On Mothers and our obsession with superheroes
When I was a mother of only one child, my two year old had a little friend who lived up the street. This little girl was the youngest child of five and I would take my daughter up to their house and sit at the kitchen bench while the mother of the five whirled and whisked and organised and sorted and refereed and signed notes and conversed with me all at the same time.
"This woman's a super-mum," I thought to myself. "I could never be like that."
Fast forward 12 years.
I don't have the five, but I've got four fifths of her offspring plus one special needs one to boot. And I'm sure that the occasional parent of one child who visits me in my kitchen (it's too hard to take all mine to someone else's house) thinks the same thing about me.
In fact, just yesterday someone called me a supermum on facebook.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
If she had heard this conversation from a month ago, she might not have thought it.
My son's teacher, to me: "Your boy said the funniest thing to me today. He said that he hadn't had a shower in two weeks. How amusing."
Me: turning slightly pink. "Um, that may actually be true."
Social gathering around us, on hearing this: *silence* "soooo..... anyway...."
I'm not fond of this whole supermum thing. It makes parenting into a competitive sport, which really doesn't help anyone. Bringing up children is hard work and it shouldn't be about the parent anyway. If some people are gushed over as superheroes, what does that make the others?
Why are we so keen to make certain people into superheroes anyway? I think it might be a way to make ourselves feel better by distancing ourselves from them. It gives us something to do with our jealousy and feelings of our own inadequacy.
When I sat at my friend's kitchen bench and I saw how hard she worked and how much she did and how little time she had for herself, I got scared. "I can't do that," I thought.
And it's at that point, when we think we can't do something, that we have to make the person who can do it into the other so that we don't have to compete and feel bad about ourselves. We either demonise or mythologise, and in the case of mothers, mythologising by turning them into a supermum is the most socially acceptable thing to do.
What's way more helpful, both for us and for the alleged 'supermums' (because really there's no such thing), is to acknowledge that we all (mostly) do our best, that we all have different gifts and different capacities, that we all carry different baggage that restricts or empowers us.
I got called a supermum because I do a lot of cooking from scratch. But I only have finite capacity and there's a limit on how much effort I can expend, and sadly, some things go by the wayside. Showers being one of them. (Let's just say my kids bath when they're visibly grotty or if they smell.)
Let's put the myth of the supermum to bed.
There's no such thing. What there is, is a whole lot of mothers doing their best with what they've got and all mostly stretched to beyond their limits. They all need to be valued, supported and celebrated.