Motherhood is the one thing able to send you from feeling like a million dollars to a piece of poo, in one swoosh of a baby wipe. It contains our zenith, and our nadir. You’re having a great mothering day: you wake up after three hours’ unbroken sleep (which constitutes a great night), you manage to have a shower, feed and clothe your children, brush all teeth and bundle them out the door vaguely on time. You’re feeling bloody amazing. Then BAM! A thoughtless comment from someone slaps you round the face, making you feel like a shit mum:
‘You had an emergency caesarean? That must be because you had an epidural. I managed on just lavender oil for all my home births.’
‘My two have always slept like a dream, I think it’s probably because I’m quite a chilled out mum, they can sense that. Maybe if you were more relaxed your children would sleep better?’
Looking a little deeper, you may be able to recognize that, depending on the day, time, moment, that perfect supermum isyou, sometimes. Imagine those moments when you’re not judging yourself harshly, because all is calm – when you are the fleetingly glossy schoolgates mum kissing your smiling child goodbye, running happily after the non-tantruming toddler, no glitches, no hitches, no spanners – how would you look to another mum in the playground in those moments? It’s all about your own perception.
A recent study of 2,000 mums in the UK (a chocolate-filled crepe company commissioned the survey, possibly acknowledging that being a mum and eating chocolate is a marriage made in heaven) revealed more than half have a number of friends and acquaintances who “portray themselves as the perfect mother”. But 60 per cent claim they find these kinds of mums “highly irritating”, while nearly three quarters dislike it when mums “show off their prowess on social media”. So it’s a tricky internal tug of war – we are collectively reaching for an unattainable ideal of Supermum perfection, but we also sort of hate those smug mums who appear to have achieved it.
The Supermum Myth is a book for those seeking to find a shift in perception and stop the tugging from one side to the other. Through learning about the psychology behind our core belief system, and breaking down why we react and behave the way that we do, we can work out why we have come to our Supermum imagined ideal. Then we can learn how to turn it around: to change your reactions to perceived judgements, view your own achievements in a different light, be kinder to yourself – and by implication, to others. We’re all struggling our own battles.
In the book my goal is to help you rebuild your confidence in your own intrinsic wisdom, and drown out the niggling competitive doubts that can grow to cause some serious psychological problems: low self-esteem and anxiety. Embracing the imperfect, and being good enough. It’s not about lowering your expectations of yourself, it’s about accepting and acknowledging how well you’re doing.
The Supermum Myth aims to help you lift yourself up in those days you feel you’re failing at motherhood, when all you seem to see is images of Instagram feeds full of smiling mums cherishing perfect mothering moments, when you feel your life in comparison is a shambolic mountain of weetabix-encrusted Lego.
Negative feelings such as envy creep in, and we judge other (super)mums as “smug” if they seem to breeze through the daily grind taking it all in their stride (and celebrating every minute on their social media), while we’re stuck feeling bored, tired, incompetent and inadequate in comparison.We seem to have an internal battle: desperately reaching for perfect supermum status – while secretly despising those women you feel are achieving it effortlessly.
I just worry all the time that I’m not a good enough mum to her, that she is bored at home, that I’m not setting a good example, not making her happy. I want her to feel safe and happy and loved and wanted, but I don’t know if I’m achieving that. I don’t want her to be damaged by my inability to cope or respond appropriately to the more challenging bits of motherhood. I ultimately want her to have the happy childhood that I didn’t. I feel I am failing.
Sally, mum of 1
Become a happier mum
Ultimately, we just want to be rewarded with an acknowledgement that we are doing a Good Job. But this kind of concrete reward system doesn’t really happen as a mother in the way that it might have done in our education or professional life before we became mums. We want our children to be ‘safe, loved and happy’, and all our actions are geared towards this one arguably intangible goal, so we often don’t allow ourselves to recognize the achievement that striving for this goal in itself makes us pretty awesome mums.
The Supermum Myth will provide you with the tools to actively move forward positively in softening into your mothering reality vs. perfect ideal, and unlock the reasons why you got to where you are, by retracing psychological steps to how your core belief system was formed, and the factors that shaped your opinions and desires when it comes to your own mothering. Essentially, this book is here to help you to feel ok about the fact that sometimes you think you’re a crap mum.
We’re all looking for some guidance occasionally. Seven years into my motherhood adventure, it’s still a constant source of amazement how incompetent my children can make me feel on a daily basis. How any poise and authority I might have wielded in a previous life or in my career is instantly thrown out the window when my son calls me a poo poo head and refuses to put his shoes on. When we feel helplessly incompetent, we lose trust in our instincts and can only seem to focus on what we’re crap at: the cup becomes half emptied.
Getting the hang of motherhood is less about controlling everything and more about realising what makes you happiest as a mother, and feeling confident enough to trust your instincts. With parenting, much of our underlying unhelpful thinking is a form of perfectionism, of aiming for ultra high-achievement. But it’s hard to see it for what it is, as it manifests itself as extreme self-doubt.
We tend to think of perfectionism as an affliction that applies to highly strung Stepford mums who have perfect hair and could win Bake Off in their sleep. But it’s just as likely to strike anybody who simply really cares about doing their best for their child (that’ll be all of us, then?!). Once you accept that the anxiety and self-doubt are a manifestation of an unhelpful mental habit, it becomes easier to challenge them.
The Supermum Myth will wander through flash points at various mum-life stages: Pregnancy, post birth, the toddler tunnel through to school days, juggling work around all this, with quotes and experiences from mums throughout. We’ll explore how you’re feeling and the range of what’s totally normal emotionally, hormonally, etc, for you at each of these phases. There are activities peppered throughout, utilizing different therapies with suggestions, tips, techniques on how to overcome obstacles, negotiate difficult experiences and tricky feelings.
If you’re feeling low on energy, depleted as a mum and painfully aware of your inner critic every day, this book could help you get back on an even keel. How are you today?