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Confessions of a (Not So) Supermom

When you’re at the park pushing a swing, shopping for diapers at Target, or simply walking down the street with baby in tow, do you ever find yourself staring at one of those mothers and wonder what you’re missing? C’mon, you know what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the Supermom.  She runs 10 miles, does downward dog, and answers 50 e-mails before the sun and Little Johnny rise.  She has perfectly coiffed hair, a body that rivals Heidi Klum, and doesn’t need botulism Botox to look beautiful. She’s CEO of everything, only prepares scrumptious organic meals, and has children that emit sunshine. Okay, so I exaggerate. The woman isn’t that perfect, but she sure seems to epitomize this otherworldly, unattainable ideal of motherhood. And alas, I still find myself staring at this mythical heroine through the shield of my aviator sunglasses wondering how she balances it all (or at least fakes it to make it).

While I never expected to be like June Cleaver, I did imagine that I’d glide through motherhood like Claire Huxtable: smart, witty, rational mommy lawyer bringing home the bacon and managing family life with style and grace.  Of course it was possible to be this version of a Supermom, especially because I’d previously kicked the butt of all multitasking villains and earned my cape as Superwoman sans baby. I worked in a high-powered career, shopped at the farmers’ market for dinner, squeezed in yoga and friends, remodeled my bathroom, made cupcakes, and still had time for an episode of True Blood all before going to bed. Jeez, how hard could it be?

Daydream music comes to a screeching halt. Bubble bursts. Cue reality.

At the end of my real life episode as a work-at-home mom, I seriously feel and look more like Miranda Hobbes than Charlotte York. I am tired, slightly overworked, struggling with what we all struggle with—balance, imperfectly dressed, ready to collapse on the couch and enjoy Thai takeout, happy to be home, and struck by the daily realization that I didn’t get anything done. You raise your eyebrow and ask, “How can you feel all of the above if you didn’t get anything done? What the hell did you do all day?”  I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But I can tell you that I am not the only new mom afflicted by this phenomenon, where one who used to be a multitasking maven now can barely manage to check off a few items if any from her “to do” list.

My dear friend and I recently commiserated about this very issue. She, like me, reaches the end of her active day as a mom feeling exhausted, as if she tackled a week’s worth of errands and chores but in reality only made it to the Post Office.  Maybe we were naïve to think that we’d emerge from the new parent sleep-deprived daze capable and ready to do it all, but we never thought in a million years that it would be so challenging to muster the energy to balance mommyhood with all the “other stuff,” especially when we were no longer beholden to the law firm.  As we confessed that our type-A personalities were having some difficulty coming to terms with the baby toys littering the living room floor, the dishes left undone, the pile of laundry reaching Everest-sized proportions, and our inability to make real meals unless you count Luna Bars, we also shared the secret that it was positively freeing not to be burdened with multitasking and the self-imposed pressure to be “productive.”

After we ended our Skype chat, I kept thinking about how good it felt to openly reveal that we are happier individuals/women/mothers/wives/friends/you name it when everything isn’t perfect. So, I’ll also confess to you why I’m a (not so) Supermom:

  • I hate that my son wakes up at 5:30 AM because I am not ready to play before the sun rises, so I bring him to bed with me in an attempt to lure him back to sleep for a just a little while longer. I pretend to keep sleeping even when he crawls on my head.

  • I wash my hair every other day, never blow dry it, and always wear it in a French twist, ponytail, or braid. Personal grooming takes too much energy.

  • I look like the living corpse of Sarah because I never have time to put on concealer or any other makeup for that matter. Again, see bullet point above.

  • I pretend to look pulled together by accessorizing my outfits with a brightly patterned scarf and flashy stud earrings. Hopefully, no one will notice that I’ve worn the same pair of jeans three days in a row.

  • I feed my son frozen waffles, instant oatmeal, and vegetable puffs on an almost daily basis because they’re quick and easy. Hey, at least they’re organic.

  • I gave up cleaning the kitchen floor after every meal and ignore the food crumbs and sticky tile until it becomes too unsightly. Mothers must've coined the phrase, "don't cry over spilled milk."

