The supermom myth is alive and strong and can be damaging to a mother’s mental health. We want to be organized and well, but is there a price?
Jenny has had 3 kids and still… like I’m not joking… has abs.
Veronica’s house is always spotless and I’m pretty sure she actually fluffs her pillows.
Kristen cooks out of the fancy cookbooks that don’t even use cans or jars… every.single.night.
I saw Amy wearing high heels the other day. I don’t even think she was going to a wedding.
What is it about mothers who want to be supermom?
Is there something about motherhood that causes navel-gazing? It’s like having children changes your life not only physically and practically, but mentally and emotionally as well. But what’s navel gazing, anyway?
Navel-gazing (n): self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view. (source)
I have a theory about why motherhood causes excessive navel-gazing (read my other theory about why you are a tired mom). I think it’s because it’s perhaps the only life event that makes a desire to be “perfect” seem necessary, right, and justifiable. Because after all, it’s for the children.
- pinpoint an issue
- draw out how it’s affecting you
- label what you don’t like about it
- determine areas of responsibility
- figure out how it’s showing up
- say what you’d rather happen
- brainstorm solutions
So what is a supermom, anyway?
A supermom is a mother who has it all together. The woman who looks good and cooks good. Her kids always behave and have impeccable manners.
Her husband is respected at the gates and she stays up late making coverings for her bed and purple linen gowns. Or something like that.
Just look at her resume for the stay at home mom.
Is she so “on top of things” that we feel inadequate?
But really, a supermom (in our eyes) is any other woman whose lifestyle and choices makes us feel inadequate. This is actually both bad news and good news.
In a sense, it should all average out.
But it doesn’t. Why? Because these little people we’ve been entrusted with mean the world to us. They are worthy of our best effort, our hardest work, and all that we have to offer.
We love them so much, in fact, that we think they deserve the best that anyone has to offer.
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We want to be the best mothers ever for our kids!
Suddenly previously unattainable qualities we never worried about become sources of discomfort and envy.
We begin to worry that our children will grow up stunted and lacking in that which other children have. It no longer seems silly to strive to be the very best at everything. All the time. After all, our kids deserve it.
Still… here are some reasons the Super Hero Mother myth hurts us
…we don’t want to feel less than the best.
… and we don’t want our kids to have less than the best.
…plus we erroneously think we can be the best.
…we don’t get that it’s impossible to have every aspect of life under control all the time. Ever.
Genetics are non-negotiable
At 40 weeks and 5 days some women don’t even look pregnant. Their mothers and grandmothers probably didn’t either. They have a baby and wear their size 4 jeans home from the hospital.
You know what? Good for them! You know what else? That ain’t everyone’s normal! That’s okay. You may have put on some extra weight during your pregnancies and have yet to lose it.
If it bothers you then that’s something you’ll have to navigate on your own through diet, exercise, or acceptance.
But, as my father-in-law told me with my first pregnancy, “You may have to find a new normal.“
We can keep healthy habits and let the rest go
Sometimes our genetics put us at a distinct advantage as mothers, and sometimes they don’t. Those who are naturally self-motivated, self-confident and industrious will likely be seen to “have it all together.”
It doesn’t mean they do, but they may surely give off that impression. Just because you don’t feel naturally inclined to do – or not do – certain things doesn’t mean you are not a good mother.
You cannot change who God made you to be, you can only change your habits and practices. Don’t think you are sub-par if things come as a struggle to you.
Don’t end the day with anxiety, stress, and a full mind.
This evening brain dump journal sheet will help you get in a peaceful mindset so you too can sleep peacefully through the night.
Ask someone else to tell you your strengths, and learn to take a compliment.
Different people value different things in different seasons
A clean house may be a priority for some women because they aren’t able to function well in a mess. It doesn’t mean they are looking down their nose at you or that your children are going to need counselling when they are 30. It just means it’s a priority for her.
You may go to her house and feel instantly self-conscious about your own humble abode, but stop with the mommy guilt! So her house is clean and yours isn’t? Maybe you use that time playing with your children, doing crafts or activities or reading books.
Maybe the other mom finds it a struggle to relax and just be with her kids because the state of the home bugs her.
