I get called a lot of names, many of which tend to roll off my shoulder whether good or bad. My mom has said I’m a “freak” for taking on so much at once, and one of my friends (I only have like 6) told me I was “relentless” when I told her about a possible job opportunity I was considering for 2016. As a coach, some people call me “obsessive,” and others call me “incredible.” I’ve been labeled as both “weak” and “strong.” My students’ descriptions of me range from “strict” to “helpful,” from “Grammar policewoman” to “informative.” I’ve learned to stop tucking every little jab or compliment in my pocket, because ultimately, it’s only me who defines me, not anyone else. That’s why there’s one label that I completely reject, though it’s been assigned to me out of admiration and respect: Super Mom. I am not her, nor will I ever be.
The mere notion of Super Mom is overinflated, prideful, and unnecessarily complicated. Women feel that they need to strive for this ideal picture of perfection, and when you mix perfection with parenthood, all you really end up with is unfair stress and pressure. Super Mom always keeps the house clean, her purse is always stocked with her child’s favorite toy, enough diapers and wipes for extended trips, a change of clothes, tissues for runny noses, antibacterial hand wipes to keep her children clean, and her own wallet and mini makeup kit in order to keep herself looking pleasant. Super Mom gets a ton of things done while her children nap. She’s a well-rounded friend, sister, mommy, and lover. She cooks well-balanced meals 95% of the time. Super Mom never loses her temper. She gives her family the best. Did I mention she also works? She’s a complete myth…
It’s flattering to be compared to Super Mom because the people who do so are usually impressed in some way or another at my approach to being mom. However, the people who see what I do only catch glimpses. Yes, Kennedy ate broccoli, grilled chicken, and carrots for dinner last night, but the day before, I gave her a hot dog because I was too exhausted to cook. I hate sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, and dusting; our house isn’t a total pigsty, but it really only looks like those homes in catalogs right after I’ve begrudgingly done all of these chores. My daughter once went two nights in a row without a bath because my legs were sore from Plyometrics and I didn’t feel like kneeling next to the tub to wash her. I’ve sat my child in front of the TV for hours at a time because it kept her occupied while I graded papers, took a final exam, or counseled clients individually on how to achieve weight loss results. Sometimes I yell at her. Sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom to cry because I wonder if I’m doing it right. I keep a Post-It note on my medicine cabinet mirror that says, “You are a good mom,” because sometimes I forget. Some people do it up for their kids’ birthdays, which I enjoy seeing, but that will never be me – I’m not willing to put forth the effort for handmade favors and goodie bags, and I don’t care if her parties don’t have a distinct theme as long as there’s cake and she’s smiling.
I care about reading her stories every night before bed and that she spends quality time with her grandparents (hence the cross-country move). I care about showing her healthy habits with regard to exercise and having a good relationship with food. I care about showing my daughter that she’s in control of her destiny; presets like race, gender, class, and age do not have the power to exclude her from anything unless she allows them to. Plenty of people assume that black women are irresponsible, uneducated, and uninformed, but I am not…and she doesn’t have to be any of those things either. I care about showing her what romantic relationships are supposed to be: imperfect processes where two people who may not always say or do the right thing have each others’ backs in the long run and work to keep each other a priority. The love story her father and I share isn’t perfect…it’s hardly a fairy tale…but it’s ours. I also care about teaching her to have a healthy relationship with herself because it’s something I didn’t have until after I came out of the tunnel postpartum depression put me in for the first six months of her life. (Oh yeah, did I mention that I had postpartum depression? Super Mom certainly never has any afflictions).
Super Mom is perfect, and I’m discernably imperfect and more than okay with it. Simply being mom is super enough for me, and all I really do is try my best. Sometimes my best is astounding – I once cleaned the entire house, wrote a seven-page paper, updated grades for 60 students, cooked a dinner of fish, kale, and roasted potatoes and had Kennedy in bed, bathed by 8:30pm all in one day. Other days, my best is lackluster, but it’s all I had that day. I may not be the perfect mom, but I’m certainly a great mom to her, and that’s all I care about being.