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Supermum Phenomenon


Are you stuck in a Supermum vortex?

Being called a Supermum is supposed to be a light-hearted compliment … but is it helpful?

The definition of Supermum *may* include a daunting long-list of superparent powers such as: 🔻maintaining a happy, calm disposition 24/7, 🔻'always’ patiently managing difficult child behaviour and giving them your undivided attention every waking moment, 🔻becoming a top chef offering full nutritional bento box menus every day with home-cooked/baked delicacies that are politely received and enjoyed by your kids, 🔻being an organised event manager, delivering a pinterest-inspired experience of social and stimulating creative activities, 🔻providing your kids with high fashion clothing and the latest toys, 🔻living in a spotless, tidy house that looks like you hire an hourly professional cleaner, 🔻feeling motivated to exercise every.single.day & run marathon events 🔻possibly working in a high powered career to role model success to your children 🔻altruistically volunteering for community groups and charities in your ‘spare time’ 🔻all while maintaining a passionate ‘Notebook’ movie-inspired romantic relationship with your partner …. Like the ad… YEAH RIGHT.

Well-meaning friends/acquaintances often use the Supermum term to praise others who ‘seem’ to be coping well. However, it can show a lack of understanding about the subtleties of what is really going on behind the scenes. Comparisons mostly consist of assumptions made from snapshots.

These snapshots can neglect to acknowledge your (and your child/ren’s!): 🔸current internal battles managing your emotions, 🔸hard work and determination, 🔸inherent personality, temperament and natural talents, 🔸engagement in self-care and your physical health status, 🔸resilience built from past experiences 🔸luck, opportunities and privileges, and 🔸your culture and social support.

If you were called a Supermum, it could positively reinforce and motivate you … or it could overwhelm you. Negatively, it may add undue pressure for you to uphold that external perception that you have it all sorted. This may eventually create anxiety as you strive for perfection. Perfection is unrealistic in any area of life, particularly parenthood which is unpredictable and uncontrollable in nature.

Being called a Supermum may also prevent you from expressing normal negative emotions and asking for support and validation. There needs to be honesty in these villages of mums, not a hierarchy or competition of who appears to be coping better.

📎TIPS if you find yourself striving for unrealistic Supermum status:

❗️Stop. Stop rushing. Stop excessive multi-tasking. Stop overcommitting to please others.

✔️ Start setting specific realistic goals – ask yourself: 🔹Is my goal attainable? 🔹Am I basing my self-worth on these achievements? 🔹Who am I trying to impress? 🔹What is urgent? What can I delay or delegate?

✔️Make a short to-do list, halve it and you might be left with an achievable amount to do. Allow extra time for these tasks. If you’re spared some extra time on your hands - great! Time for a café or beach break to reward yourself.

✔️Adjust your goals daily or even hourly. Tune into your emotions and energy levels in these regular check-ins. Say no to plans that don’t suit anymore.

✔️Acknowledge your strengths & limitations and work with them: e.g., Are you a morning person? Go out with your kids when you feel patient. If not, let them play around home or even pop the tv on for a short bit while you grab a cuppa. e.g., Are you creative with messy play at home or should you attend a playgroup which facilitates this? e.g., Are you the best mum you can be after you’ve had some adult stimulation from work and shared the childcare with others?

Meeting your child/ren’s needs is often more draining than you recognise. Take ‘short & sweet’ timeout to re-group and re-energise. Relaxation is non-negotiable in parenthood. Hint: exercising, being in nature, listening to music, dancing, reading, social catch ups, and pampering are all popular ideas.

Celebrate small successes. Praise yourself for specific positive behaviours and achievements rather than striving for a vague, overgeneralised label like Supermum. Writing a diary of examples demonstrating you are doing a ‘good/good enough’ job can also give you warm fuzzies and reinforce your efforts.

For praising others, I’m sure they would also prefer meaningful specific observations rather than inferences about their general coping ability e.g., “I love this yummy cake you brought along today” rather than “I don’t know how you fit in baking so much with the kids and your job – you’re such a Supermum”. Eeek - so.much.pressure in one sentence. You may not be aware of the struggles she had in the process.

Parents are often doing their best, kids are often well-loved so let’s be mindful of the dangers of connotations associated with terms like Supermum. Especially when you may feel most vulnerable in your transition to the new and often challenging role of being a mother.

Contact me if you would like to book a session to manage your anxiety and/or depression more effectively.


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Dr Sarah Bell-Booth

Clinical Psychologist

0273462707

dr.sarah.bellbooth@gmail.com

Auckland, New Zealand

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© 2020 by Dr Sarah Bell-Booth. Illustrations by Jay Allen