Is your Supermom cape taking you to the breaking point?

As moms, we often work so hard living up to unrealistic images of perfection from society, our families, our mothers and our own personal DNA. We buy into the culture of being a supermom, even if it just about kills us in the process.

Lisa-Jo of the Gypsy Mama wrote an uplifting post about it this week: For when you think you’re failing motherhood {quick, break glass and read this book instead!}. While it speaks to the inner voice many of us moms hear that constantly harps on what failures we are, she shares great encouragement and a book giveaway for new moms.

Her words reminded me of a post I wrote last year I am sharing with you again today as additional encouragement to stop comparing yourself to all those other moms.

Whether you are a new or experienced parent, you have to be on guard against those nasty little diktats you hear every day. The most powerful ones run ruthlessly through your head and start like this:

I must…

I have to…

I promised…

I can’t just quit…

What would she/he/everyone think…

Can you feel the pressure build? Can you feel the stress taking hold of your body and stretching it until you feel like a rubber band ready to snap?

STOP.

Just. Stop.

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, we had a birthing coach who was very helpful, especially in terms of helping us understand there were certain expectations we needed to meet if we really wanted to be “good parents”.

We should have a natural birth, ie, no drugs, no anesthetics.

We should feed our baby naturally, ie, no formula.

It all sounded great to us, after all, we wanted to be the best for our very first child.

Fast forward to the unexpected difficulties I experienced going into labor four weeks early, and to the pain I had not imagined, and the wrapping of my fingers so tightly around the metal bed frame that I was sure I bending it with my bare hands…

I cried uncle.

I quit being a good mom, and begged for drugs.

Unfortunately, the doctors said I was too far along, and would have to do without the anesthetic. I did, and-whew!-was “saved” from my weakness. I would be able to hold my head high and proud, and say I did it. Yeah.

Fast forward again, to a week later, when we took our precious bundle home from the hospital. Yes, a whole week later. She was tiny and adorable, and had some minor health issues, including some difficulty with feeding.

Once out of the cocoon of the maternity ward, we realized our newborn was still not strong enough to breastfeed, so we created a Plan B. About every three hours a hungry Alexis would awaken. I would feed her the milk I had pumped, rock her, change her and get her back to sleep. Then I would pump for next time.

Whew. System created. Failure averted. Again. I even felt a little more awesome than before. Hoo-ah. Hand me that big glittery “S” so I can sew it on. One handed.

Because I am a stupendous mom.

 

As you can imagine, functioning on less than two hours of sleep at a time quickly began to fray my supercape and my patience. I soldiered on, though. What other choice did I have if I wanted to be the good parent?

This went on for maybe a couple of weeks, but only my husband saw the beginning of the cracks in my veneer as my tears started to seep through. I was holding my mask on as tightly as I could, but it wasn’t enough.

Keith’s mom called and invited Alexis and me over for a visit, saying that it would be good for us to get out of the house. We went, and I remember feeling so warmly welcomed as she ushered me into a rocker. She gently questioned how things were going, and before I knew it I dropped all pretense of holding it together, as I sobbed and poured out my story of being such a failure.

A failure because I didn’t want to keep pumping and feeding and not sleeping. A failure because I felt selfish. A failure because I felt I was letting my daughter down. A failure because all the other moms could do it so easily, and maybe I just wasn’t working at it hard enough.

If memory serves, I soon learned that my dear mother in law had switched to formula very early on with each of the children, and as she pointed out, they had all turned out just fine. She encouraged me to do what worked for us and for Alexis, and to ignore what anyone else thought, since they weren’t standing where we were.

That very day, I gave up the breastfeeding.

I. Quit.

Our dear daughter and my husband got their more, sort of normal me back. We all won.

I share this story with you as a reminder that you must do what works for you and your family.

For you. For your family. Not for the Smith’s down the street, or the Adams or the Taylors or anyone else. Sometimes you just have to draw your line in the sand, and refuse to go beyond it.

You just might have to quit to win. It will be ok. You will survive, and your life will be better for it.

Now, take that cape off and put it in the kid’s toybox where it belongs. You looked kind of silly in it anyway.

 

Challenge for today: How are you parenting to other people’s expectations and what is one thing you can change?

I invite you to share in the comments so we can help one another!

 

Remember to visit Lisa-Jo over at The Gypsy Mama by Friday to read her post and leave a comment for a chance to win Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year, by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer.

