Once, while deep in the throes of a mid-morning play date, a few fellow moms and I bravely challenged one another to make a list of the "super" characteristics that we were trying to embody. We called it the "Super-Mom List" and spent a few days reflecting on the ways in which we were vainly trying to fit into mom-sized superhero costumes. This list was our version of the perfect mother and woman-the person that we hoped others saw when they laid eyes on us. It was a dangerous idea and a treacherous mission.
Allow me to introduce my very own version of Super Mom:
Super Mom cooks entirely healthy, balanced, organic meals for her family five days a week. Super Mom whips these dishes up from scratch with ingredients found in her well-stocked pantry. She is creative and confident in the kitchen.
Super Mom works nearly twenty hours each week without ever needing to hire a babysitter. She is constantly inspired and disciplined. Because she doesn't require much sleep, she gets up before her children and uses early morning light to accomplish great things.
Super Mom loves to work out. She makes action-packed trips to her gym regularly and enthusiastically. Oh! You should see her on the treadmill! She pushes herself to new limits every single day.
Super Mom never loses patience. Her voice is calm and even at all times. She believes every moment with her children is precious and ripe with teaching potential. She is never too tired to read another story and, with children in tow, she is never running too late to stop and inspect a rock, flower, or interesting crack on the sidewalk. But don't think for a second that Super Mom is a pushover. This woman is firm and fair. Super Mom is an unwavering, mighty master of discipline.
Super Mom reads every single issue of The New Yorker, hot off the press and in its entirety. She laughs uproariously at each cartoon and is able to recall each article in astonishing detail in conversation. She is witty, she is engrossing, she is brilliant!
This is just a part of the very long list that I created. I had compiled a woman with ridiculously amazing, out-of-this-world traits. A heroic woman who I thought I should be more like. A woman so talented, intelligent, and incredible that had I met her on the street, I'm not sure I would even like. Where did I get this idea? Was I really telling myself that this is who I was meant to be? Super Mom had a way of making me feel inadequate when I was unable to live up to her magnificence in my daily life. Why had I invited the ideal of a super mom in and why was I letting her stay?
Ultimately, seeing this person spelled out in front of me was freeing. The sheer length of my list was enough to realize that I was trying to accomplish the humanly impossible in a single day. Since then, I have been at work on the elimination of Super Mom. I no longer allow myself to feel guilty if I serve my family a frozen pizza on a Thursday night. I no longer beat myself up over letting magazines and newspapers pile up only half read. I am no longer disappointed in myself if I only go to the gym for an easy stationary bike ride and a long shower. This enables a colossal, soul-cleansing sigh of relief.
Of course, with any good superhero comic or movie there is a lesson to be learned in the end. Mine came after the list and the analysis and the attempted slaying of my arch nemesis. It came when my three-year-old shared a simple request, though epic to him. Oliver was red-cheeked and tired from fighting the imaginary bad guys who had apparently invaded our living room when he rushed into the kitchen where I was making dinner. (Part of this dinner came from a box, I might add. Did I feel bad about this? Not a chance.)
"Mommy Power Ranger?" He panted, "Can you get me a glass of water?"
I stared down at Oliver, who was sporting his well-worn Spiderman costume, craning his neck to meet my eyes. His body is quite literally too small to reach the sink, let alone the cupboard where the glasses are stored. "Of course," I said and in one quick motion grabbed a cup, filled it up with cold water, and handed it to his up-stretched hand. He drank greedily, set the cup on the table, and ran out of the room yelling something about a ninja turtle.
There is nothing to fear. You may shed your cape, but you will still impress. In the eyes of these little people that you parent, you are capable of amazing feats.