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.
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