SuperMom Syndrome

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I would like to address the issue of the proverbial SuperMom.

It always seems like every other mom, except yourself, is a SuperMom. Every other mom juggles work, kids, house and tonnes of extracurriculum activities, is a good cook, cooks every meal, make everything from scratch including bread and yogurt and probably makes her own butter and cheese, sews all her children’s clothes, capable of earning a good living, contantly engages her children in stimulating and educational activities, breastfeeds, cloth-diapers, or practises Elimination Communication (or Infant Potty Training), co-sleeps, constantly ‘wearing’ her babies, homeschools, active in church or and in the community, bring her children to all sorts of enrichment classes and field trips, make scrapbooks for all her children, does all the housework without any form of hired help, keeps the house spotlessly clean at all times, good at all sorts of things including music, arts, craft, and sports, always cheerful, always patient, always loving towards her family, never cross, never rude, never loses control, wakes up before the family in the wee hours of the morning and never goes to sleep until past midnight, chauffer the family everywhere, a good hostess, plans parties that everyone talks about for a month after, ……

A exemplary figure of a Stepford wife. Or a clone of Martha Stewart.

Every mom feels as if every other mom is so much more accomplished than herself and every mom strives (or secretly hopes) to be a SuperMom, able to juggle 20 plates with 2 bare hands. When we feel as if we have been particularly accomplished, we consciously/subconsciouly set the expectation for other mothers by nonchalantly mentioning all the things we do, and how ‘easy’ it is to do this and that all at once, and so on and so forth. But when we feel that we fall short of the mark, we feel extra guilty and condemned and feel as if we are not fit to be mothers.

Let me set the record straight : There is no such thing as a SuperMom (based on the do-everything-under-the-sun definition). No such person. Nada. Well, at least I don’t believe that such a person exists. Ok, you may disagree with me and point out So-and -so mom you know who does this and that, or Mrs So-and-so who seems particularly accomplished compared to her peers. If you have been feeling particularly small and inferior when you compare yourself to other moms, you may be happy and relieved to hear what I have to say.

1. The idea of a SuperMom is merely our perception. She exists only in our minds.

Chances are, what we have been doing in is to put Mrs A (who juggles 3 plates) and Mrs B (who juggles another 2) and Mrs C …..and all the mothers we know, combine them into one single figure, and created a SuperMom figure in our minds. This SuperMom figure seems like Mrs A, B, C….but in reality, none of the mothers fits the bill. SuperMom juggles 20 plates in a humanly impossible manner but in reality, each individual mother juggles less at a more humanly possible level. Sure, each of these mothers could be particularly accomplished at certain things. One could be a really good cook, another a fantastic teacher. But only the imaginary SuperMom is excellent in every single thing.

2. We are only hearing one side of the story

Most mothers, yours truly included, don’t like to share our failures. We like to tell about what we are doing well, what we have accomplished and it is inevitable that sometimes we ‘exaggerate’ by making things sound so easy (which in turn makes us look absolutely clever and accomplished).

Who, in her right mind, likes to broadcast about the day when everything went wrong and she screams at her children, vent her frustration at her husband, and was upset because she feels fat and every piece of clothing in the wardrobe makes her feel unattractive? Who, in her right mind, would share with the whole world about the days when she does not feel particularly motherly and wish she could cold turkey her toddler off the incessant night feeds?

So whenever you see somebody and are about to worship her as a SuperMom, remember that she also goes through days of complete chaos when her children drive her up the wall, the dinner is burnt, and she feels depressed and useless. Just that she probably won’t tell you about it.

We all have our good days and our bad days. It’s a pity that we are not sharing more of our struggles and encouraging one another by sharing our weaknesses.

3. Something’s Gotta Give

Long time ago, I read an interview of a very famous career woman in Singapore. She was one of those Who’s Who highflyer. The interviewer asked her something about not having more than one child. Her answer, which I cannot remember exactly, was something to the effect of her not believing that one can have a successful career and still focus on the family, giving both a hundred percent.

I started off as a SAHM and somewhere down the road, I went back to work. Because I took the opposite route as most mothers do (ie from home to work, vs from work back to home), I knew first hand how much I was sacrificing by going back to work. If I had been working all along, I would not have known how much was sacrificed as there wouldn’t be any form of comparison. The fact remains that something’s gotta give.

