Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Please Don't Tell Me I'm a Supermom

When I tell people I've gone to the store, or out to eat, or made dinner, or gotten a few hours of work done, or some other apparently monumental task while being responsible for all four of my kids, I get exclamations of amazement. "You're a supermom!", they'll say. Or, "I only have two, and I can barely manage most nights!" Or, "I don't know how you do it!" I know these are meant as compliments and are honest reactions to something outside their own frame of reference. And I appreciate them as such.

But it makes me uncomfortable just the same. Because secretly, deep down, it releases all kinds of insecurities. All I can think of is all the things I've done wrong, the mistakes I've made, the things I wish I had managed to do. I berate myself for not paying enough attention to the kids, for letting them fend for themselves while I work in another room, or, conversely, for spending a few hours with them instead of working a few more hours to pad my paycheck. Or, for neglecting both work and kids to sit on the toilet and play Candy Crush in private. I should hold my baby more, hug my five-year-old more, draw with my toddler more, and read with my seven-year-old more. I should put the phone down during dinner and make them tell me about their day. I should try harder to get the toddler to take a regular nap. I should get the middle two dressed before noon. I should take them to the park more so they can run around on sunny days. I should replace their bike helmets and let them out front to ride. I should fold their laundry. I should wipe down the kitchen counters, sweep the floor of the toddler's food-leavings, and change the baby's diaper and give him a bath.

I see other people accomplishing things I haven't been able to, and I think I have no right to those compliments. I'm not "doing it all." I'm not a supermom. And when you tell me I am, you're belittling yourself. You're negating all of the amazing things you've managed to do, like have a dance party in the living room and do an art project with your preschooler, like cook healthy meals all week long, get your car washed, and clean your toilets. Like sign your second-grader up for soccer, acquire all the gear he needs, and attend all his games. Like save up for two years to take the family to Disneyland. Like start your own business and run it successfully, work full time outside the house and still get the laundry folded and the lawn mowed, and remember to pick up a birthday present for the party this weekend.

I'm just a mom. Some things, I know I do well. Some things, I know I could improve. And, looking at you, looking at how well dressed you are, how neat and clean your house is, how you make healthy meals all the time and get your housework done regularly and limit screen time to just the weekends, and have money left in the bank at the end of the month, some things make me feel very, very inadequate. Not because I think you're judging me, but because I'm judging myself.

Please don't tell me I'm a supermom. I don't feel all that super, and I don't have a cape. Sure, I made it to the grocery store, but I nearly lost the stroller, forgot to buy half the things we needed, and left the reusable bags at home. Yeah, I got the oldest to school on time, but the other three are still in pajamas and the toddler's diaper needs changing. Absolutely, I made dinner and put the dishes in the dishwasher, but I didn't make them clean up their toys, there are shoes everywhere, and the baby is crying in his swing while I rinse the last of the dishes.

No one's life is perfect. I think as moms we only see our own shortcomings while we admire the accomplishments of all moms around us. I'm wondering how she can remember to put jackets on both of her kids and manage to keep them from running around screaming in the store, while she's wondering how I can load four kids into the car in half the time it takes her to put her two in. I'm wondering how she finds the time to make dinners from scratch every night and keep the living room free of clutter, while she's wondering how I can work part time from home with three kids in the house.

I'll tell you what, if you buy the capes, I'll wash them. But don't blame me if I forget to put them in the dryer.

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