A ‘Drop-Out Mom’ Becomes UnMartyred.
Elena TaJo (short for Taurke Joseph) was teaching medical residents the year her daughter was born. Six years later, TaJo found that her home-work situation was becoming untenable. "I personally, couldn’t do it," TaJo said, adding that her workplace was "not a mother-friendly environment." So she left her teaching position and increased her own private practice so she could attempt to balance her career aspirations with mothering a grade school-aged child.
Then pressure from the "mom culture" to be the perfect parent -- to help her daughter with every homework assignment, to volunteer at school, to cheerily answer her child’s non-stop questions – rained down upon her head. "In comparison to the mothers around me, I felt like I was not a good enough mother," she said. ". . . My sense was of mothers competing with one another. There was all this activity that I’m not certain was necessary for my child." TaJo said she tried to fit in with other moms but it didn’t quite work out as she felt suffocated by the cultural dictates of modern motherhood. "Where did I go?" TaJo asked herself.
After reading piles of books on parenting and on balancing work and motherhood, after keeping several notebooks containing her maternal reflections and after realizing that she’d begun to feel as though she’d become a martyr to her child, TaJo had a revelation. She decided to break free from her martyrdom and become, in her words, "a drop-out mom" who will "fail gloriously" when it comes to meeting current unrealistic expectations placed on parents. She no longer feels like she’s a bad mom because, for example, she says, "No," to the school bake sale, or if her daughter forgets to bring her viola to school. She no longer hates herself for craving space and time to be alone, away from her daughter.
But TaJo isn’t content to simply enjoy her own newfound personal freedoms. She wants other mothers to join her, to free themselves from their role as martyrs, and, in the process, free the next generation who are watching their mothers sacrifice themselves now and will later likely be faced with maternal guilt trips. Through the production of a short documentary entitled, "Martyred Mom Cracks Her Shackles," and her UnMartyred Mom blog, TaJo is trying to spread her message. Through film screening workshops and casual coffee klatches in the New York City area, TaJo has been showing her documentary and leading discussions on how liberating moms from thinking that they have to care for their family’s every need will be beneficial for everyone.