Career vs family aside, if we just look at the number of things we juggle, again, something’s gotta give and nobody can cover all grounds. One mom may choose to spend more time with her children doing things like fun activities and field trips. The result could be that the house is not as clean as she would like it to be. Another mom may strive to keep the house spotless and cook every single meal fresh on the very day. Consequently, she may need to leave the tv to babysit her children a little more. It all boils down to the choices we make and our priorities. Therefore, before we admire another mom for, say, homeschooling all her children, we should also remember that some ‘opportunity cost’ is incurred. I am not saying that the homeschool mom is not admirable. What I am saying is that we all make our choices based on our priority and along the way, inevitably, we incur some ‘opportunity cost’. It’s the same for everyone of us. “SuperMoms” don’t have immunity.

That said, being organised and hardworking does help. It is only natural that an organised and hardworking person can hold more things together compared to an disorganised person who prefers to lounge half the day away and can’t seem to find things around the house. I suppose one can say that to juggle many things, the ‘opportunity cost’ is the luxury of lounging around.

4. They have (behind the scene) help and support

And we are not often aware of the presence of these help and support. Most commonly, the help and support come in the form of domestic helper, parents, and most importantly, a supportive spouse who lends help where needed. As the Chinese saying goes, behind every successful man is a very supportive wife. The same goes for moms. For us to do well, we need help and support from our family. If a working mom has a highflying career outside home, more likely than not, she has a very good support system at home to help her take care of her family.

Striving to be Super

Almost every mother I know aspires to be a great mom. The term ‘Great Mom’ incorporates the image of a SuperMom. It is not wrong to strive for excellence in everything that we do. However ‘Great Mom’ is not synonymous with ‘SuperMom’ in the do-everything-under-the-sun sense of the term. If I may, I would like to consider every mom a ‘Supermom’. If you are a SAHM, it is not easy taking care of the kids and doing all that cleaning and cooking. So you are a Supermom. If you are a working mom, it is also not easy to juggle work and family. So you are a Supermom as well!

Keeping things in Perspective

The famous 1 Corinthian 13 speaks of love. It speaks of the vanity of things we do in Christ if they were done without love. Similarly, we can juggle work, kids, house and tonnes of extracurriculum activities, be a good cook, cook every meal, make everything from scratch, sew all our children’s clothes, be capable of earning a good living, contantly engage our children in stimulating and educational activities, breastfeed, cloth-diaper, or practise Elimination Communication (or Infant Potty Training), co-sleep, constantly ‘wear’ our babies, homeschool, be active in church or the community, bring our children to all sorts of enrichment classes and field trips, make scrapbooks for all our children, do all the housework without any form of hired help, keep the house spotlessly clean at all times, be good at all sorts of things including music, arts, craft, and sports, wake up before the family in the wee hours of the morning and never go to sleep until past midnight, chauffer the family everywhere, be a good hostess, plans parties that everyone talks about for a month after, ……but if we are only doing all these out of our own ambition, if we are doing them so that we can be recognised as a SuperMom, if we are doing them because we seek praise and approval of other people, if we are doing them just to prove that we are just as capable as other mothers, but we do them without love, all that we do profit nobody. It will be better if we do less but do them in love.

Let this adaptation of 1 Corinthians 13 for Mothers by Jim Fowler put things back in perspective for all aspiring SuperMoms.

I Corinthians 13 for Mothers (by Jim Fowler)

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place,

but have not love,

I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements,

but have not love,

my children learn cleanliness, not godliness.

If I scream at my children for every infraction,

and fault them for every mess they make,

but have not love,

my children become people-pleasers, not obedient children.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh.

Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.

Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.

Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love accepts the fact that I am the ever-present “mommy,”

the taxi-driver to every childhood event,

the counsellor when my children fail or are hurt.

Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, and runs with the child,

then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection.

Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child.

All the projections I had for my house and my children

have faded away into insignificance,

And what remain are the memories of my kids.

Now there abides in my home scratches on most of the furniture,

dishes with missing place settings,

and bedroom walls full of stickers, posters and markings,

But the greatest of all is the Love

that permeates my relationships with my children.

© Jim Fowler, Christ in You Ministries. Reproduced with permission. Please refer to Christ in You website for more adaptations of 1 Corinthians 13 for parents, fathers, etc.