Over the last couple of days I’ve heard that word used to describe a number of women with kids, in various contexts. If I’m honest I’ve heard it used to describe me too…and though it is flattering and always used in the most generous and affectionate and admiring context, it eats away at me a little every time I hear it.
Maybe I’m being overly politically correct or sensitive here, but hear me out on this one: my thought is that the vast majority of mother-figures (there are exceptions of course, as always) are just doing their damnedest to raise happy, healthy kids who feel loved, build fulfilling careers (if they so choose), and maybe, if there’s energy left over, look after their own spirits. Yes I know, we’ve all heard it a million times – we have to carve out time to look after ourselves and we can’t be good examples to our kids if we don’t – but when something else comes apart, that’s often the first thing to go. That’s what we signed up for when we became responsible for other humans. But I’m not trying to be a martyr here; that’s not what this is about.
So what is this about?
It’s about competition. Because when someone is described as ‘supermom’, it implies that they are head and shoulders above us regular ol’ moms; someone to aspire to rather than someone who is down here in the trenches with the rest of us. And I get it – when a woman sticks out and does something amazing, she definitely deserves to be celebrated. OF COURSE she does. But does it make her a better mom? Not necessarily. And then if we pin the label ‘supermom’ on her, should the rest of us aspire to be more like her? What if we aren’t interested in achieving what she’s achieved?
Women don’t need to be in competition with each other. My thought is that there are too many of us who feel like we aren’t enough as it is. Let’s admire each other’s achievements without comparing parenting skills, mmmkay?
It’s about sexism. Let’s turn this around: how many male professionals, athletes, artists, leaders, etc. , who have children are referred to as ‘superdad’? Often you don’t hear that those guys have children at all; instead we admire their achievements for what they are. We don’t pull the parenthood card and call them superdad. We have no idea what kind of dad they are. The fruit of their loins doesn’t enter into the equation because…well, because it doesn’t.
Really the term ‘supermom’ is just a crusty old fossil from the late 70’s and early 80’s when women were taking on more traditionally masculine roles – you know, like having jobs and their own public social status. We don’t need it anymore.
I’ll tell you something about being a mom (which every parent reading this will already know, but here it is anyway): if we’re going to achieve anything noteworthy, something has to go. There has to be considerable sacrifice, or considerable external support from somewhere. I’ve been called supermom because I juggle two careers as well as two children, but I promise you, anyone who sees the unfortunate results of my housekeeping skills will revoke that supermom card in a hurry, because I can’t do it all. Maybe one day I will be in a position to hire someone to clean my house and then I can be called supermom again.
See how ridiculous that sounds?
Consider this: of all the moms I know (and I know lots of them), there are career-minded women who are going after their goals with singular determination. There are stay-at-home moms who have put careers on hold to be with their kids and look after their households. There are single moms who are juggling jobs and the demands of parenting solo. There are moms who are super fit, whose peace of mind depends on getting their workout in, and moms who have given in to the pull of obesity because the demands of all the kids’ activities means that they live in their minivans from 4-8pm. And ALL of them have well-adjusted kids who are happy and healthy. The point is that we all have different circumstances, different priorities, and different heaps of baggage and shit to deal with. None of us are supermom. Or rather, we are ALL supermom.