So, when it comes to mom-ing, I have trouble letting things go. Part of it is definitely working mom guilt. Although some people argue that most women want to stay home full time with kids, I definitely don’t have that desire. When my kids were very young, I sometimes spent weekends counting the hours until I could get back to work. I am happy to work full time (a few fewer hours would be great, though!) and I don’t think I’ve damaged my kids because of it.
And yet, I do at times have guilt for the things I don’t do, and that guilt can lead me into Supermom mode. I think I have this idealization that Stay-at-home moms can be 100% engaged in their kids’ lives and do every school activity and every Pinterest-y lunchbox stuffing, birthday party planning, school-project supporting thing possible. Of course, if I truly think about it, I imagine that Stay-at-home moms have unrealistic images of what moms who work outside the home are like, too. Perhaps they picture us always in high powered business suits sitting around boardroom tables in fancy office towers having important meetings over lattes (note to Stay-at-home moms – this is SO not my life).
I am fortunate that I have flexibility in my job, which allows me to do some things that I couldn’t do if I had a time card type job. I got to volunteer at field day. But I do have a tendency to take those opportunities farther than needed. For instance, my kids’ middle school has two days in the Fall when you can attend classes with your kid. I have two middle schoolers, but can’t spend 2 full days at middle school. Instead, I end up spending a couple of hours each year looking at my schedule and their schedules, and figuring out how I can get to at least 1 of every category of class (and there are eight categories), and of course, equal numbers for each kid, and meeting each teacher if possible. Then I talk to other moms who just zip in and out to a couple of classes, or don’t bother going at all.
Adding to the guilt is that a few years ago my kids started complaining that other kids just get to hang out all summer and play videogames and go to the pool, while they have to go to camp (Build Underwater Robots and Rollercoasters Camp! Nature Camp! Cooking Camp! All kinds of awesome, expensive camps). These complaints led to our annual Mama-Camp week, which is basically a staycation. Pre-planning involves lists of everything they want to do. And so, we achieve my kids’ idealized visions of what kids who stay home all summer do, crammed into one week. Whereas as I know for a fact that kids who stay home all summer get bored, and have to do chores, and often wish they could go to cool camps like their friends whose parents work outside the home.
When birthday parties roll around I have a tendency to start overplanning, even as I tell myself months in advance, Don’t overplan! This tendency has led to things such as the homemade, Which Greek God is Your Parent Quiz; Snacks to correspond to each Wings of Fire dragon clan’s food preferences; Field day bingo; and the most work ever, Spy Birthday Party, which at midnight the night before had to be totally revamped to be indoors due to impending thunderstorms.
Logical Eva – and Eva who will listen to her head and her experience – knows that these efforts are not necessary. Basically, give kids a yard and a bag of potato chips and they are happy at a birthday party. But A Student Eva, Supermom-aspiring Eva, thinks that I must do it all, and do it all well. Last year for Pi-Day, my kid wanted to bring in a pie. Could I have bought a pie? Of course. But no, I decided to make chocolate cream pie, from scratch, even making the pudding from scratch rather than using a box. Because 5th graders really know the difference. The class ended up with 5 pies that day, and only one was homemade. Similarly, at the end of school year party, kids could bring a snack from home. I imagined the Stay-at-home moms laboring over fanciful decorated cookies, and felt guilty sending my kids in with 2 batches of homemade brownies – only to learn that every other snack was store bought, mostly Doritos.
Why in the world do I do this? Would my kids suffer if they showed up to school with Doritos? Would teachers or other parents think less of me? I doubt it. Logically I know it’s mostly in my head. Generally, my kids would probably rather I spend more quality time with them rather than staying up too late making something unnecessary and then too tired to be present in the moment.
Tell me it’s not just me, that there are other moms (parents? Do dads ever do this?) out there with similar tendencies. And if so, let’s tell each other that it’s okay to be a B-student. And it’s also okay to sometimes say no to the bake sale or send your kid to school with a bag of Doritos.
“Supermom Syndrome first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on July 19, 2018.”