Our ride home from school is about 30 minutes. Depending on traffic – and temperaments – this is usually a great time to hear about my kindergartner’s day and steal a few traffic light tickles from my two-year-old.
During a recent ride, my daughter asked me a question. “Are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer her. For most of her life I have either worked from home or part-time. Just recently I went back to working full-time at the same school she attends.
“Both, I guess,” I told her. “My job allows me to spend time at work and at home.”
“So you’re a Supermom?!”
While my first reaction was to say “Why thank you dear,” pull the car over and wave to the other passerby’s as if I just received my Mom of the Year award, I quickly realized that would be a drastic misrepresentation of my truth. Instead, I did what I learned to do in journalism school. I answered a question with a question.
“What’s a Supermom?”
“A mommy who does everything and loves her kids,” she said with assurance.
I pressed on. “What do you mean by everything?”
“You know, a mommy who works, cleans the house, cooks dinner, and gives kids baths. All that stuff.”
In that case, I thought, maybe I am a Supermom. But you know what? After hearing her description, I’m not sure I want to be.
As modern moms, don’t we put a lot of pressure on ourselves? I feel like I’m only doing it right if I’m doing it all. We all know how that ends, right? Rather than doing a few things well, we end up trying to take on everything and usually find ourselves feeling guilty when our mothering abilities come up a little short and we’re late for the first day of school. Or when we have to run the clothes through the dryer three times because we forgot to actually fold them again.
I was at a meeting this week with a room full of amazing women. All of them were mothers who had accomplished great things both inside and outside of the home. One of them addressed the crowd and said she began to really limit the things she became involved in after her husband’s death two years ago. She only wanted to do the things she felt called to do. This wonderfully talented lady knew her new life would not allow her to do all the things she once could do.
That’s a Supermom. She realized that in order to be her best, she could only do what she felt called to do. She took care of her family and volunteered with the groups she felt used her full potential.
I’m not very familiar with superhero comics or movies, but I do know that the heroes rarely have it all. They are too busy rescuing others.
I have trouble with this as well. In fact, this summer a friend of mine recommend I read “Boundaries: When to say yes, How to say no.” And of course, even though I was reading several other books at the time, I read it. The book did help me realize that by not creating boundaries – and allowing myself to be consumed by projects and people that only weigh me down rather than build me up – I will only find myself feeling guilty.
And that’s not what God called me to. In my reading, I learned that guilt distorts reality and only makes me feel bad about myself. “Guilt is a difficult emotion, for it is really not a true feeling, such as sadness, anger, or fear,” the authors write. “It is a state of internal condemnation. It is the punitive nature of our fallen conscience saying, ‘You are bad.’ It is the state Jesus died for, to put us into a state of ‘no condemnation.’”
Do you feel like you have to do it all? And when we fail, either at following through with a commitment or spending enough worthwhile time with our families, do we feel guilty? How do you feel better? For me, it usually involves taking on more in an attempt to prove something. Unfortunately, the only one who wins in this guilt game is the enemy because he gets to enjoy me being over-committed and feeling under-appreciated. The Bible calls him the “Accuser,” and says he lives to find fault in us day and night.
All of this isn’t new to me. It’s probably not to you either, or even to our mothers. What’s sad – and what has me motivated to change – is that my five year old daughter thinks that in order to be a Supermom she will one day need to do “all that stuff” because she’s watching and learning from me.
She’s already being exposed to pressures of being a perfect mother before she’s anywhere close to experiencing motherhood for herself.
Perfection is not what being a Supermom is about.
Being a Supermom is realizing that we can only do what God called us to do. I am trying to do a better job of listening to Him and asking whether or not my next project truly uses the skills and potential that He has given me. This is my mission.
A few days after my conversation with my daughter, I went back to her and asked another question.
“What’s the most important part of a mommy’s job?” She looked at me for a couple seconds and then a big smile covered her face.
That’s what it’s really all about. It’s time to redefine Supermom. It’s time to understand that loving our children and ourselves is all we need to do to be Supermom. Not all that other stuff.