A few weeks ago, I asked my super awesome virtual assistant Alexa to hold down the fort on posting to my social media for a week while I spent time with my daughter who was in the hospital. She replied, “no problem! I’ll keep everything going while you’re out being Supermom.” I chuckled and groaned at the same time. I am FAR FROM A SUPERMOM!
Her comment made me think of the articles I used to read about the super successful women professionals and entrepreneurs in the Working Mother magazines some well-meaning friend would give me when my children were little.
The articles would highlight beautiful, thin, women who were corporate leaders in their industries or multimillion dollar company owners. They would show pictures of their darling, perfectly coifed children and speak glowingly of how these women would make sure to cook hot breakfasts and dinners and pack organic, wholesome lunches for their children all while working the hours that it takes to become hugely successful! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… the articles would gush on and on about these supermoms.
Needless to say, I would first drench myself in guilt over that fact that I just could NOT get up at 4:00 in the morning to exercise and get my “me time” in before my little darlings woke up! And of course, there would be the guilt that even though I was teaching part-time at my university job, I still COULD NOT GET EVERYTHING DONE!
And then I would try to be like those supermoms.
I would go full-force, teaching and commuting, cleaning, cooking, laundry, play dates, Musical Munchkins, Gymboree, Tumbletots, dance, Little League, martial arts etc. etc. etc. And, of course, I would end-up burned out, exhausted and fighting a sense of failure because I just could not do it all.
Here’s the reality check:
Most of the real supermoms I know either have a lot of family support to help them with their kids OR they have a nanny!
Even the media’s most recent darling supermom, Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame, admitted in interviews (after women criticized her) that she had an incredible support system in her family; in particular, her husband would often put her career ahead of his and take on the primary caretaking of the kids.
As I’ve aged, and my kids have grown, I have met many different types of moms.
I have friends who are solidly stay-at-home moms and happy to do so. I have met moms who are type-A super career women and happy to be so. And I have met a lot of moms who are doing the best they can, but feel very unsatisfied with themselves and their lives because they just don’t feel like they measure up to the dichotomy of mothering standards our society has prescribed for women.
If we choose stay-at-home motherhood then we are not pursuing our full potential. If we choose a fulltime career, we are not giving enough of ourselves to our children. Either way, we’re letting somebody down!
“The Mommy Wars”
This phenomenon was even deemed by some savvy media writer: “The Mommy Wars.”
Through both the media and social clubs women would bash each other for their choices. I read an article by a supposed Third Wave Feminist bashing other women who were giving up their careers to stay at home with their kids.
She did not have enough perspective to see that her career as a freelance writer, her mothering of a single child, and her nearby family who not only offered to watch her child whenever she asked but also for free, is not the reality of most working moms!
On the other side of the coin were the moms at a Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) group I joined who would look at me with horror on their faces and ask in an aghast voice, “you work? You commute to work?”
Their idea of a career was to sell any number of crafting or skincare products to their friends. But, even that career had its limits if it in any way interfered with little Jenny or Jeffrey’s schedule! Their “me time” consisted of the one morning a week they spent at MOPS or the play dates they would organize for their kiddos where they could at least chat with other moms.
Some women must work to support their children
What is lost in these bitch-sessions, oh, I mean discussions (besides the important qualities of empathy and compassion for others’ choices) is the realization that some moms do not have a choice! Some moms must work in order to pay the bills. Of course, there are the single moms who must work simply to support their children. But, in this day-and-age, it is also very difficult to support a family on one income. Many households must have both parents working.
Multiply that by the number of children a couple has. Add on to that expenses not directly associated with child-rearing, but there nonetheless. And then add on student loans that many educated couples are paying. There is a lot of money going out the door!
Some women want to work
The six months I spent at home after my daughter was born was one of the most special AND most difficult times of my life!
I enjoyed spending time with my two small children. I enjoyed the Musical Munchkins groups. I enjoyed the weekly mommy & me yoga classes we attended! But, there was also something just missing.
I did not figure it out until my first day back on the university campus. I felt like I was vibrant again! I felt a renewed sense of purpose!
Not all mothers need this sense of professional identity and purpose. But, many do. I have coached several women whose stress comes from the loss of their professional identity and their inner need to feel a sense of purpose from their careers. And this is OKAY! It is okay for mothers to feel fulfilled not only by their children but also by their jobs and the time they spend away from their children.
Some women want to stay at home
I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook about how happy she is that she just quit her job and is going back to her old job of being a full-time wife and mother. She is feeling so relieved. Her job was thankless and was running her into the ground.
I have other friends who were happily employed, but when their children were born found joy and fulfillment in staying home with them.
I even know three women who adopted babies when their biological children were grown because they loved mothering so much. One of these women went all the way to Uganda to adopt two orphans!
These women are fortunate enough that they are financially in a situation where their family is not dependent on an income from them.
Just because they chose fulltime mothering over professional fulfillment, it does not mean that they in any way are less fulfilled than career women. Nor does it mean that they are, in the words of one interesting white male, “not contributing much to society.”
How to find your truth
Most people do have a tendency to look outward for approval. I challenge you to look inward. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I overwhelmed by trying to do it all?
- Do I feel a sense of emptiness or a lack of fulfillment?
- Am I more aware of what others think of me or what I know to be best for myself?
Reflect on your answers to those questions. What do your first-reaction answers tell you? When you look deeper, what does your intuition tell you?
Are there others voices that are influencing your feelings? Are there any ideas that come to you telling you how you could add more fulfillment, but reduce overwhelm?
Here is an exercise you can try:
Write out a list of what you do from when you get up to when you go to bed.
In other words, a day in your life.
Take a look at how many things you are doing that are not self-nurturing. How many things are you doing that are not fulfilling?
Of course, we all have to do many of those things as responsible adults, but are there things on that list that you just do not have to do?
For example, could you arrange a carpool to soccer so that you don’t have to go to every practice? Can you limit your volunteering for extra things at work or at your children’s school?
Are you spending time on social media that you could be spending reading or listening to something more fulfilling? Are you venting on social media instead of in a journal or to a coach or therapist or friend (being that sharing time with others is essential to stress-relief)?
And finally, is your quest to fulfill all of your roles in life – including SUPERMOM – taking away from your peaceful living?
This is only the beginning of what could & should be an amazing brainstorming session about how moms can be Supermom by taking care of themselves! Let’s get this brainstorming session going!!! Post your comments below and/ or on www.facebook.com/peacefullivingwellness!
With Gratitude & Compassion,