I see it all the time: my favorite bloggers and Instagrammers—the mom “celebrities” of the online world—rushing to remind people that they are not supermom.
“How do you do it all?” people ask.
“I don’t; I don’t!” they exclaim, almost desperately.
Maybe their perfectly styled living room and four photogenic children equate to “supermom” status in your eyes. Or maybe it’s the way they adopted three children while building an international non-profit organization, or the way they homeschool their kids and make thousands working from home. You want to know their secrets…
But then they carefully list it out for you, via social media comments or blog posts, and tell you all the reasons their supermom status is a myth. They share the abbreviated version of the faults that make them inferior as a mother. No Pinterest-worthy birthday parties. Few home-cooked meals. They tell fart jokes to get their kids to smile for the camera and sometimes use candy infused with Red Dye 40 as a bribe during those “perfect” family photo shoots. Their floors are dirty. They never exercise but wear yoga pants six days a week.
You read the list and nod your head half-heartedly. Maybe they aren’t supermom, but if someone took a swab of their kitchen floors and yours, surely yours are more likely to test positive for some type of disease. And maybe their designer throw pillows are usually in a heap on the floor, but you technically gave up on throw pillows four years and three kids ago and prefer to rest your head on unfolded laundry as you nap on the couch.
I always laugh at these conversations online—both the temptation to consider another woman as The Ideal Mother and then the justification that happens as every mom tries to prove to the world all her faults.
And then someone called me “supermom…”
I was talking to my best friend on the phone and she mentioned that another mutual friend had called me by this ridiculous title. “What?!” I exclaimed. My list promptly began. Before I could even think about it, I began rattling off all the reasons I am far from supermom. I let Zianne watch four consecutive episodes of Daniel Tiger so I can get the house cleaned on Wednesday mornings. I put my kids down for their naps at 2pm when every other toddler in America is waking up, just so I can cram in all my errands for the day. When we are at the grocery store, I let my kids pick out gluten-filled rolls from the bakery bins and eat them while we shop to keep them entertained. And sometimes I also grab a pouch from the shelf (and on special days, a donut). Basically, I show up to the checkout with a cart filled with half-eaten groceries. I hand the clerk all our empty pouches and bags, smiles plastered on my kids' food-covered faces.
I am not supermom. My list of faults can prove it to you.
My bathrooms are clean, but my floors are filthy. I work out regularly, but I do not eat healthy. I breastfeed my babies, but I don’t make their baby food. I read to my kids, but I let them watch TV too often.
But.....what if I have it all wrong? What if my list of faults is exactly what makes me supermom after all? What if it’s not the things I do well, but my ability to adapt, negotiate, and bend that makes me an excellent mother?
What if the secret of being a good mom is not doing everything perfectly, but loving your children imperfectly? What if the secret to being supermom is recognizing your limits, yet being able to act gracefully and strategically when your children ask you to live outside of them?
Come to think of it....
I am supermom, not because my bathrooms are usually clean, but because I have learned to be okay with crumbs on the floor. I am supermom, not because I stock our house with fresh groceries each week or make dinner most nights, but because I’m okay with grabbing bread from the bakery bins to appease my children while we shop. I am supermom because I have learned how to meet my own kids’ needs while also balancing my own. I am supermom because I was uniquely created to be their mother.
And you are supermom, too. When your kids are whining in the car and you blast Taylor Swift to salvage the ride, or when you bust out the iPad to get through a restaurant dinner. When you trip over a pile of throw pillows because your kids demolished the living room while you took a work call in the kitchen. When you order take-out so you can walk the kids to the park instead of washing dishes at the end of a long day. When you rock your yoga pants as you “run” around town with your children.
Those moments of alleged weakness are what make you strong. Yes, you do many things well. But your resilience, fortitude, resourcefulness, and sense of humor when things get tough count the most. Think about it. You’ve never seen a superhero movie where the setting is a clean house with organic soup simmering on the stove. Superheroes earn their titles by being strong and strategic in difficult situations, so I’m pretty sure if anyone is supermom….it’s you.
Guest post written by Jen Russum. Jen is a wife, mom to two little girls, and a college English professor. She shares narratives of grace on her blog www.jenrussum.com.