Ditch the Martyr Complex: Caring for your Child doesn’t always Come First
I used to feel guilty every time I left my daughter behind while I did something for myself. She needs me, I would tell myself. No one knows how to take care of her like I do, I would say.
What if something goes wrong when I’m gone?
Truthfully, this voice sometimes still stops me from doing things that will improve my emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It convinces me that my mere presence in the room with my child is more valuable than anything else I want to do…
Our base instinct as parents is to put the needs of our children before our own. It doesn’t matter if we go hungry, as long as our children are fed. It doesn’t matter if we endure sleepless nights, as long as they are rested. It doesn’t matter if we venture into the cold without proper winter gear as long as they are dressed warmly.
This is the mercy of a parent towards her child. It is a manifestation of one of the parts of Mercy that Allah (swt) sent down to this earth.
However, when it comes to our own well being and our faith, we sometimes make sacrifices for our kids that become detrimental to the state of our own souls.
Allah (swt) says in the Quran “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded” (66:6).
We have a responsibility towards our kids to educate them, encourage them to do good, and reprimand them if they do something wrong. But we often forget ourselves in this equation. Allah (swt) says protect yourselves and your children. He mentions you first.
If you don’t protect yourself from the Fire by striving for the betterment of your own self, how can you really protect your kids? If you don’t take care of your physical and emotional health, how can you care for your children’s health?
No matter what you think, you aren’t doing something positive by neglecting yourself in favour of your children. You might secretly enjoy this martyr complex for a while. Perhaps you feed off of the need to be needed and to be seen as irreplaceable.
You want to be a good parent, but you can’t be one if you’re miserable. Yes, you can occupy the same space as your kids but what good will that do when you’re irritable and spaced-out all the time?
Take care of yourself. Take a course that interests you, just because. Set aside some time to read a good book. Go for walks. Leave your kids with someone you trust and study the Quran or Seerah. Whatever positive things you love to do, fit them back into your routine somehow.
Free yourself from the expectations and judgment of others. They expect you to sacrifice everything for your child, including your own well-being. They judge you for having ambitions and interests outside of parenthood. Don’t give them the time of day.
You’re not just a parent. You’re still you. You’re still a writer, an artist, a manager, a business owner, a believer…
The prophet (saw) said, “Whoever makes the Dunya his preoccupation, then Allah will place his poverty in front of his eyes, make his affairs scattered, and nothing of the Dunya comes to him except that which has been decreed for him, and whoever makes the Hereafter his preoccupation, then Allah places freedom from want in his heart, gathers his affairs, and Dunya (worldly life) comes to him despite being reluctant to do so” (Ibn Majah).
If you focus on caring for yourself in order to please God, perfecting your relationship with Him, and doing all you can to be a positive force in this world, He will gather all your worldly affairs for you. That undoubtedly includes your family life.