This article was originally published in 2011 in In My Kitchen (The Motherhood Project).
Are you a SUPERMUM?
Know a supermum?
She has perfectly combed hair, and her make-up is impeccable. She has a beautifully dressed baby on her hip, a tidy house, a clean car, and a husband who changes nappies.
This contrasts to your baby sick-stained top, unwashed hair, dark eyes and the three piles of washing on your couch. Oh, to
be like her.
Does Supermum exist?
No, she doesn’t.
Trust me, I have tried. I have had three babies under 3 years old, while working part-time, studying full-time, and doing a fair bit of community work. You may have come around and my floor was vacuumed and my kids were munching on organic home baked bread with homemade jam. You might have thought, “how does she do it?”. You wouldn’t have been alone.
Many mums asked me how I ‘did it’.
Did what? ..
Did it all.
Well, I have always been honest. You can’t have it all. Not only would that be greedy and a contradiction to the values I am trying to teach my kids, but it is actually impossible!
The minute you would have left, two of the children would have been embattled in fighting, resulting in me shouting. My partner would have come home, still annoyed with me over a fight we had that morning. There would have been no dinner ready at 5pm, and I would still have been up at 11.30pm, cramming for a management test due the following day. I may have collapsed in the shower that night, crying, for the life that wasn’t going to plan.
Which part of that is ‘super’?
And it would have continued. No clean clothing and a mountain of dirty laundry. Me and him fighting over money, intimacy, housework. Another essay due this week. Orders that need to get out and I haven’t even processed them.
I promise I have been honest. I have always said, ‘I don’t have it all. I am struggling.’
Some people laughed it off. Some offered to help. Some read between the lines, many did not.
Why do we think we can have it all? Why do we WANT to have it all?
We put so much pressure on ourselves. much comes from society. There is a perception/pressure that we should have well-mannered kids all the time, a tidy house, and hold-down work. If your child throws a tantrum in the supermarket, you get ‘looks’ as if you’re the worst mother in the world. If you have piles of clean unfolded washing on the couch, you feel guilty when visitors drop by. If you host coffee group you feel bad when you serve shop-bought biscuits instead of a homemade cake like last week’s host.
I know mums who would love to play with their kids, but spend their days tidying the house instead.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, we have a stigma that exists, that makes it hard to ask for help.
Asking for help makes people feel as though they are failures. Saying, “I am struggling” is a sign of weakness. Admitting depression can be greeted with scoff, judgements or criticisms instead of support.
We need to change this stigma.
The thing is, we’re all in this together. We’re all mums, wanting the best for our babies. Let’s stand tall and proud of that, and help each other through.
Lets be more honest with each other, for a start. Lets not gloss over how well our children are sleeping, if they are not. Lets not rush to hide unfolded washing when visitors arrive.
Talking about the not-so-nicer aspects of parenting and being more open about PND can be the first step towards helping each other and supporting other mums.
We can all be ‘supermums’ in a way! We should pat ourselves on the back when the new baby sleeps. We should give ourselves a high-five when all the kids are belted in the car, faces cleaned, teeth brushed, and you have all their lunches made. You should reward yourself when you have the house mostly clean and the washing on the line.
We can have it all – just not all at once.
What are your thoughts on ‘supermum’? Does she exist? Are you a supermum? Know one?