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  • Silvia Farag

A Fallacy of Motherhood

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

I was filling out the endless paperwork for re-enrollment for my youngest son’s school. He is starting his final year at the elementary school that all 3 of my kids attended since pre-K.

I found myself really missing those days where all they wanted was me. I was literally the center of their world, and I didn’t always realize that at the time through the haze of sleep deprivation and the new normal.

I remember thinking that putting them in the all-day preschool would make my life easier. And I remember feeling so guilty about it. When I was pregnant with my middle child, I was hospitalized with sepsis from an infected pic line. I had to give up my cases and lost all my supervision hours. Every single one of them. I worked so hard at the time, but I was just too sick to even think about how to get through it. I wrote about my pregnancy journey before; you can read it here. My clients needed a therapist, so I had to give them up. I was forced to stay home. It was a blessing and a lot more work than I ever anticipated.

I remember feeling a lot of guilt over wanting some space when I was enrolling them in Pre-K. To me, half a day didn’t make sense. I would have to drop them off and turn around and get them 2 hours later. But I still felt like a huge failure for sticking them in school all day so I can get a breather. Please know, I love motherhood. I love my children. I love our small yet boisterous family.

Blessed in so many ways, I still felt the burden of ever-present brooding worry which bought all sorts of challenges to my family. There were vulnerable parts like worry, guilt, stress and exhaustion that constantly reared their ugly heads. Like most mothers, my days were repetitive, my thoughts were consumed by my children, my hands were full (literally and figuratively), my house was somewhat clean, my mind was busy, my back hurt, my calendar was still full to the brim. Yet, there was no way a bubble bath was the very thing I needed to soothe both my aching feet and my overextended self. Plus, the only ones that enjoyed bubble baths in my house were my young kids. It wasn’t for me. Self-care looks different for everyone.

I recognized something that I’ve felt myself and that I often see in other moms: The belief that a parenting choice that makes your own life easier is, by default, bad for your kids. I am calling it the motherhood fallacy of self-sacrifice — the pernicious but pervasive idea 1) that we are only good mothers if we are constantly focused on our kids, and 2) that the moment we prioritize ourselves, we are directly harming our children and our home. I wrote about the fallout of child centered homes before and you can read that here. Since when did disheveled, sleep deprived, unshaven legs become a badge of honor? Self-care is not selfish, its wisdom.

It’s a fallacy because this isn’t how it works. What’s good for us isn’t, by default, bad for our kids. It’s far more common for the opposite to be true: What’s best for us is often best for our kids. But we have come to believe this lie because our culture tells us, in so many ways, that motherhood is only defined by self-sacrifice.

Expectations surrounding motherhood — what it is to be a “good” mother in our society — add another deep guilt-inducing layer. That motherhood must involve pain and exhaustion, and that if you're not exhausted and miserable, somehow, you're not doing it right.

We often further berate ourselves by assuming, wrongly, that choices that could ease our burdens will be directly harmful to our children.

I never allowed anyone to watch my young children except for my mother. That meant, less date nights, less weekend getaways etc. I was hurting my marriage and not to mention running down my mother. My husband and I went away for our 10 year anniversary for a week. My mom was home with my 2 young kids. We didn't even make it through the door and my mother was already packing her car and hightailing it out of there. But there is a special place in heaven for grandmothers. They are angels on Earth.

Let me dig a bit into the childcare example. A lot of moms — especially, I think, stay-at-home moms — believe that they should always be tending to their children, and that childcare that’s not necessary is indulgent. But this isn’t how raising kids has worked for most of history, and it isn’t how it should work today.

Having other caregivers means that we get recharging breaks — and that means we can be more patient and present when we do spend time with our kids.

It's so much about quality and less about quantity. You can be with your child for five hours, but if you're exhausted and snapping and on your phone, that's not going to be nearly as helpful for creating positive outcomes in your child as spending time that is really connected and child-led and warm and fuzzy…. but I think there's a resistance sometimes to seeing that because those beautiful moments don't involve our suffering and our sacrifice.

There is a severe misunderstanding of the science of maternal availability. Having caring, stable parental figures is critical. High-quality daycare or preschool, if you can afford it, typically enriches children’s lives rather than depriving them. Kids get to make friends and develop social skills. They experience new perspectives and ways of doing things. They foster independence and resilience. And, again, they benefit when they arrive back home to parents whose buckets have been replenished and who can be more patient, present caregivers.

My dilemma at the time was flawed thinking — that we are bad parents when we do things that make our own lives easier — and this rears its ugly head in so many situations. I know because I’ve thought it, too. So, the next time you feel guilt over a decision that you worry may not be ideal for your kids, I encourage you to re-read this — I’ll do it, too — and examine whether the decision truly is bad for your kids, or whether you’re perhaps falling prey to the motherhood fallacy that self-care is selfish.

Silvia Farag, MSW, LSW, PsyD Candidate runs the Christian Center for Counseling and works with adolescent and adult clients in individual, couples & family therapy. Her personal philosophy is that through human connection, we can foster the encouragement needed to take courageous steps toward creating positive change. She uses evidenced based and strengths-based approaches & believes in the inherent ability of everyone to overcome when they are willing to step into their potential. Therapy illuminates the path so the client can make conscious steps towards emotional health. Her attitude is one of respect and acceptance of each client’s individuality, allowing for the creation of a safe, therapeutic space. Silvia serves with Coptic Women Fellowship, an archdiocese ministry focused on enriching, supporting, and strengthening the lives of women, along with the clergy and several accomplished women of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.


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