I have often shared about my propensity for anxiety and my tendency to cope in the past by trying to control everything. I am a retired perfectionist. So, it is no surprise that early on, I managed the chaos of motherhood by being a Super Mom.
Merriam-Webster defines a Super Mom as “a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job.”
Yup. That was me to a tee. I am going to spare you the running list of tasks that I performed or the lengths that I went to in order to achieve Super Mom status, but just know that I honestly did it all. Everything. I was a machine, literally. There was no time to be human. I was killing myself going through the motions, taking care of everyone and everything. And, sometimes, it felt awesome. I was unstoppable. I equated controlling the chaos with greatness. Therefore, I was a great mom.
Eventually, I came to the realization that I cannot give one hundred percent of myself one hundred percent of the time. It just is not possible, and in the end, nobody was really getting any of me. And, so I decided that it was time to prioritize and allow others to help me. I decided that my house did not need to be cleaned as often as I was cleaning it, and that when it did, my boys needed to help. And I needed to be okay with their help, even if it was not as good as I would do it.
I also decided that it is okay to not have an already pre-planned, prepared meal every single night. Sometimes, we can eat out. Sometimes, I can throw chicken nuggets on a plate with a vegetable on the side and call it a meal.
And sometimes, my kids can go a night or even two without a bath.
And, guess what … My kids have not only survived, but there are also some pretty amazing things that happened when I stopped trying to be a Super Mom.
My Boys Spent More Time With Their Dad. My boys have always had a great relationship with their father. But, for a long time, I over-functioned and literally did everything that needed to be done around the house and with the kids. Over time, this created a dynamic in which my kids wanted me for everything from breakfast time to bath time to bedtime. When my husband would attempt to give me a break and step in, I would hear my kids cry for me and I would re-enter, only further reinforcing this. Not only did this eventually run me ragged and leave me exhausted and resentful, it left my husband feeling like his role as a father was unimportant and under-appreciated. When I finally backed off and stopped worrying about whether he would do things like I do them and just let him do them, the kids eventually adjusted and realized that daddy’s way of doing things is actually pretty great too.
My Friendships Grew Stronger. When I stopped trying to be a Super Mom, I almost instantly became more relatable. I was better able to accept myself, put my shortcomings out there, accept advice from other moms, and show my friends that they are not alone in their struggles. The more I was honest and open about my struggles and my triumphs, the more my friends were honest with me, making my friendships more full and meaningful. Plus, I stopped worrying about what my friends would think if my kid had a meltdown in front of them or if they would judge how I handled it. Meltdowns are inevitable. And some days I manage them well, and some days, I do not. I am human. I am learning. I am trying. And, my friends love me for me, imperfect and all.
I Became Less Anxious. This one shocked me. It seems almost counterintuitive. If I am doing my Super Mom duties as a means of managing my anxiety, how could stopping possibly decrease my anxiety, right? Well, now that my kids are spending more time with their dad, and I am less concerned about having floors you could eat off of (because you shouldn’t really eat off of the floor anyway), I have more time to take care of myself. I am able to take a few minutes to read a book, work out, prepare the foods that I want to eat, sleep in on occasion, and just plain relax. And, when I am doing one of those things and my kids come to ask for something, I am better able to ask if it is something they can do for themselves or to wait a few minutes (Bonus: Fostering more independence and patience in my kids).
I was more available to my kids. This one also seems crazy, right?!? But the truth is that when I stopped trying to manage the details that really were not mine to manage (like cleaning up all the kids toys every night and putting them back into their exact locations rather than having my kids put them away even if it means that they will not be able to find it tomorrow), and when I stopped doing the “extras” that my kids did not even care about (like making Pinterest-esque Valentines gifts for their friends or handmade birthday decorations), I found that I had more time to actually be with my kids in the moment and responded far less with, “I will be there as soon as Mommy finishes [insert any chore here].”
And, so, I finally hung up my cape once and for all, and retired my alter-ego, Super Mom. Instead, I began to see myself for what I really was. Imperfect. Trying. Good Enough. Yes, I am now Good-Enough Mom. And that is still pretty super if you ask me.