The Myth of the Supermom: Letting go of perfection and embracing “good enough”
Sarah Levoy, Psy.D.
May 1, 2017
“…there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.
— Jill Churchill
I am not a perfect mother. I am not Supermom. I cannot do everything right for my daughter. I can’t always be the best spouse to my husband. And I cannot be the perfect career woman. Simply put, I’ve abandoned the myth of the Supermom, and I feel so much better. You can too.
When I returned to work shortly after my baby was born, I tried to be Supermom. I thought I could do everything, and then some. I thought I could seamlessly juggle family, career, and my own self-care. But I had to let go of that idea very quickly as I rushed home from the office to breast-feed, rushed back to meet my next client, then rushed to the grocery store and home to cook a beautiful dinner. It was all too much, and I was constantly exhausted.
Moms are hardwired to be self-sacrificial
Throw that baby on your back and get to your chores. It’s a 24/7 commitment and the “work” doesn’t end at 5p.m. But somehow, that normal urge to sacrifice for our families leads to an expectation that we never limit our sacrifices. And, more destructively, that setting limits makes us lesser moms.
Your mental shift away from the Supermom ideal has to come from within
Sure, unrealistic messages about working motherhood surround us, but the pressure of high expectations is ultimately self-imposed. You can start by consciously recalibrating your expectation of yourself from “perfect” to “good enough.” Then, implement some strategies to help structure your life to be less stressed and more balanced.
5 simple ways to stress less and find more balance:
1. Define balance for yourself.
Start by tracking your schedule. Then create a pie chart that represents how you spend your time. Sometimes we get caught up in an over-commitment trap without realizing it. Really consider which commitments bring you joy and which ones bring you stress. It can be helpful to clarify your priorities and compare how your pie chart aligns with them. Can you pinpoint the areas you would like to change?
2. Make an achievable plan.
Identify realistic long-term self-care goals using short-term steps. Assess your obstacles and solutions by asking yourself key questions: What daily habits interfere with these goals? What resources are available that you aren’t taking advantage of? What trade-offs can you make? Share your goals with your family and friends for accountability.
Here’s an example of a concrete, achievable plan:
“I will try to get eight hours of sleep most nights by shutting down work half an hour before I need to go to sleep. I will then give myself 30 minutes to wind down before I start getting ready for bed. I haven’t been doing this because I feel guilty that the housework isn’t done. I can ask my partner or kids for help, or I can hire more help. Or I can adjust my expectations for myself and my family.”
3. Learning to say “no” and say goodbye to the guilt.
One of the biggest challenges working moms face is learning to say “no” to requests for their time. It may take some soul-searching to discover why it’s hard for you. Does it feel like you’re letting others down? That you won’t be liked or that someone will be upset with you? Try to identify three responsibilities you can cut out of your schedule and three you can delegate. Write out a mini script for turning down commitments and practice it with your family.
4. Learning to say “yes” to yourself.
Free up time for yourself by learning to set boundaries. It’s easy to over-schedule your family and under-schedule self-care. See where you can make changes, and keep in mind the difference between quality and quantity. Try a family meeting to discuss your desire to create more time and space for your own needs.
5. Be compassionate toward yourself.
Notice the judgments you make toward yourself. Create a more compassionate mantra, such as “good enough, not perfect.” Most of all, be compassionate toward yourself in the self-care actions you choose. Unplug for some quiet time so you can reset when you feel stressed. Start small: try playing your favorite song, taking five minutes for mindful breathing, or reflecting on a high point of your day. When mom recharges, it’s a win-win all around.
Try one or more of these simple strategies and see where they take you. But remember: simple doesn’t always mean easy. If finding balance were easy, we would already be doing it. It’s so tempting to want to be a Supermom. But when we abandon perfection and go for “good enough,” both in the way we think and the way we act, we can begin to experience greater life satisfaction.