Let me start with a story, because as I began to think through this post I became convicted that I was doing exactly what I’m going to ask others not to do.
My sister-in-law had her first child this week. It’s been an exciting time, there’s something wondrous about the anticipation of a new arrival to the family. We’ve been excited for H’s sister entering this new role in her life and the joy we know it will bring her. The birth was calm, connected, controlled with no complications. Quite the opposite to my first birthing experience. Trying to process this miracle through my own sense of inadequacy I labelled it a ‘unicorn’ birth – something extraordinary, it made me feel better about myself to do so.
The truth is, my sister-in-law took time and care in preparing for her birth. She educated herself and put a plan in place to ensure she was empowered and knowledgable and gathered people around her who could listen to her needs and support her, thankfully there were no complications to contend with. By labelling her birth as somehow super human, I dismiss the very human grit, preparation, years of yoga and determination that got her through.
When I’m out and about with my four children I know I can look quite a sight. Double pram and two bouncy girls in tow. I’m sure I look capable and confident as I manoeuvre my way through crowds, shop doors, aisles. I smile and chat pleasantly with people. It’s easy to snapshot people in these moments and allow our own insecurities compare ourselves to these images. I drove past a mum this morning in her walking gear, pushing a pram and two younger children riding their bikes ahead of her. I heard my own insecurities start to whisper in my head – what a super mum out walking this early with her kids!
I’m all for admiring others for what they’ve achieved, and I understand calling someone a super mum is often intentioned well as a compliment, but I chose to turn the narrative around, instead of putting that mum on a pedestal of unreachable ‘superness’ I chose admiration instead, because mothering is damn hard no matter how many kids you’ve got and I know the only way I manage as well as I do is because I don’t mother alone. Reducing my achievements in parenthood to that of a ‘super mum’ feels isolating and dismissive of the role my village has in this journey and the lives of my children. The implications are that I manage because I’m somehow super human, when often I’m not managing well at all and if I am, it’s not because I’m super human – there’s likely been sacrifice, personal determination or a whole lot of positive self-talk!
Frequently I feel tired, worn out and grumpy and get mad at my children and husband. Without H., my in-laws, parents, aunties, friends I’d be far less showered, tidy and capable of verbal interactions. I’m not a “Super mum”, I’m just blessed to have the support and help all families need, and the benefit of experience.