by Catherine Schasser
“That’s always been your biggest problem Tracy. You don’t know how to ask for help.” I heard this statement in a movie I watched recently and it reminded me of mums. It’s not that I don’t think mothers want to ask for help. Rather, I query if a hidden expectation hasn’t been seeping quietly and unsuspectedly into our culture, an expectation that says mothers can do it all – the Supermum Standard.
I believe this is a new normal that sees mums pushing, striving and exerting themselves to the point of exhaustion. Or breakdown. I see this time and time again. Mothers working much longer days than sun up to sun down and doing work that is physical, emotional, mental, in some ways tedious and other times completely uncertain.
The ‘Tracy’ in the movie wasn’t a mother though. No, she wasn’t a fun-loving, dedicated and caring mum, she was a tough, independent, I-can-do-it-on-my-own detective.
I ask you this, when did mothering – a role thats foundation is laid in attunement, connection and nurturing – become synonymous with independence?
This is an utter contradiction and one that’s unsupportive of the very goal and desire being sought by women and needed by children. Days of laughter, memory-making, savouring and love that are dreamed of pre-children are replaced unintentionally with tasks, to-do lists, fatigue, overwhelm, isoation and responsibilities.
It’s as if there’s an internal hamster-wheel inside each mother’s mind and a belief that if they stop – even for one day – the world of their loved ones will fall apart, or at the least, such damage will be done, it’s not worth the pause.
The irony, and the sad reality I’m seeing all too often, is not the world of the loved ones falling down, but the health of the mother falling apart. And not easily might I add. No way, not in the slightest. It takes almost a wrecking ball to stop a mother in her tracks. That, my dear friends, is where my concern with the Supermum Standard lies.
I have a belief life offers us little warnings when we’re getting off track and distant from our core. A tap on the shoulder here. A whisper in your ear there.
“Slow down”, it suggests.
“Ask for help”, it encourages.
“Rest – please”, it urges.
And when we don’t listen, it begins to bellow “I asked you nicely but you didn’t listen. Now I’m giving you no choice” and BOOM. Disaster strikes.
- You roll your ankle and are forced to rest your foot
- You’re admitted to hospital with unexpected gall stones
- It’s all too much and you’re on the floor sobbing uncontrollably
I’ve seen these scenarios play out often and each time, it breaks my heart a little because I wonder if it could’ve been prevented? I watch the partners, the friends, the neighbours and family members rally around the mother, the chores and the children. And the world keeps turning.
But where to from here? Is the lesson learned and new routines put in place? Is this mum one step closer to embracing her personal wellness, her needs and her wants? I hope so, for these are the steps needed to counteract the Supermum Standards of independence and isolation. And mothers themselves are the only ones who can shift this damaging social expectation.
So here’s my offering: mums, you’re doing enough. Even in the unswept floors, the piles of washing and the toasties for dinner, you’re a supermum to your children. Now become the supermum of your life and live it for you, not for the ‘standards’ of some unknown, unchecked mental load that serves nothing but hardship and heartache.
Catherine is the co-founder of Developing Dreams, a local company ‘empowering children one adult at a time’. This vision is achieved through the educational curriculum at Developing Dreams Early Learning Centre named 2019 Best Small, Private, Regional Centre in NSW, and through coaching programs written and facilitated by Catherine. Email email@example.com for further information or to find out how you can be EMPOWERED in your life.