“How do you do it all?” She exclaimed. “You have two little ones, you have a big job, and you write. You are a super mom!”
“How do you do it all? You are a super mom!”
I have lost track of how many times I have heard this phrase. A phrase that I used to think was a compliment. A title that was bestowed upon me; not one I had ever asked for or fully understood the gravity of when I first became a mom.
In response, I would smile and nod, and say thank you. Because yes, I am super mom, thank you very much. Hear me roar and conquer the world. I am a magical creature, I am a superhero, I am a mythical figure. I am a goddess to be worshiped and revered. I am the ultimate super mom.
And over the days, months and years, I started to wonder why. Why? Why are people so quick to call us out, immediately label us, embrace us, put us on a pedestal to celebrate us, to be honored as heroic super moms?
We are super moms. Because we should have more paid time off with our babies (and I shouldn’t get less time to bond because I didn’t give birth to my baby.) Yet we have to rush back to work before our minds and our bodies and our babies are ready, scared that they might give our jobs away.
We are super moms. Because we have to pump in closets, airport bathrooms, our cars, and more small places and spaces than we care to remember. To continue to feed our babies and sometimes feel the unbearable pressure to do so.
We are super moms. Because we have to endure the motherhood penalty. This penalty shows up at every turn including our compensation. While working fathers benefit from the fatherhood premium, because they are viewed as being more stable, more committed, and as a result, paid more.
We are super moms. Because we drove back to school to drop off that hat for hat day. We managed to make meatballs at 5:30 am while prepping for a management presentation while everyone else was still asleep. We ordered the birthday gifts, we sent out a bunch of urgent emails, we replenished the snack cupboard, we fielded two calls from our boss during dinner while muting the chaos at our table, and oh yes, we did two loads of laundry in between.
We are super moms. Because some of us have somehow managed to beat the odds and hold onto our jobs during this pandemic. With a lot of guilt, fear and living in a perpetual state of exhaustion.
We are super moms. Because I can’t remember the last time someone I know called the men who are fathers in my life super dads. I hope someone is asking them how they manage to do it all.
We are super moms. Because we want to be both incredible mothers and incredible leaders. We don’t want to have to choose. Even though we feel the pressure to make an either/or choice.
We are super moms, for so many more reasons that I don’t have the space to include, thriving in spite of what the world has set up for us. What this pandemic has dealt us. What our communities, what our companies, what our governments continue to fail to provide us and our families. Day in and day out, we navigate failed processes and policies, broken systems, and outdated infrastructures.
So was there ever any choice but to be super?
Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be a super mom. I want to leap off that pedestal, take off the crown, and hang-up my cape. I want to curl up into a fetal position in my bed and sleep for 14 straight hours.
Because when we call a mother a super mom, we are setting her up, holding her up, judging her against an impossible standard. We perpetuate a myth, a stereotype, a fairytale that does not exist. Because no one can be super all of the time.
So, this Mother’s Day 2021, honor myself and all the mothers in your life by acknowledging that we are toggling between surviving and thriving in spite of the barriers, detours and roadblocks that we encounter along this journey. Start by asking yourself this question: how are you perpetuating the myth of the super mom?
Then ask yourself what you can be doing to ensure that we don’t have to be super moms. It starts with who is folding the laundry and putting away the dishes in our homes. It continues on in our workplaces where we “just feel” mothers are less qualified, less competent, and less committed. It moves on to our governments that don’t provide paid family leave and don’t protect, stand up and advocate for working mothers.
So please remember this. I am just a mom. Not a super mom. There’s no hidden wand, pixie dust or a book of magic spells I have to reveal to you.
There are however plenty of cuddles, wrestling matches, tantrums and timeouts, and goldfish to spare. I am simply just an ordinary mom persevering in extraordinary circumstances, living in a system that was never built to help me thrive. Doing the work, step by step, day by day with one singular goal in mind: to help my children, Priya and Jay, to one day become kind, empathetic, contributing members of our society.