Archive for September, 2010
Recently, I was asked to speak on the topic “The Myth of the SuperMom.” My first reaction was: the title says it all—SuperMom is a myth.
SuperMom simply doesn’t exist. Not in real life, anyway. SuperMom is a figment of our mom-imaginations. She is the mom everyone else seems to be—and the mom we can’t seem to measure up to. The imaginary mom we come up with when we compare our inside (how we feel about ourselves as moms) with everyone else’s outside (the “successful” moms we see all around us).
But this is a very persistent myth. Years ago, Erma Bombeck wrote about “Sharon,” the SuperMom. Sharon not only “color-coordinated the children’s clothes and put them in labeled drawers, laundered aluminum foil and used it again, planned family reunions, wrote her congressman, cut everyone’s hair, and knew her health insurance number by heart”; she also “planned a theme party for the dog’s birthday, made her children Halloween costumes out of old grocery bags . . . and put a basketball hoop over the clothes hamper as an incentive for good habits.”
The problem was, as Bombeck discovered long ago, everyone considered Sharon a SuperMom except her kids. They preferred hanging out at a neighbor’s house.
SuperMom, it turns out, would not really be that great a mom after all—even if she really did exist. Why? Because real kids do not need a SuperMom.
They do not need a SuperMom because, first of all, SuperMom is FakeMom—a mom who is trying to impress everyone within viewing distance that she has it all together—and so do her kids. The real story tends to be very different. The real inside-the-house story. Just ask her kids.
Why? Because SuperMom is trying to do so many things, accomplish so much, fit so many things into her schedule, that she often misses the most important things. The things—or rather the people, the husband and kids—right in front of her.
In addition, SuperMom tends to do way too much for her kids—to give them too much, to protect them too much, to hover too much. At the same time she tends to expect too much from her kids just as she does from herself. After all, a SuperMom must have SuperKids, right? Talk about pressure!
Furthermore, even if SuperMom were the real thing, she wouldn’t be much good at preparing her kids for real life. The real life where we can’t do it all, be it all, have it all. The real life most of us live.
No, your kids do not need SuperMom. They need RealMom. They need a real, authentic mom who acknowledges her human-ness, her limitations, even her mess-ups. She is willing to apologize when needed, to live within healthy boundaries, and to learn along with her children. RealMom laughs a lot more than SuperMom.
Most importantly, she is willing to acknowledge that she doesn’t “have it all.” But she knows where to go to get what she needs. No, she doesn’t have all wisdom, all strength, all patience, all knowledge. But she knows the One who does have all these things. The One Who promises to be strength in our weakness, wisdom in our confusion, and patience when ours has long ago run out.
Recently, I came across a verse that jumped out at me in a new way as a great mom-verse. It’s 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (italics mine)
It’s a totally different perspective on “having it all,” isn’t it? God doesn’t expect us to be SuperMom. He already knows we’re not. And He loves us anyway. Not only does He love us; but He provides for us “all we need”—all grace at all times for all things. That’s a promise I can live on.
And what’s more, so can my kids. They learned long ago that they didn’t have SuperMom. It wasn’t just the magnet on the refrigerator: “So I’m not SuperMom. Adjust.” They knew it in everyday life. But I like to think it was good preparation for their life as not SuperParents. Now, I must say how grateful I am that my kids are such good parents. But I hope they don’t expect themselves to be SuperParents.
Being real parents—real moms and real dads—turns out to be so much more fun. You know you will make mistakes, but you also know that God—and kids—are very forgiving. You know you don’t “have it all.” But you know where to go to get all you need. Very freeing, actually. Much more fun. Better for your kids. And you laugh a whole lot more, don’t you think?
I thought of all of you (all of the moms reading this blog) a couple of weekends ago when Woody and I started out on a morning of hiking. We were at a state park in Door County in northern Wisconsin that we had visited a few years ago, and there was one particular trail which Woody remembered that he wanted to revisit. It wound down some fairly steep cliffs (for us amateur hikers, that is) to become a lovely walk along the lake, with beautiful vistas over Lake Michigan.
At least that’s how we remembered it. The problem was that we couldn’t find it! We returned to the area where we thought the trailhead had begun, and there seemed to be absolutely no sign of this trail. That was my impression, anyway. Woody, on the other hand, bold explorer that he is, was quite sure he had located the start of the trail. No, there was no sign there. But there did seem to be a worn path leading down toward the lake. And he was sure this must be the trail he remembered.
Now you need to know that this was in an area where all the trailheads are clearly marked. We had parked in a visitor lot where there was a map of area trails. And there were several other trail entrances that were clearly marked. No sign of ours, however. And both of us were confused by the map. (An unusual event in Woody’s case. He LOVES maps, and seems to have been born with a map in his brain. I, on the other hand, am perpetually confused by maps. I much prefer written directions!)
As any of you who are married can guess, our day of happy hiking didn’t start out so well. After considerable debate, we went with Woody’s initial plan. We started out on the trail he was very sure was the one he remembered. Despite the absence of any sign marking the beginning of a trailhead, we began to pick our way down a small bit of trail winding its way through overgrown roots along a rocky descent toward the lake.
As we proceeded, I couldn’t help but note (out-loud, you can be sure!) that not only had there been no sign at the beginning; there were also no little signs along the way—the small brown markings all the other trails in the area seemed to have indicating you were on the right path and headed toward your intended destination.
The path became increasingly indistinct—and simultaneously much steeper. Finally I couldn’t go any farther. “Woody, I just can’t go on. This is making me way too uncomfortable. The path is becoming steeper and more overgrown, and I really don’t want to either get lost in these woods or go flying down this cliff directly into the lake. I need some assurance that we’re on the right path. I need signs. I need a clearly marked trail.”
I think Woody was actually beginning to feel the same way, though he hadn’t so far mentioned it. (He is Swedish, in case any of you aren’t aware of that. This means a lot of things, but especially that he is very determined. Some might say stubborn; but Woody does have a mostly endearing way of being determined, so I’ll stick with that.) So yes, my Swedish husband admitted that we should probably turn around and retrace our steps. We went back to the parking lot, looked at the map again (Woody did, anyway) and eventually drove to another visitor lot where we did indeed find the trail we had been looking for—signs and all.
So what does this have to do with all of you? What does this have to do with parenting? As I was walking, I kept thinking of how hiking is like parenting. It’s a long, hard, winding trail that requires our full attention. Like the path we were on which was overgrown with roots and very rocky in spots, there are stages when all you can do is focus where you put your next foot. It’s hard to even look up to what’s ahead, and sometimes nearly impossible to even enjoy the scenery around you because just making your way along the path takes all the energy and focus you’ve got.
But thank God it is not an unmarked path. We have a guide book—God’s Word. And we have clear signs along the way—both from the Bible and from other fellow travelers. And we are not alone. There are those walking alongside us as well as those farther down the trail that can call back and steer us in the right direction, cheer us along the way.
It’s really what Mom to Mom is all about. We remind each other that we’re not on an unmarked path. There is signage provided, direction given both from God’s Word and God’s people. There are those who’ve gone before, both great men and women of Scripture and “Titus 2” moms, cheering us along the way. They reach out when we need a hand. They tell stories from further up the trail. They provide company along the way. They point us upward to the One who never ever leaves us alone, even for a minute, on this parenthood path.
How I hope and pray that all of you reading this either have Mom to Mom or something like it in your lives. It helps you know you are on the right path, it helps clarify your intended destination, and it makes for much happier hiking!