 

Sharing at No Ordinary Blog Hop

Image credit-Jack Fussell

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Comments

  1. I quit breastfeeding earlier than I would have liked with all three of my kids – but it was a decision I was happy with when I recognized the impact it was having on my mood and wellbeing. And also recognized that my babies would be just fine on formula. I gave them my milk as long as I could. There was definitely some guilt with it, but they’ve all turned out fine. Great even!

    • It is so good to hear that other moms broke with tradition/conventional wisdom because it was what suited them and their circumstances.
      Glad to hear they turned out wonderfully, and thanks so much for sharing, Katie!

  2. Though I’m not a mom ;), the superman cape can get pretty heavy at times, too. I’m the sole wage-earner which comes with it’s own pressures, not the least of which is being away from my family 40+ hours a week. My wife has broken with various “conventional traditions” and lucky for her (I think), I can be there to support her and remind her that only what we think matters–and not to worry about what someone else’s projections about how to(or how not to) be a parent may be.

    • How blessed your wife is to have such a treasure in you! Being the sole wage earner is a big responsibility, and to recognize that you may need to do things differently from other folks takes courage. Thanks for coming by and sharing the husband’s point of view, Mel!

  3. WOW this post is so me! I try so hard to be the supermom and always feel like I am failing at something. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who tolerate my craziness and often bring me back down to real life. Would painted a great picture, glad to know I am not the only one:)

    • There are so many of us, Anna-Marie, and yet we believe we are the only ones feeling that way! Hooray for supportive husbands. I would be crazy by now if not for my dear hubbie.

  4. I quit trying to do everything. so guess what? There are crumbs on the floor and i’ll get to it when I get to it. The laundry is piled high in the hamper, but I’ll get to it. I could be cleaning or something right now but I’d rather read your blog! What matters is that my children feel loved and my husband feels loved. THAT”S it! That’s all that matters. If my extra activities take way from that, then I am focusing on the wrong things.

    • I am both humbled by and find smiles from your reply. Keya, thanks so much for coming by and sharing about what matters to you. You are dead on with “THAT’S it!”. We each have to figure out where our sweet spots are and learn to work within them, and embrace our homes and families just as they are!

  5. I love that you quit being a “good mom” in labor! Nothing like the agony of the moment to foil the best laid plans! My experience was opposite, I acknowledged my wimpiness at the beginning asked for the medicine and it wore off too soon. The baby’s heart rate was dropping and I couldn’t have any more medicine. I delivered with precious little drugs, far less than my liking! Thankfully both of my kids nursed wonderfully and though I struggled with fatigue and feeling like a dairy cow with my first child it smoothed out eventually. It was school that threw me for a loop. I had been homeschooled and assumed I would homeshcool my kids too. Truth told though by the time kindergarten came around I really didn’t feel it was the right choice for my gregarious son. And I am so not a teacher. Anyhow my mom graciously walked me through that decision and I was relieved to go with my instinct. I’m still open to homeschooling but now we evaluate each year and decide what is best for all of us.

    • We come into motherhood with so many expectations, don’t we? I won’t have drugs. I will homeschool. I will never raise my voice to my kids. ;-)
      Uh huh.
      Our moms are great for providing wisdom, thankfully. We just have to be open and gracious to accepting it, which can sometimes be a battle in itself.
      Thanks for coming by and sharing your story of “quitting”, Beck!

  6. This post is speaking my language. When my first daughter was born and I reluctantly (understatement) had to give up nursing, a wise friend sent me a note that said, “Your breast milk does not determine who your child will become. God does.” A good parent is a loving, intentional parent. There is a lot of room for personal preference within those boundaries. Blessings to you today!

    • Thanks so much for your honest and thoughtful words, Becky! What a wonderful friend you have who would support you and send you such a sweet note. Blessings to you as well!

  7. I had a similar experience with my first child and breastfeeding. I think as first time moms, we want to be all that everyone says we should be. But your words of wisdom are so great, Kim. We just need to “quit” trying to be like everyone else and do what’s right for us and our families. Oh, and I love the cape line. So funny and clever! :)

    • Glad you drew encouragement from these words, Beth. From the comments here, I suspect there are a lot of women who had difficulty with breast feeding. It’s always nice to know we are not alone in our struggle and wanting to do the right thing for ourselves and families!

  8. Good morning Kim,

    Powerful challenge for today.

    Another question that comes to mind is – “What is the ‘pay-off’ or ‘benefit’ you’re getting, from holding onto the expectations of others?”

    If you’re interested in me peeling back a few of those ‘benefit’ layers, just let me know.

    Have a great day.

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