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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)

More of us need to admit to this kind of stuff because we all feel better about being in the same boat. I applaud your courage to post this! I am a sister in arms!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisbeth

A well-written post and one that I can relate to (especially in the fashion sense)! Thanks for sharing!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterinthethreshold

Letting go of comparing ourselves to other moms is one of the most liberating things we can do, I think....and we let the dog in when the crumbs have gathered under the table. It works great! But you pegged us about throwing on a scarf and flashy studded earrings! I've never felt called-out like that! Too funny.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterprayersfromthepeanutgallery

I just arrived home after helping prepare for a take out addition to our wine shop. Imust rise tomorrow early to be in zurich at 8:00 a.m. to learn the technique of making real italian paninis. Our daughter has flown the nest, but there are clothes that need to be ironed, leaves outside to be raked, and maybe cat poo in the basement to be cleaned up ..You know what? Those things can wait.I have brushed my teeth, am in my pj's and in a few minutes I will be snoring.....Believe me, you are normal!!!Congrats on embracing yourself!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwhenquiet

I love how real you were! Even though I'm not a mother (just a struggling freelance writer) I still struggle with feeling like I haven't done anything productive. Thanks for sharing! And kudos on being Freshly Pressed!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I love the candour! Thanks for sharing and letting the rest of us moms know that we are not alone in feeling how we feel. Great, great post!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharoon

The story of my Mommy life! Great writing, congrats on being freshly pressed!!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter4megsmusing

Boy, did YOU hit the nail on the head! As a SAHM (growing into a WAHM), I know exactly what you mean.

Un-Supermoms, UNITE!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfaerylandmom

You are doing great! I truly believe all moms are in a constant state of exhaustion until their youngest one has completed a year of full day Kindergarten. And then, you're going to be even more tired because you've convinced yourself that it's time to go back to work - maybe just part time. The super mommy envy is totally normal, but none of those people are happy. Happiness comes in the acceptance of the veggie puffs, the dirty floor, the no make-up face and the pretending to sleep. When my oldest daughter was about 2 or 3 - who can remember - she always wanted to play. Mommy play with me - please. How could I say no? So, I would always sit down on her bedroom floor with her - exhausted - and try to convince to her to play rock. Rock is where you go into childs pose and close your eyes. Look honey - I'm a rock. Ha! No worries love - this is how it is. Supermoms don't exist - unless they are on drugs...then I don't know. :) Thanks for sharing!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElise

You really are a cool super MOM because you see the lighter side of it all and inspire the rest of us. Thanks. Bale & Twine

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterB&T

I love your post be patient dear can you compare with older sister being a mother like you must look after her young sister and brother in her teenager's era ,that is real super sister.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternurdjenahs

Me too, mother here and I share in your feelings and thoughts!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterheatherbears

This was awesome. Motherhood becomes even more difficult when you have more than 1 baby. I have 2, 17 months apart. I love it and at the same time, I wonder what the heck did I get myself into. My husband always proclaims, "That was not in the brochure." Somehow though, we all manage to pull through.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlightandspirit

Never fear, the life of every mom is exactly how you describe it. Super Moms are highly over-rated and I believe they only exist on the pages of magazines! Your post was witty and entertaining and I loved it! As a mom of three now grown-up children, I realized early on that no one ever remembers how clean and orderly your house is, but they will always remember the memories made in it. Your job as a mom is priceless. :-)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermamasemptynest

Great post. I had hope that I would be much more put together... somewhere in my head I assumed that after the first, you just become that more organized and that more put together. With each child I went even further on the edge: from slacks to khakis to jeans to yoga pants. Never mind the make-up, hair and earrings... its a rare occasion!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErykah McC

Supermom is just like a Barbie doll. We all say Barbie looks awful with her proportions, but then again, wouldn't we want to be like her?
I'd like to be a supermom, I'm aiming for that every day. I don't succeed though, lol.
Great post, btw.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchattyowl

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.

What you don't know is that woman is a raging alcoholic. ;-) I have no idea how you mothers do it. If your kid doesn't turn out to be a serial killer, consider yourself a success. :-)

Congratulations on being FP!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSpinnyLiberal

You're not alone! I have a 5 yr old and 16 month old - and a full time job. I cleaned the kitchen floor for the first time since just before Christmas last weekend, there's a perpetual pile of everything, everywhere, and I make dinner. Crazy? Yes. Worth it, YES! Congrats on Freshly Pressed, get yourself some chocolate to celebrate :)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermidnitechef

Now if only the dads would understand....
Really tired of having to "explain myself" to someone who complains because he has to spend 2 hours in a car, by himself, driving to work. And then sit at a computer, go work out, eat out, and work at the computer some more. I know it's challenging at times for him, and there are idiots at every workplace (esp. in the defense industry), but please. He spent three weeks in Sweden for work, and his worst complaint was that he was "bored" - while I was shoveling and coping with the two biggest snowstorms in state history, many snow days, screaming squabbling kids...he would never be able to travel for work if I wasn't at home with them, but frankly, I enjoy him being away now and then because it relieves me of having to appear "perfect" - and deep breath. Sorry, this just really hit home....

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentererebusetnox

What an awesome story and testimony to all the new wives and mothers out there! I think we all struggle in some capacity with these issues. Thanks for sharing your take. Stay strong and positive!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfaithandstagefright

oh my goodness! so many things I can relate to in this. Hair washing, jeans wearing, and cheap and easy food. I feel bad that I hardly cook these days. That's the biggest thing I get on myself about. But then again, whenever I go to the trouble to make spaghetti it usually gets tossed all over the floor, and I'd rather not have the mess to clean ;) Phew. Sounds like you are doing a great job to me! Even to blog. That's something. I have two boys 23 months and 8 months and I don't even know how to describe the days because they are a blur, but I know that I am completely exhausted by 6 p.m. and am loving American Idol and Glee. Zone out time? Anyway, I've said too much already. Good luck! Are you the one expecting number 2? Hope it goes well!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterButterfingers for Breakfast

Really great post! Thanks for your honesty. I have a 5 year old n 22 month old with full time job. I get home and it's crazy till about 9pm. My husband's lucky if I talk to him. I'm trying to find a balance.... Better but not yet. Congrats on being freshly pressed. K

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermybusinessaddiction

Great blog post. While my kids are grown and gone, I do remember (except when I have a senior moment) what it was like. You learn to run all of the outside errands in a logical map scheduled series so that you can get as much done in an outing as quickly as possible. My husband still cannot believe that I can stop a 8 places in less than 2 hours. The skill of toting 2 kids around for almost twenty years has made me able to organize a day out efficiently.

One thing to think about, though. I saw and still see alot of total over scheduling of the kids time with activities. Contrary to popular opinion, they do not have to do everything that is availalble or that they think that they want to. I think at one level it is a disservice not to help them make realistic choices early on. Better that they learn to do a few things well and how to enjoy it. And perhaps then they won't necessarily feel like they have to do everything perfectly all of the time as an adult. Learning to stop and smell the roses is undervalued. My son still runs daily and my daughter still dances for recreation.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterruthsartwork

Can't believe it - this is me!!! Thank you for validating me as a mother. I work from home and my one child is at school. Therefore, many would think our home is spotless and smells of fresh baking. However, I only cleaned the house today because I couldn't bear to walk around my own home barefoot or sit on my own filthy toilet.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeep Hill Fine Art Media

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February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAli

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