I hear it all the time. "I don't know how you do it." "I could never do all the things you do." "How do you find the time?" And almost always, the conversation ends with a frustrated sigh. "Well, I'm a failure. I guess we can't all be supermom."
Here's my secret:
I don't actually do it all!!
As most of you know, I have this silly little brain tumor that sometimes messes with the way my body functions. There are days when I literally can't get out of bed, because the signals get crossed on the way from my brain to my muscles, and I can't always control my limbs. I can't raise my voice without getting light-headed. When I hear fighting or screaming, my muscles start shutting down, one-by-one, and if I don't manage to walk away from or stop the contention soon enough, I'll end up passed out on the floor. The list goes on, but you get the point. There are plenty of things that I simply can't do, no matter how much I wish I could.
I learned, years ago, when the symptoms of living with this brain tumor started intruding on my life, that I could choose to push myself beyond the point of exhaustion, trying to do things I wasn't physically capable of doing "because these are things a good mother does," or I could let some things go and live a happier life.
And here's another little secret: Even though I know that I've chosen well, in letting some things slide, I sometimes fall into the trap of feeling like a total failure, because other moms seem to have it all together. We all do it. We pick out the places within ourselves where we are weakest and compare those weaknesses to the greatest strengths of our friends and acquaintances.
Ironically, I think that my "supermom" reputation has grown out of my limitations. Because I'm not physically able to do everything for them, my children have had to learn to do so many things for themselves, and their successes reflect back on me....
When the kids were very young (6, 4, 2 and newborn), my husband was stationed overseas for a year, leaving me to play the single parent role. And one morning, I couldn't get my arms and legs to work properly, but someone had to do the laundry, or we would have nothing to wear. So I sat on the couch with the baby and gave directions to the other three children. Even the two-year-old was able to perform small tasks, like pulling all of the towels and jeans out of the hamper and sorting them into a pile. Or separating the whites from the colors. And with a chair pulled up to the washing machine, they could reach to put the clothes into the wash, one load at a time. The kids were thrilled to be doing "grown-up" work, even bragging to their friends that they got to do the laundry all by themselves. (By the time hubby came home again, at the end of the year, the kids were so practiced in the chore that doing the laundry was no longer "mom's job.")
And my biggest Supermom secret: I'm not last on my priority list!
I think too many women have fallen into the trap of believing that it's selfish to do things for themselves. We push our dreams and desires to the bottom of the priority list, and we tell ourselves that we can get to those things only if we first complete everything else on the to-do list. The problem is, we'll never get to the end of that to-do list. There will always be something else to do for someone else. And it's good to focus outward on others. But we can't do that all the time. Because you can't draw water from an empty well. And if we don't take time to refill our stores, eventually, we'll dry up completely. We'll have nothing left to give.
Yes, there are plenty of household chores that I can perform better or quicker by doing them myself. I don't care. Often, the dishes pile up in the sink, and the clean, unfolded laundry sits in a basket for days. And our house is almost never sparkling-clean. But I'm not going to apologize for it. Because I've learned that sometimes, being a supermom means letting go of the unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves and taking time for what really matters. And if I only have an hour between appointments and errands and other pressing commitments, I'd rather spend that hour writing than washing dishes (that's what paper plates are for)!