It happens every time I take my four young children in public. A well-meaning stranger says something to the effect of, “Well look at you, SUPERMOM!”
I’m used to commentary on my family or children in public. It’s going to happen when you have four kids ages four and under, including a set of identical twins. The comments usually don’t bother me (well, except people who try to offer me advice about birth control, but that’s another subject for another day). For some reason, however, from the first time someone called me “supermom,” the title kind of just made me cringe.
Since the first time I heard it, I’ve been struggling to figure out why that title specifically rubs me the wrong way. I know it’s intended as a compliment, or maybe just an encouraging, “You can do this!” But for some reason, when I hear it, all I can think is, “Please don’t call me that.”
It might be helpful to understand the context. Usually when I hear this comment, I am flying solo with all four kids in some public setting: the store, the zoo, the park, the pool, etc. I may *appear* to have it all together, but the truth is, I probably spent an hour wrestling my kids into shoes, yelling at them to hurry up, drying tears that were shed due to said yelling, pushing them into car seats, wrangling them into strollers, and losing my mind saying, “don’t touch that,” “stay right with me!” or trying to keep my eyes on all four at any given time.
I feel ANYTHING but SUPER.
When I’ve explained my real-life struggles to the well-intentioned stranger, they’ve often responded with something like, “But it doesn’t matter! You’re here! You’re out! You’re doing it!” And while that may very well be true, I’ve begun to wonder if the price of being Supermom (aka pushing myself to take #allmykids to #alltheplaces to do #allthethings) is worth it.
Although superheroes appear to have it all together, we all know that every hero has his vice. The vices are weaknesses that come out to play when the heroes are busy doing their hero duties. For me, anxiety, impatience, and being easily overwhelmed are vices I wrestle with constantly, but they are particularly triggered when I attempt to “overachieve” as a mom or act pretty “super.”
Earlier this summer, as I scrolled through my social media newsfeed, I began to feel the pressure. My newsfeed was suddenly filled with pictures of my friends’ adorable children all wearing red-dye stained faces and holding up basketfuls of plump, juicy berries.
“Oh no,” I thought, “I have to take them strawberry picking.”
I was filled with so much anxiety and dread, I could already hear myself yelling at my three-year-old not to trample the berry plants and feel the dull ache in my back, not from bending to pick the berries, but from lunging to capture my runaway one-year-old twins. I felt the urge in me to blow up at my kids and have an irritable, overwhelmed attitude with my husband that evening when I would stand in my kitchen surrounded by berries I now had to do something with before they went bad. And in the back of my mind, I heard someone say, “Well, look at you, SUPERMOM.”
And then I saw strawberries on sale for $1.99/pint at our neighborhood Piggly Wiggly.
I said it out loud in the produce department, my kids running amuck and begging a banana: “I don’t have to go strawberry picking. I’m NOT GOING strawberry picking. These strawberries will be good enough.” I picked up two quarts of strawberries, feeling free and inspired.
In that moment, right there in Piggly Wiggly, I decided: I’m hanging up my cape. I’m DONE being supermom. Instead of being the mom who can do it all, go all the places, do all the crafts, plan and execute all the outings, and take all the pretty pictures of all of these things, I’m going to focus instead on being just a good enough mom.
I want to be a mom who loves her kids well, even if that means we never leave the house on a weekday. I want to be a mom who yells less and listens more. I want to be a mom who spends more time actually being with my kids and less time herding them out the door or cleaning up from my latest Pinterest fail. I want to be a mom who is intentional in showing my kids how to love and respect themselves and one another, how to set boundaries and enjoy being at home, and how to put relationships above schedules and agendas.
So consider this my “Supermom” letter of resignation. I’m done herding my kids to the grocery store when I can just as easily order my groceries online for a small service fee. You probably didn’t see us at the pool this summer because I knew I couldn’t keep four non-swimmers safe and myself sane simultaneously — the hose in the backyard was a perfect substitute. My son didn’t touch the “prep-for-kindergarten” workbook I bought him in the spring, but we did snuggle while I drank my morning coffee and watched a couple extra episodes of “Super Why.”
Because honestly? Being an anxiety-ridden Supermom just isn’t worth it, when being a peaceful “good enough” mom is everything my kids really need.