Are you a Supermom? Wonder Woman? Goddess?
I know I am not! A few years ago, however, another mom called me a Supermom when I volunteered at my then 7 year old's classroom. I had really mixed feelings about her comment. I had taken half a day off from my full time job to be there. So I guess that’s commendable? She meant well and I felt proud of myself for juggling things at work to be there and happy that my son was happy. But I also felt a shadow of doubt creep in that day. I don’t want to be held to that impossible standard, put on a pedestal of parental perfection, and have only one way to go...down…FAILURE.
Isn’t that the fear from the beginning?
...that our birth plan will go horribly wrong.
...that our baby will not latch and we will have to give up breastfeeding.
...that we will have so much anxiety about being a good mother.
...that we will feel guilty for going back to work.
...and feel guilty for not going back to work.
We are damned if we do and don’t, aren’t we?
It doesn't have to be this way. The expectation to be a Supermom goes hand-in-hand with Mom shaming and guilt. Let’s stop this madness. We aren’t super, wonderful, or god-like most of the time. We are just doing our best. Let’s start supporting each other, not setting ourselves and others up for failure. Let’s remember that we do have powers - they just may not be super. We have the power to (1) pick our priorities, (2) pick our battles and (3) pardon ourselves and our loved ones.
(1) PRIORITIES: I might have seemed super to that mom that one day because I seemed to be doing it all: Working fulltime and still helping in my son’s classroom. But that was just one priority that I set that particular day. I think she is super for keeping her house so clean and for being such a marvelous baker. She is, because she makes that her priority, and that’s great. I am the mom that buys the cake from the store, even if my kids beg to bake. Pick the priorities that work for you, let go of the rest, and compliment others for their choices!
(2) Picking our battles is certainly a super power. My kids get upset if they can’t bake that cake, or miss one birthday party because we have other plans. We can’t do it all, all the time - it’s simply not possible. We have to be firm and pick our battles. Explain to your kids, your spouse, (even your boss), what you can and simply cannot do. Your kids will forget about that cake or that birthday party in a day. They will love you for being there and for being their loving mom, even if the cake is store-bought.
(3) The last super power, pardoning ourselves, is the hardest of all. Our kids will forgive us if we miss that one birthday party or one school play because of work. Why can’t we forgive ourselves? Pardoning ourselves and our loved ones is challenging. Forgiving mistakes, however, is one of the keys to staying calm and avoiding guilt. When I see my kids baking with my mother or my husband I don’t get down on myself for not being a baker, I am very thankful that they get their needs/wants met! And that is super!
Dr. Accortt in the News
9/11/18: USC Center for Health Journalism, Cedars-Sinai PPD Screening Program May be Model for State
Summer 2018: Cedars-Sinai Catalyst Magazine, The Helping Hand of Los Angeles Funds Postpartum Depression Screening Program, scroll down to page 40 of magazine
5/18/18: TODAY.com, Alyssa Milano on Postpartum Anxiety
5/3/18: Cedars-Sinai Maternal Mental Health Research
10/19/17: Cedars-Sinai Postpartum Depression Screening Program
3/24/17: MomCo. App for Social Support
Dr. Accortt is a California licensed clinical psychologist. When she isn't seeing patients in private practice she conducts research in the OBGYN department at Cedars-Sinai. She will update this page with important maternal mental health news and research.