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March 14, 2019

The Harmful Idea of Supermom

The Harmful Idea of Supermom

We’ve all heard the word “supermom,” which typically refers to a mother who can maintain all domestic duties alongside a full-time job or a mother that goes above and beyond in providing for herself and her family. While the idea of a supermom can seem like something to strive for, it’s often an unrealistic ideal that comes with serious consequences.

What Is a Supermom?

In one article, supermom is defined as a mother who wakes up “bright and early, cooks the kids a nutritious breakfast from scratch, drives them to school, commutes to the office, does errands over lunch, picks up the kids, does chores, and tucks them into bed.” In addition to being the perfect parent and employee, the supermom is also the perfect spouse. She exercises to maintain the “ideal” body, eats well, and is always available to support her partner when needed. While these aren’t necessarily bad traits, it’s nearly impossible for any one person to achieve this standard of living.

Why the Idea of Supermom Is Harmful?

Supermom Hurts Moms.

The supermom trope is an unrealistic ideal that hurts women. With so many impractical expectations already placed on girls and women, the supermom trope is yet another ideal that we often can’t meet. The idea that women need to reach supermom status perpetuates the idea that mothers need to be perfect or else they are failing those around them.

This is also reminiscent of the thin ideal—where women who do not adhere to the “ideal” body type are often viewed as less than. The truth is, perfect doesn’t exist, especially in parenting. We can’t all be the “perfect” parents or have the “perfect bodies,” but that doesn’t mean that what we are bringing to the table isn’t equally as important. By forcing ourselves to meet an unattainable standard of perfection, we are isolating ourselves from others, from who we truly are, and from the amazing talents and traits we do have.

Supermom Can Alienate Other Mothers.

We all know that no one is perfect. However, seeing someone try to adhere to the supermom trope may make you feel like it does exist—just not in you. It’s important to remember that no one is perfect, despite what they are showing to the world. Even apparent supermoms can’t do everything they are expected to do and if they can, it often comes at the expense of their wellbeing.

While we shouldn’t alienate mothers who strive to be supermoms, it’s important that we also recognize that this does not make them superior parents. It’s essential to remember that all mothers have different values—and that’s okay! If you find yourself judging other mothers, take a step back, breathe, and remember each mother is doing the best they can with the knowledge and skills that they have. Instead of spending time focusing on what others are doing, turn that attention to yourself and reflect on what you are doing well and where you are seeking growth.

Supermom Hurts Partners.

By maintaining the supermom position in the household, individuals may be unknowingly perpetuating the myth of the “clueless dad” in a heterosexual relationship. If supermoms take on all of the responsibilities, the other parent often falls to the wayside and doesn’t have to engage in parenting duties, despite their capability to do so. This one-sided parenting may place strain on relationships and model an antiquated notion that women are the primary caretakers. By divvying up household duties in a way that makes sense for your relationship, you can promote autonomy, partnership, and support each other’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

Supermoms Get Sick.

It’s no secret that supermoms aren’t immune to illnesses. One important illness to note in supermoms is disordered eating. The idea that supermoms must maintain perfection in their household, diet, and body image is a disastrous ideal that may lead to an eating disorder. Supermoms often are at risk for eating disorders because of their drive for perfection, concern with outward appearance, and desire to control their lives. This need for control may manifest in restrictive or binge eating. In addition, supermoms often don’t have the time it takes to maintain a “perfect” body and this may cause them to find other ways to manifest that ideal such as restricting or purging.

What Can We Do to Change the Supermom Narrative?

  1. Be honest. It’s okay to struggle, to not do everything perfectly, or to ask for help. By being honest with those around you and asking for support when you need it, you can show others that it’s okay to ask for help and that no mom is perfect. By being honest, you are modeling self-acceptance.
  2. Share your story. It’s okay to talk about your shortcomings or frustrations. By opening up with other parents or by blogging about your experience with parenting, we can break down the myth that supermoms exist.
  3. Show your children it’s okay to not be perfect. If you make a mistake in parenting, it’s okay to talk to your children about it. This transparency will demonstrate to kids that making mistakes is okay as long as you can learn and grow from them.
  4. Seek support. If you are struggling with perfectionism or an eating disorder, reach out for help as soon as possible. Treatment centers like The Emily Program can help get you started on a road to recovery where you can regain health and wellbeing.
  5. Know what does make you a supermom. We all have traits that make us super parents. Write a list of ways you a great parent and use it to remind yourself of your good qualities on the days that you are struggling. It’s important to know that while we can’t be good at everything, we can be great at lots of things!

For those struggling with disordered eating, The Emily Program is here for you. With warm, welcoming care, we offer a variety of treatment levels to help you get your life back on track. If you are ready to start recovery, reach out to us at 1-888-364-5977 or visit us online.

Get help. Find hope.