It’s okay if you evaluate your own family’s priorities and act accordingly. That will mean that others do things better than you in some areas, and in some areas you do better than others.
That’s life. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean you are a failure nor does it mean you’re superior to others. And what’s the point of comparing anyway?
There are times and seasons for everything under the sun and being able to embrace your season is truly a gift you can give yourself and your family.
3. You don’t know the struggles of others
If you grab on to one thing from this post today let it be this: we do not know what others are going through just by looking at them. They might say the right things, do the right things, have immaculately dressed children who are obedient and genius-like. And they might cry themselves to sleep every night. We simply can’t judge a mom by her performance alone because she’s more than what she does for her kids or how well she keeps her house.
We often put women on pedestals, or drag women off pedestals, based on how well we think they perform in certain areas. But just like social media, what we see of a woman is only snips and snapshots. We don’t know what she’s going through emotionally, mentally or financially. Some women we may spend time comparing ourselves with may feel they are wholly inadequate themselves.
4. Your kids don’t care
Your children love you. They love you because you are their mother and they were created to love and desire to be loved by you. They don’t need you to obsess over your body, the menu, smudged windows or how cute their clothes are. Your daughter doesn’t care if you don’t dress as cute as your friends or if you are carrying an extra 10 pounds. In fact, she probably didn’t even know you were fat.
Your kids want your time, attention, acceptance, and support. They want to know you’ll fight for them and their future. They want to know you care more about them than how many mommy’s groups you go to or how many charity committees you chair. Sure, they need to see you being active and giving towards others. Of course you want to set an example. But don’t waste your time trying to be someone you are not, when your kids already think you are a super mom.
So… is it okay to not strive to be a “supermom?”
It’s okay not to try to be like a supermom because supermoms don’t actually exist.
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There are things you do super well. There are things I do super well. There are things we both do poorly. There’s no point in resenting another woman for doing something better than you. She doesn’t care. Anyway, she’s probably too busy resenting her neighbor to notice.
Do you fall into the trap of wanting to be a “supermom”? What are your thoughts?
PS – The images and mom titles I created were meant only for fun and basically represent mothers I envy in certain areas. So please don’t be offended by them because if anything they are about my own insecurities, not you!! I actually do encourage having a good body image during pregnancy, maintaining an orderly home, and spending individual time with your children.
LOVE this post, Rachel, and the pics are hilarious. I feel GUILTY because many times people ask me “how” I don’t put on much weight with pregnancy…. they don’t know it’s a STRUGGLE for me to eat enough and gain enough – partly due to genetics and partly due to losing my sensation of hunger because of a teenage eating disorder (I have to remind myself to eat!). You truly don’t know what someone’s going through just from one snapshot. Everyone is just so unique, there’s really no point to judging or comparing anyway. Thanks for a lovely read xx
Rachel Norman says
Exactly Chelsea! Such great thoughts.. we really have no idea!
Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I struggle with the same issues, similarly, due to infant anorexia. I was also on medications that didn’t help my appetite. I was 86 lbs when I found out I was pregnant, and it was a struggle to even get above 100 lbs. After searching fruitlessly for similar experiences online, it is comforting to know that I’m not the only one. Best of health to you! XO
Katelyn Fagan says
You are such a great writer Rachel! This is a fantastic piece! I agree with so much of it. Thanks for the great reminders about there not being a supermom!
Rachel Norman says
Thanks Katelyn! Viva all the mothers!
It truly is hard sometimes to remember that the women we envy have their own set of problems. I have peers who have spotless houses and whenever I find myself wondering how they manage it when I can’t, I try to remember that I spend a lot more quality time with my kids than they do. You never know, maybe they envy me that. I try to be the mom my kids need, not the mom I I picture when I imagine perfection. It’s hard to turn off that little voice, though. Thanks for reminding me that voice is not only in my head, but in the heads of most mothers.
Rachel Norman says
Doesn’t it help us to turn it off when we think that we’re not the only ones? And the thing is, I honestly believe it’s not because we’re all vain perfection seekers, but being a mother makes you want to be the best you can be for them!!!!