Am I a SuperMom? Are You?

My friend G. recently said in an email, “I’ve been trying to get together with one of my good friends, but she’s a SuperMom and we haven’t been able to find a good time to meet.”

Hmm.

It was hardly the point she was making, but “SuperMom” caught my eye. I was curious about her friend. What is she, I wonder? Does she have a full time career and 2 (or maybe 3 or 4 or even 5) children? Is she a Bree van de Kamp minus the personal scandals? I wasn’t being competitive, but I was curious about the term. What separates the SuperMom from the regular mom with lower case letters? And why do we mothers use it on each other or ourselves?

I’ve been called a SuperMom by a couple of friends, bless their hearts. My reaction to this compliment was somewhat akin to the feeling I got when Canadian and Japanese friends congratulated me on Obama’s election. I was happy, but I wasn’t sure I was really the one they should be congratulating. In terms of SuperMom, so many others would deserve the title over me. Give it to the mother who stays home 24/7 with 5 children and with no help from her husband. Give it to the mother who has to raise a child on her own. Give it to the mother whose child has Down Syndrome, or to the mother in Afghanistan, or Sudan, or Cambodia. Give it to my mother who struggled as an immigrant, juggling work and illness to raise two children in two foreign countries while learning two languages.

Of course, there is a flaw in my thinking: that somehow I am less of a mother because of the cards I have been dealt (and that I have in turn played). It could be because I did grow up feeling I was raised by a genuine SuperMom. In my eyes my mother scaled the Mt. Everest of motherhood. She accomplished and endured what I know I could never, and she did this without wavering in her devotion as a mother, almost without ever raising her voice or losing her temper even when the stress was unbearable. I was both so awed and intimidated by her accomplishments that I was almost too afraid to become a mother, so high had she raised the bar of motherhood. However, she gifted me a life in which I would suffer less but gain more through the ability to make better informed decisions and have better opportunities. I would do more with less, and I would have more wisdom. My son will have fewer hang-ups than me; my marriage will suffer fewer tears. Because of what she built, I can be a good mother, naturally and without hurdles. But because my life is not hard – my husband is very involved in home life, I work from home, I have “just” one child, my child is healthy – there is a part of me that believes I am achieving less.

There is a story that still brings my mother to tears, nearly 40 years later. It’s the story of the time she left me at my aunt’s house in San Francisco when she went into labor with my brother. (My father was overseas at the time.) I was 18 months old and, worrying that I would only cry if I saw her leaving for the hospital, my mother decided to sneak out when I wasn’t looking. My aunt would later tell her that everyday for 3 days I would sit out on the front step waiting for my  mother to come home and cry until my face swelled. “I didn’t know…I just didn’t know,” my mother would still cry today. “I had never been a mother before…” And I would cry too, because I know, now, how she must feel. And yet this incident doesn’t change the fact that I still think she has climbed Mt. Everest. She wasn’t perfect, and she had made alot of mistakes, but she was and is amazing. It is a mother’s unique love that would allow her to carry this kind of guilt inside her for nearly 40 years. And maybe that’s what the Super should be in SuperMom – not perfection, not the number of balls kept afloat in the air, but simply the capacity to love.

10 thoughts on “Am I a SuperMom? Are You?

  1. Your ending brought me to tears — I love the idea of a Super Mom being one whose capacity to love is enormous. Even at 1 a.m. and when they only want to eat junk food 🙂
    And I am often told how “lucky I am to have an involved husband.” And I struggled with not hearing it as “you don’t do as much and can’t handle as much as a mom.”
    I’ve learned to say, “Yes I am. He’s a wonderful father.” Because I realized that it doesn’t diminish my status as a mom. My husband makes me a BETTER mom. And I’m proud to have made such a great choice in a spouse!

  2. I really think that one of the most important things we can do before we become moms is to find a great parenting partner. Imagine if our husbands wouldn’t make the effort to support us or be a good dad, because they think it’s “our” job to take care of the house and kids. We’d be so frustrated and then we’d fight all the time and that will affect the kids. It’s also a huge achievement to maintain a good marriage especially after the kids come along, so having a great husband is something you can absolutely take credit for!! But I know how you feel, as I have had girlfriends say things to me like, “So, can you boil water?” when they saw my husband in the kitchen all the time. It’s mean and I used to take it personally. But I know I did something right and I also like the response that you now make when you get a compliment!

    • Cecilia, I love this post and like Alex, I love the end. This is perfect: “And maybe that’s what the Super should be in SuperMom – not perfection, not the number of balls kept afloat in the air, but simply the capacity to love.”

      You’re a wonderful writer and a wonderful mother!

  3. I think that last line ties it all together wonderfully.

    Who is “super?” Would the answer be the same if we asked or children?

    Beautiful post. I’ll be back, you write with heart.

    P.S> Thank you for your visit and kind words!! The internet can be wonderful. I heard on the TODAY show episode that featured “mommybullying” that bloggers blog b/c they feel “I’m not alone.”

    It is special to find like minded friends.

    • What a great question – “Would the answer be the same if we asked our children?” I’d like to ask my son and see what he says! Thank you again Alexandra. I’m so glad I “met” you (I found you through Alex at Late Enough :-)).

  4. Great post! My mom was a SuperMom for sure. Six kids, widowed at a young age, etc… She’s amazing. And then she’ll be all “I just don’t know how you do it” to ME. I always laugh at her because she did everything I do times 20.

    I also think there’s a misconception about who we decide are “supermoms”…nobody can do it all. While on the outside one Mom might appear to have it all together and seem extremely involved with her kids AND have a career…does she ever get down time? Does she have an hour to herself everyday where she can do whatever she pleases? Sometimes I really don’t envy those women who try to come across as having it all together. That’s a job in and of itself it seems.

    • Wow, your mom was/is definitely a Supermom. And what a great mom she is for giving you so much credit too.

      I totally agree about the appearance of “having it all.” I don’t think it’s humanly possible to give 105% to multiple jobs…but the grass is often greener to some. It’s important for us to know our limits and to know how much we can take on before sacrificing quality.

  5. I loved this post, its meaning, message and the inclusion of your SUPER Mother. Perhaps the capital letters are for the capacity to love? On a side note, the intro quote grabbed me, because I hope I’m not a super mom if it means I can’t schedule in friends! I want my friends to be part of my daughter’s life, as well as my own – we’re intertwined! I value my friendship with you, but couldn’t imagine it without the dynamic of that 6 year old teen of yours in OUR lives!

    • Well said, Kathryn! How important it is for our kids to see their moms as active and caring adults who can build community. Ah – so many more layers and new definitions to SuperMom than we first realized!

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