The Supermom Myth

Once upon a time, there was a young attorney who came home after her first day on her first job as an attorney and burst into tears, knowing she’d made the wrong career choice. She tried to make it work, she really, truly did. But it was not a fit. To escape the pain of her ill-fitting day job, she buckled down on her first love–writing–and for years she practiced law all day and came home at night to write. She became a mother, won a competition, and landed a book contract. She’d hoped the money from the books she wrote would justify quitting her day job, but nope. Not even close. Turns out that rich author thing is a myth. But she loved writing so she kept doing it all.

Every day was the same: get up early, make breakfast, get the kids ready for preschool/daycare, drop the kids off, go to work, pick up the kids, make dinner, put the kids to bed, straighten the house, brew coffee, write for a few hours, go to bed late. One book. Then three. Then four and five. Two young children, two jobs, zero free time. For years. And people would call her “supermom” and wonder how she did it.

But then a funny thing happened.

After years of doing it all, she had a breakdown. One morning last summer, she couldn’t stop crying. She’d fallen into a deep depression. She was yelling at her kids and resentful of what her life had become. She wanted to die because she couldn’t see any other way out and she couldn’t imagine living like this for decades. After ten years, she was still practicing law and she still loathed every minute of it, and after all of these books and sacrifices, there was no end in sight.

And so you know what I did? I went through a lot of therapy and figured out that I didn’t like working two jobs and having no free time and being angry at my kids. Weird, I know. I fucking hated being a lawyer. I desperately wanted more time to write and to be a better, happier wife, mom, and human. The end result was that I took a big risk and I stopped practicing law to write. I am grateful every day that this was an option, and everyone in our house is happier and more balanced. But it’s been almost a year and I still feel like I’m trying to find my footing. I still struggle, though less than before. I still avoid much of the internet, which is full of people trying to convince me that I’m not thin enough, or happy enough, or rich enough, or good enough. I don’t see the value in that interaction.

But today I’m thinking about the “supermom” myth and how destructive it is to women. It’s not a badge of honor, ladies. It’s bullshit. I couldn’t do all of the things. Pursuing my dream while doing everything meant sacrificing my mental health. In hindsight, I wish someone had sat me down and said, “You know you’re falling apart, right?” or, “You know this road you’re on leads straight off a cliff, don’t you? How can we stop that from happening?” But in fairness, I came across as being put together. And also, I was supermom. I looked like I was managing.

Well fuck supermom. There is no such thing, and you know what? I think it’s dangerous. Because to recognize someone as a superhero is to deny their humanity and vulnerability. It’s a way of sticking our heads in the sand and telling ourselves, “Everything’s just fine” when we know that something is wrong. Intervention takes courage and connection.

So here’s the thing. If you’re being called a “supermom” or a “superdad” or a “super-whatever”, step back and figure out how you can get some help. Because you’re not actually a superhero and no one should expect you to be. There is no shame in being human. And friends, if you know a superhero: stop. Think. Ask them how they’re feeling. When they inevitably tell you they’re fine, dig deeper. Because when you’re in that mess, it’s hard to see it for what it is. Hell, you don’t have the time to see it. And we all need to get a little perspective lest we step off that cliff.

6 Comments

  1. Maria Elliot

    wish you only the best, you’re a great person, great mom and great wife. I know your story will help lots of people that are feeling the same way. I’m glad you are in a much happier state and only hope, wish and prayer for your success, both personally and professionally.

  2. Elizabeth Szewczyk

    I love you so much! You’re courageous and kind and talented in all the ways that count. Just keep writing–you’re exactly where you should be and I couldn’t be more proud of the person(personally and professionally) you are. Xoxo

  3. Michelle

    Wow, so true. Very. Single. Word. My experience was a little different, but I too was the SuperWoman (daughter, wife, mother) and I forgot to take care of myself. After a couple years of therapy and some help from medication I was finally able to wake up happy with myself. Thank you so much for sharing these words.

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