so mommy can rest and think. Just yesterday I bought myself cute socks I didn't need. And occiasionally I sneak that last piece of cake...

4/15/2006 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

My mom was notorious for burning the toast...and we all scraped it off and ate it because that's just how it was cooked. My dad called it "food fit for the gods: burnt offerings." Poor mom, never could keep it from burning for some reason! The author's mom would be a hard one to be around, but I'm sure we all have our martyr moments.

I agree with Cheryl, we really need to try to maintain a balance between meeting needs of our family and our own needs. Keeping score is definitely something that breeds contention or resentment (when my dd was a newborn, and I was beyond exhausted, hearing my dh saying he was tired brought about such feelings of competitiveness in me - of course I was MORE tired, wasn't I?!!)

I only have 1 dd right now (a son due in June!) and I would say we are pretty balanced on each person's needs/wants getting met. Perhaps that changes when you have a housefull and have to make decisions on who gets what when?

I feel lucky to be able to occaisionally treat myself to something new or that "last piece of cake" when I need/want it with little to no guilt.

4/15/2006 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger a spectator said...

Well I like the taste of burnt toast.

I think that sacrifice on the parts of mothers can easily get out of hand, but most of my "sacrifices" are good for me. I would like to think that it isn't a problem until I resent others for it.

Could be wrong.....

4/16/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I think sacrifice is great. I'd give my life for me kids. And I give hours of time and lots of money for kids and husband, but...
I think the martyr thing is ridiculous.
I am a person and a legitimate member of the family, so I:
1. If our budget is tight, I don't spend money on haircuts and clothes, but when it isn't....I buy stuff because I want to look nice. I want to be happy with myself and my life.
2. I buy desserts that I love (my husband doesn't have a sweet tooth) and eat most of them myself. The extra portions are always for me!!!
3. I have girls nights out when I can find something to do. I don't act like I'm so indispensible that I can't leave my family for a few hours.
4. I have exclusive rights to the TV in the family room, so I get to watch my shows whenever I want. My husband can watch different ones in the computer room if he wants.
5. Now that our budget can handle extras, I go out to eat or go on dates, etc.

I still don't get sick days, though.

4/16/2006 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Motherhood IS sacrifice. they're practically synonymous. But sacrifice is good - and it's different than martyrdom.

I would love a sick day now and then, though. If I'm (ha!) lucky enough to be sick on a Saturday...

4/16/2006 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I think the writer's point was that we all sacrifice as mothers, but that we don't need to completely lose ourselves in the name of being a mother, and that we tend to overlook and even neglect our own needs when we are dealing with a family. I don't buy into Oprah-like philosphy where you say all the time, "I need ME time!", but I do think it's a valid point that sometimes we get so caught up in other people's needs, we sometimes ignore things that are necessary for our basic health (i.e., all moms have pediatricians for their kids, but many don't even have a regular doctor for themselves.)

Also, another point was that we don't need to punish ourselves, like always eating the burnt toast. Can't everybody just eat good toast? We are not second class citizens, and we get all riled up when society treats us that way. Let's make sure that we don't treat ourselves that way, too.

4/17/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

My neighbor used to take a sick day once in awhile and after awhile I realized she wasn't really sick, so I do that now too. I think it's a very good idea. It's easier now that my kids are gone, but it works when you have kids, too.

Now I take a lot of days off because I realize how hard I worked when I was you guys' age and I think I'm retired now and any work I do is gratis.

I only hope God doesn't get any ideas because I want to retire from church too, but not be noticed that I have retired. I plan to do it sneaky. Perhaps get a relapse of mono or something.

4/18/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Starfoxy said...

This sort of martyrdom reminds me of chapter 17 in the Screwtape letters by C.S. Lewis. He writes of an older woman who just wants the smallest piece of toast, and the weakest cup of tea, "Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetites she believes she is practising temperance."
Great post, I'm glad to have read it!

4/18/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I love, love CS Lewis. I'm going to spend quite a bit of time with him when I die. My heart is set on it.

4/18/2006 09:23:00 PM  

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