  • I have stopped apologizing for the water-stained quartz countertops, dishes in the sink, mail on the dining table, and shoes collecting by our door.  Because I’m not a candidate for the television shows about hoarders, I’ve stopped worrying about my mess.

  • I buy cookies and cupcakes at the bakery, and I rely on Trader Joe’s to get me through a dinner party.  Yes, it’s true, I used the store’s delicious flash frozen mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. Martha would not approve.

  • Sixteen months later and I have not lost all the baby weight. Instead, I wear a lot of black or use Spanx.

  • Once my son goes to bed, I watch Glee and fantasize about being a pop star instead of attending to my “to do” list. A girl's gotta dream, right?

The list definitely goes on.

And while there is still a small part of me that occasionally aspires to be Supermom, I feel relieved that I can hang up my cape along with my star-studded hot pants and high heels and don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not (I certainly don’t want to fake it to make it).  So, productivity be damned! Everything is perfect whether or not I clean the kitchen because I am free — I am free to live in the moment, free to focus my energy on what matters and spend my time with my son, and free to just be.

Thanks E for reminding me of this.

~ The Other Sarah

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Reader Comments (170)

Your bullet points were seriously a run-down of my life. I love it. Thanks for sharing, you made me laugh.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergriffinshoney

thanks for this post, and congrats! I can totally relate... you've captured all of the feelings of inadequacy that (I hope) most mothers feel at one time or another-- or daily, as it is in my case. my daughter is 6 months old, and I can't quite remember the last time I cooked dinner, let alone sat down at the table to eat with my husband! Take solace in the knowledge that, to our kids, we ARE Supermom, and handling our mistakes and shortcomings with grace and humor is better than pretending that they don't exist. :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjulieann

Not to depress you or anything, but it doesn't change. Ever. I'm 65 with 2 grown kids and a daily list with one item checked off if I'm lucky. I wonder sometimes how I ever made it thru a day when they were little, considering.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermarcys

Every woman here who responded is supermom.
Whether you are raising your own kids, helping your sister or friend with hers you are great and should pat yourself on the back.
No job is harder then raising children.
No job pays less, or is as stressful.
The woman who you think has it all together, picture perfect kids, jogging with the hair done up, on every school comittee? Did you see "Desperate Housewives"? The perfect mom sneaking tabs of her child's Adderal?
I've seen hundreds of women becoming mothers from the highest functioning to the ones who are just scraping along and when you get down and dirty to the truth, we are all the same. Our frustrations, our needs, our kids, our worries. All the same. Heck, Michele Obama has got her momma living with them in the white house to help with her kids. She is a great role model.
I don't want to "spam" this blog but you all have to see this video, it will lift you right up. God loves moms, I am sure of this.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergmomj

This post was right on the money. I stressed too about not looking like the moms on the Pampers ads...until I read the line in a book " I'm not a perfect mom...but I'm a perfectly good mom." And that changed my outlook.

I also know that while I think I'm very unique....the things I do, the situations I go through, and feelings I have have all been done before by other moms...millions and millions and millions of times. Every single one of them.

And that makes me feel better too.

GREAT post! I know you will make a lot of moms feel better!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlatenightcoffee

Absolutely perfect timing! My thought on the way in to work today:

"I’m doing pretty well at this high-flying-professional-exercise-junkie-socializing-healthy-eating-family-balanced life I lead. Maybe having a kid wouldn’t be that hard after all." What a fool!

I also LOVE the description of the supermom – good work and a huge congrats on being freshly pressed :-)!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAurian

What an awesome post! You said everything I needed to hear!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertryless

after doing this motherhood bit for four years, i understand where you're coming from. i still forget to grab travel tissues, germ-x, a snack and/or a multitude of things. i sit at home in my pajamas on days we have nowhere to go and often feel that i have very few answers when it comes to parenting.

i often question how happy "supermoms" really are with their incredibly hectic schedules and expectations to live up to. a little chaos [such as crumbs on the floor and spots on the counter] is better than having no time for yourself. also, it gets easier as kids grow older and become more independent :) it may seem far, far away but they get there before you know it!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterieatmybrocolli

Wow that is everything I have ever wanted to say LOL and My kids are 10 & 3. I Feel accomplished if I get through all the Have too's Screw the Want too's!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkbomb78

Great post! I can totally relate ... I have also given up on having a perfect house and decided that for now I'm just going to enjoy my kids because the laundry and dishes will wait but they are only little for a short while! :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterplaydoughintheparsonage

Claire Huxtable's kids were not newborns. I repeat NOT NEWBORNS. She was not nursing. She was not doing nightly feedings or changing any diapers. They did not have croup, no were any of them feeding or potty training. Her body wasn't recovering from a major trauma and there were enough kids that they were actually helping each other out.

