What is it in moms that makes us feel we have to take on the SuperMom identity? What makes us put on that cape?
If you talk to working mothers that you know, or even examine your own experiences, falling into the SuperMom trap is common. We all know SuperMom…faster than the microwave, more powerful than steel wool, able to fold laundry in a single bound. SuperMom scares away the monsters under the bed, creates wonderful family meals, as she works, runs a business, or fosters a career either outside or inside the home.
I have tried to be SuperMom, but the cape kept getting caught under the wheels of my office chair; it did not take long to realize that it wasn’t for me. I was not going to fit into the kind of mother or woman “they” thought I should be. When I say “they” I am talking about, television, movies, the experts, the writers, parents, relatives, friends, and the neighbor next door--there is this exaggerated set of standards for women and we try to live up to those expectations.
Being a wife and mother are important jobs; we are the ones who often not only carry the majority of the home and childcare responsibilities, but also the majority of the “emotional labor”--The hugs of reassurance, the kisses that make the hurts better. We are the ones that cry at night after the children go to bed, because our little ones had to learn one of life’s lessons the hard way. We are the nurturers, we hold those little hands throughout their lives, no matter how big they are, we always see those tiny hands in our own. No mother takes that responsibility lightly. It is our job to provide our children with emotional sustenance, and so we put on the SuperMom cape to give our children everything we can, and everything we are.
And then we sometimes forget that we are women, individuals; we struggle with the duality as our work selves and mommy selves collide in conflict on again and again. As guilt starts to overwhelm us for wanting something for ourselves, we are tempted to give in and leave a huge part of ourselves behind. We ignore our own needs because we were taught that we should give to others. We are haunted by the images we see on TV, in the movies, maybe even the examples we saw in our lives of what a mom is suppose to be. They all have a hold on us, a whisper in our head that feeds on the very concept of ourselves. We put the cape on and assume the role of SuperMom to try to make peace with the inner conflict.