Motherhood is hard work at the best of times, but today’s moms often face expectations and demands far beyond what is realistic for one human being.
Many women enter motherhood believing they can successfully balance roles as wife, mother, homemaker and employee, only to discover the juggling act often means that one or more roles suffer.
Mothers are bombarded with media-created prototypes of supermoms seemingly able to do it all with ease. Sitcom moms from Clair Huxtable to Claire Dunphy juggle work, multiple children and impeccably clean houses while maintaining a svelte figure and perfectly coiffed hair.
And if TV and film supermoms aren’t enough, we’ve entered the age of blogging, where carefully staged photos and well-crafted stories give the illusion that regular moms are living out their days in a dreamy haze of crafts, homeschooling, organic gardening and impeccable design.
“We tend to get fooled by social media – seeing other moms’ highlight reels online,” says Ciaran Blumenfeld of Momfluential Media. “But that’s the edited version. The Internet’s latest craze, Pinterest, now acts as a virtual show-and-tell, a place for inspiration but also another potential message that moms should be doing more.”
It isn’t only the media that perpetuates the myth of the supermom. Competition and comparison between moms themselves can be as dangerous. In an age of mommy wars, judgments about one’s parenting abound; they can come from almost anyone, especially in an environment where both working moms and stay-at-home moms are feeling a growing anxiety that the work/life balance begets a tired and frazzled mom.
“I feel guilty that I don’t volunteer at my kids’ school enough, don’t work enough, don’t cook at home enough,” says Yvonne Condes, founder of MomsLA. “I wish I could be satisfied with being an underachiever mom with happy kids.”
In addition to the pressures of perfection placed on moms, women today also contend with performance pressures on their children, with demands of sports leagues, dance teams or music lessons starting younger and younger.
Moms often take on the role of chauffeur between practices and lessons. Add to that other inevitables – cleaning, laundry, errands, homework, meal prep – and it’s no wonder balance seems unattainable.
Desiree Eaglin, a writer for CBS Los Angeles, likens trying to live up to supermom status to trying to achieve Barbie’s body type. “It’s an unattainable, plastic fantasy.”
If the supermom idea is a myth but today’s overwhelming demands are not, how do moms stay sane?
“At the end of the day, the only ones who decide whether we are supermoms are our own kids,” says Blumenfeld. “To them, family is not a competition where the shiniest mom with the best party favors wins.”
≈ Ask Smart Mom: Fighting fair ≈
My husband and I have a hard time refraining from arguing in front of our kids. I always want to hash things out when they happen, but he gets angry when I do, which makes it worse. How can we stop this cycle?
It sounds like you and your husband have a pattern I see quite often, where one spouse is a conflict initiator and the other is a conflict avoider. The problem with this common combo is that it tends to create a self-fueling communication loop.
One person has a need to “get everything out,” while the other person has a need for peace. Each tries to meet his own needs and in doing so fails to meet the needs of the spouse. It tends to escalate and is a vicious circle.
One thing that could help is to establish boundaries about when and where you are allowed to fight. If you both commit to a weekly time (without kids) to hash out everything, it could be a win for both of you. You get a dedicated time to air your grievances, knowing your husband is committed to listening. Simultaneously, he gets the freedom of not having to deal with conflict beyond this weekly meeting time. The benefit to your children would be that it’s not happening in front of them.
The hard part for you will be to table conflicts until the meeting. The hard part for
him will be committing to entering a time when he knows conflict is inevitable. But if you both stick with it, it’s possible that problems will be greatly reduced.
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