That being said...it was also fiction.

Good luck and good life to you.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrystalSpins

Thanks from a new mom who is dreading going back to work with the fear that I won't be able to do it all! Thanks!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkandjcoloradoliving

I have 3 month old twins, an 18 month old, and a 5 year old...and am new to this "staying at home mom" thing. It has been an adjustment and it took me about a month of crying to come come to terms, but I am finally enjoying myself as a stay at home mom and
"learning the ropes," luckily the kids haven't tied me up, hee hee. So I can totally relate to this post!!! It is so my life! It took me 2 hours or more to read this post...so many interruptions...but I finally made it. AND I am finally able to see a pile of 3 dirty diapers into the trash and 4 kids jammied and into bed an accomplishment. It's the little things in life. Now off to shower...finally (by 9pm is not bad).

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramandastclair

Oh my gosh, what a fantastic post. I could so relate, even though my kids are 5 and almost 8. I'm a stay-at-home mum and I constantly get the "so what do you do?" thrown at me, I have now decided to embrace my idea of super mum-dom and watch 'Glee', read my books for half an hour every night after my kids are in bed and enjoy my mummy time without feeling guilty - took me a while though.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermeditatingmummy

Wow! Is that you or me that you wrote about? I do wonder if those other Supermoms go home and just pass out on the couch? There has to be a breaking point I am sure. Anyway, grats on making freshly pressed! (Things will get better.)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan MacEwen

Oh man, you are talking about me! Especially about the part about the washing of hair!

Congrats on the FP!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbaonkobento

It gets better everyone. Eventually you can just guide your teenagers around the house and point at stuff until THEY clean it up. Soon I will just text them and the jobs will get done while I sit on the porch. :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdailygazing

My 42-year old sister is a mother of three almost 2-year old triplets.

She's simply happy if the house isn't on fire by the end of the day.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterforkboy

LOVE this! I am pregnant with my first and already I can feel my hair and make-up sliding into 2nd...3rd...maybe even last place on my list. I want to give my kiddo the gift of a mother who allows herself the freedom to be. Don't be too hard on yourself! It sounds like you're doing a great job!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterashmolitor

You have taken the words right out of my mouth. There was a time when I too used to feel that I had to be Super Mom (partly from the way my Mom used to handle things when we were kids). but times have changed, I have a full-time job and I simply don't have the energy to come home and toil away at the kitchen or elsewhere. All I want to do is to relax and spend some time with my baby.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFire Crystals

Same pinch!!! And thanks for this post...makes me feel so much better about my own home-management skills ;). It always helps to know that one is not alone, eh?

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Hoarder

Ah, I love it! You say so eloquently what we are all feeling. But least you accessorize!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Kay Hill

Enjoyed my walk in here.Nice page. Go supermom! :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoan

This is the first time I read your blog and I LOVE it!! I can absolutely relate to you and was just telling my mom the other day how I want to be one of those mothers who look so put together and chic instead of spending half the day awake before being able to brush my teeth or comb my hair. Thank you!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChloe

My two eldest sisters have come to the same conclusion as you, just roll with it! Both with two children after having careers and concluding that being at home is for them (trust me, I'm not one of those 'must work' 'mustn't work' people, do whatever you feel is right for your family!), they are going through everything you just spoke about in your blog. I've always held my sisters in such high regard, and thinking about how I would cope when I start a family; if my sisters can't cope, how on Earth will I?? Knowing that the insanity that is motherhood is a universal affliction oh I have nothing to worry about! We all here turned out pretty alright, I think our children will be pretty alright too. :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPi.

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