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