There was a mom I envied in the beginning.
She had everything together. Her kids had clothes that fit as if someone had designed them for each individual child. The kids were well behaved. The husband earned a lot of money and it was evident in everything she bought. Not only did she find time to work out, she managed to run in marathons–on top of her volunteer work in the community and the business she was running on the side. Oh, and the house? Her house was beautifully decorated from the Pottery Barn catalog with a little Crate and Barrel thrown in. It was immaculate. Not a stray shred of paper in site. Her pantry was organized, too.
In the beginning, I wanted be that kind of mom, too. Supermom Syndrome set in. Right from the beginning, I ditched sleep so I could match socks and pick up toys. Yet, as a new mom, I found myself like a sail flapping in the wind. I read a lot of parenting books. Do this. Do that. There were times when conventional wisdom went against my own instincts as a mom. I was scrambling to do everything, but not really being the mom I wanted to be.
Like all the other moms, I signed my son up for T-ball when he was three. He loved it. I signed my daughter up for ballet at the same age. She hated it. Instead of taking her out of the class, I dragged her, cajoled her, bribed her to attend each class. I had paid a fortune. All the other kids were happily standing by the barre. My kid was screaming bloody murder. She wanted to go home.
There were a lot more parenting moments like that–where I was doing what all the other suburban moms were doing.
One day, my kids were at the kitchen table smearing paint around on big pieces of drafting paper (my husband is a CAD drafter, we had tons of paper!) and my sister said to me, “I wish I did more of that with my kids when they were young.”
I realized that the times I was happiest with my kids were when we did something creative together. We did math by baking cookies. Our weekends were spent at the lake instead of yearly vacations.
By the time the third child came along, I was doing everything differently. I homebirthed him. I breastfed until he was three (opinions of others be damned). We did the family bed until he was almost 7.
I had shifted completely away from Supermom Syndrome to discovering who I was already as a mom and doing that. The parenting thing fit like a glove on most days. On other days, I was still learning, still stumbling, but at least it was from a place of authenticity.
How I wish I had learned that fundamental philosophy from the beginning. The Supermom Syndrome is a dangerous one to adopt–the ideology of perfection strips us of being the parent we need to be. The ideals, the standards–those belong to someone else, not us. To ditch the Supermom Syndrome, we simply need to embrace who we are as mothers. This parenting thing is a journey–a learning process for the parents as well as the child. When we parent from a place of authenticity, we discover the courage we’ve had all along to be the parent we need to be.
As mothers, we are enough.