Every time someone uses the term to refer to me, I bristle at the inaccuracy. Often, this praise is thrown around by people who don’t know me all that well. They see the big picture facts—that I stay home and raise two young boys, that my house looks fairly clean in pictures, that I run a blog and have published a book—and they assume I must have superhuman powers or at least extra hours in my day that everyone else doesn’t. How do you get it all done? I usually smile and tell them about writing in the dark at 4 AM before my family wakes up or at midnight after they’re in bed; they applaud me for having the discipline to sit hunched over my keyboard banging out book chapters while the rest of the world sleeps.
It’s a nice fantasy, but that’s really all it is. Supermom, I am not.
Being a work-at-home mom is a constant balancing act of tasks and priorities, schedules and limited time. Everything is a trade-off and, more often than I’d like to admit, I get it wrong.
There are nights I miss out on family time after Adam gets home from work because instead of playing outside, I’m upstairs rushing to finish a blog post. It always takes so much longer than I expect even after the writing is done—editing for errors, hunting down royalty-free images, tinkering with HTML code—and I don’t realize how long I’ve been working until I hear Sam’s telltale cry and know I’ve got three minutes to hit publish before the bedtime routine gets underway.
There are mid-morning video calls with my publishing group during which I am not available to play with—or properly supervise—my kids. Throughout the hour-long call, I have to hustle my toddler to the potty no less than three times, break up six fights, dispense eight snacks and apologize 46 times to the other participants who weren’t aware they bought a front-row seat to my three-ring circus just by joining the call.
There are mornings we miss playdates so I can schlep my kids from bookstore to bookstore, restocking my titles. There are frantic calls to Amazon about my book listing while my toddler screams, “STOP TALKING! I HAVE TO POOP NOW, MOMMY!” in the background and I beg him to please hold it. There are doctor’s appointments I forget about entirely while I’m busy playing referee in my mom groups. There are hurt feelings when I remember to post on my Facebook page but forget to return text messages for two days. There are times my kids wear the same outfits as the day before because I just couldn’t fit laundry into my schedule. I am constantly choosing and, the truth is, I choose wrong all the time.
I don’t offer this window into my world as a way to discredit myself or make light of my accomplishments; I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in my writing career while simultaneously raising two very young children and running a household. But I’m fed up with the supermom myth. Much like their comic book counterparts, these characters are purely fictional and appearances can be similarly deceiving. Instead of Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark under the cape and mask, you’ll find regular women behind the “supermom “designation; tired, overworked mothers just trying to decide whether to spend the last hour of the day doing laundry or playing with their kids. They, like me, don’t consider themselves worthy of any kind of superlative; they just worry when the day will come that they drop the wrong ball.
While my specific choices are somewhat unique because of my work-at-home mom status, the idea of having to choose is far from uncommon. There are only 24 hours in any mom’s day and we are all stuck between choices: dishes or “me time,” son’s school play or daughter’s gymnastics meet, long overdue sex or sweet, blessed sleep. The so-called supermoms are no different than the moms who feel like they’re barely holding it together; we each do what we can with the hours we have and wonder how the hell everyone else is making it look easier than we do.
Moms: can we call a truce? Can we agree to lose the mask, drop the act and just admit that we can’t do or be everything? Can we all cop to the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day, that sometimes little things—and even really important things—get skipped out of necessity? Can we stop constantly comparing ourselves to some mythical mom that doesn’t really exist?
I, for one, am done pretending; keeping up appearances is exhausting and I already had to give up a nap to prep dinner this afternoon. My energy is better put toward things that really matter, like figuring out how to get in some precious alone time without staying up until midnight five nights a week. If we’re being honest, I don’t have time to keep up the kind of laundering that a specialty suit requires anyway.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my Netflix account is currently sending out the bat signal. The dishes and laundry pile will have to wait until tomorrow.