Wisdom//

Why We Need to Let Go of the Supermom Myth

"It's time for a motherhood reset."

magical_light/Getty Images
magical_light/Getty Images

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary,  the definition of “supermom” is “an exemplary mother; also: a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job.”

Bahahahahaahahaahaha . . . gasp . . . bahahahaah . . . wheeze. I mean, all we need is a cape!

Are they  kidding? Did some  1950s ad-man write  that? We have all shed  tears when we’ve fallen  short of our supermom goals—me included.  Did none of us realize that we were crying about  something as imaginary as leprechauns? Or the  tooth fairy?

Before baby was born,  we all had blissful visions of motherhood: days spent  caressing our child, a golden aura around us like some  picture from a Christmas pageant. As MTV’s Diary series said, “You think you know, but you have no idea.”

In reality, motherhood is a daily negotiation with chaos, both humbling  and reaffirming. Some things are harder than we expected, while others come more naturally than we dared dream.

It does none of us any service to cling to this caricature of motherhood. In fact, trying to live up to this ideal only makes us feel  inadequate and increases our risk for depression and anxiety.

The only perfect parents are the ones who haven’t had children yet.

Let’s have a motherhood reset.

•  Recognize that  you’re evolving a  new identity. When baby is born, your identity changes, which means that the woman you spent decades becoming is suddenly slightly different.  In a piece for the New York Times, Dr. Alexandra Sacks notes that anthropologists label this evolution matrescence  and liken it to the growing pains of adolescence: uncertainty, acne, hormone fluctuations, emotional roller coasters, and all. Your former self needn’t disappear. You will again find time to exercise, talk to your spouse, create art, or lead companies or civic organizations, should you wish. Or you may do something  else entirely. Give yourself the time and grace to evolve, and enjoy the woman who emerges.

Stop  blaming  yourself when  events diverge from  the fantasy. I’ve seen  many a new-mom-to-be frantic  because a life-saving delivery did not match with her birth plan or because  her experience nursing didn’t match her expectations. I’m equally guilty: When I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with my second child, I realized he had stopped moving; three hours later, I was in an emergency C-section. My baby was healthy and beautiful, and yet I was so busy blaming myself for the early delivery that I was missing the perfect tiny human before me. That’s the problem with the fantasy: unmet  expectations—no matter how ludicrous— are interpreted as failure, and fixating on what isn’t can make us miss the beauty of what is.

Acknowledge  your feelings  without guilt. Our feelings as mothers  are complex. There are ups and downs, and no mother  feels joy, love, and perfect peace  toward her child at all times. As Dr. Sacks put it, “Most of the time, the experience of motherhood is not good or bad, it’s both  good and bad.” You will ache for your child to just go to sleep. Then  the minute he’s in his crib, you’ll want to hold him again. You’ll crave personal time yet think of your child the entire time you’re away. This is normal.

Stop the perfect  mom s**t. The pressure  to be a perfect mom can take the fun out of mom-ing (and out of being a kid, too). So, reality reset: Your kids do not care if their lunchbox food is carved into stars. Your newborn nursery needn’t look like Jessica Alba’s. When  we were babies, our “nurseries” looked like the rest of the house  (which at my house was orange and  brown shag rugs). We were babies and did not care. Your kids don’t need mommy perfection as proof of your love. They need you just as you are, loving- to-the-moon-and-back mom, warts and all.

Excerpted from the book Mom Hacks by Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, to be published on February 19, 2019 by Hachette Books, a division of Hachette Book Group. Copyright 2019 Dr. Darria Long Gillespie.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

New habits can create a legacy.

by Leonie
Community//

Getting Lost in Motherhood

by Leslie de Graaf
Community//

3 Magic Words to Cure Supermom Syndrome

by Jessica Depew

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.