Yesterday was one of the loveliest Mother’s Days I’ve had. My girls are old enough to temper their sibling interactions with each other and put up with my sentimental slobbering with minimal complaining. They were sweet and kind, funny and gentle, and Bubba had planned the day with lots of relaxation in mind.
I saw lots of wonderful messages in texts and on social media and I was so happy that so many other mothers out there were feeling the love yesterday. But there were a few things that gave me pause, even though I know they were meant with love and gratitude.
The whole “Supermom” thing has a twist on it for me, especially when it is held up by corporations trying to sell us something or organizations that are designed to support or revere motherhood. I am no Supermom. I am hardworking-good-enough-human-mom, and it has taken me years to get to the point where that is all I aspire to.
Several years ago, in my therapist’s office, I began my journey toward good-enough-mom. As I described some of the pressures I put on myself on a daily basis, the lessons I wanted to be sure to impart to my daughters, the life I wanted to provide for them, the people I hoped they would become, I noticed my therapist’s face change. I can’t describe it, but her energy shifted from wholehearted agreement and mentally patting me on the back for my wonderful ideas and intentions to skeptical, thoughtful. I stopped talking mid-sentence and asked, “What?”
“You are trying to be Supermom. Good, healthy, hot, nutritious meals three times a day, enough mental stimulation, lots of emotional support for your girls and your husband. Keeping a tidy house, never being late for anything, making sure the girls get enough social interaction and their doctor and dentist appointments happen on time. Seeing that everyone gets enough sleep and not too much TV and good exercise daily, right?”
None of that sounded bad to me. I was confused.
“Where is the time for you? Where is the flexibility for mistakes or spills or spontaneous resting time?”
There will be time for me when the girls are older, when Bubba isn’t traveling so much for work, when….I thought to myself.
“You know that your girls are learning as much or more from watching you as they are by listening to what you say, right? They see that you are putting all of your efforts into making everyone else’s life perfect and smooth. They see that you have no needs of your own, and that is what they think mothers do. They see you utterly exhausted to the point of tears at the end of most days and they will internalize the message that they are expected to be Supermoms, too, when they have kids. Is that what you want for them?”
As hard as it was, from that day forward, I did my best to give up on the idea that being a Supermom was the highest form of parenting. I began trying to give myself some slack, to give myself permission to make cereal and bananas for dinner some nights, or order a pizza. I began to work toward a goal of good-enough-mom, if only so that my daughters would see that as a viable path for themselves. I started working on saying no to things I didn’t want to do for them and articulating that my desires were just as important as theirs. And it took a long time, but most days that is where I am. And so when I see messages in the mass media about “Supermoms,” it makes me sad to think that there are folks out there who are setting our girls up to believe that being hard-working-full-of-love-most-of-the-time-good-enough-moms aren’t worth celebrating. Because I’m here to tell you that we are.