Rejecting the Supermom Ideal

Source: google.com via Cait on Pinterest

 

Photo: Super Mom Action Figure

I am so tired of it. Of pursuing it. Of coveting it. Of believing it is even possible. No more. From now I am rejecting the myth of everything. It has no place in my life anymore. – Capital Mom

On the weekend I read ‘the myth of everything’ from a fellow Canadian writer and mom. The blog post was circulating via Twitter from several writers/mothers/bloggers that I follow and admire. And though this was the first piece of writing I had ever read from the Capital Mom I immediately identified with her words.

There are only so many hours in the day, only so many days in a life, and I want to spend them pursuing happiness. My life doesn’t look like the pages of Real Simple or a handmade/homemade vision board on Pinterest. It looks like my life. Flawed, with windows that only get cleaned when company is coming (if that!) but filled with people and passions that I love: my family, writing, sharing, my pursuit of the elusive pull-up, travel.

A nice trickle down effect from rejecting possessions has been the rejection of a lot of things I once thought I should do. When I got rid of the stuff my dreams got bigger. Bigger dreams and goals equaled a more focused life. Focus sometimes meant smaller but deeper. More time and energy for the people closest to me. Lately I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, a favourite hobby, and less time doing my hair (bit of a fail on the 2011 challenge but, hey, priorities change). Without all the stuff – the ownership of it, the pursuit of it, the stress of it – I have better clarity. I know who and what I want to spend my time on.

I really enjoyed reading Capital Mom’s account of her breakthrough. Who doesn’t love reading about someone passionately taking their life back? I read her post and nodded my head and thought, yes, this is it.

Capital Mom wrote that she is prioritizing three things in her life and letting go of the rest:

Smack is the sound of my clean house falling to the ground. Splat goes the list of all the things I think I should be doing with my life.  Boom can be heard as I let other’s expectations of me fall away. – Capital Mom

I thought I would share my three things, the things I embrace, love and that give me joy every day. Yes, I still have bathrooms to clean and at the moment a backlog of laundry, but these are the things I put at the top of my list

Family

My mom just visited for a week. She left today and I had a few weepy moments this morning ruminating on the fact that Henry and I won’t see her regularly for the next few years. This is the hard side of moving overseas. Skype and visitors make it tolerable. We’ll also be heading back to Vancouver at least once a year for a two week stretch.

I have let some more casual friendships slip away, or go into remission you might say, to focus on family. I deleted my personal Facebook account back in January (still don’t regret it!) so most of my online contact outside of this blog is with a few very close friends and immediate family. Instead of surfing Facebook I lurk Skype in the afternoon hoping to catch my West Coast kin and friends before they head to work. I love it. The other day I chatted with my good friend in Seattle and our two boys said hello to each other through computer screens. Technology can do some beautiful things for us.

Health

I’m back in the gym doing Crossfit workouts (and getting some strange looks as I do Burpees and Sumo Deadlift High Pulls), walking a lot (as we do with no car) and running a few times a week. I’m also getting great sleep and am in the process of changing my diet. I’ll probably write about it here at a later date but I’m trying to eat mostly single ingredient unprocessed foods. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and meat. I’m reading a lot about nutrition and trying to listen intently to my body to see what makes me feel best.

Writing

I confessed, actually kind of whispered, a while back that I want to write as a career. I want to earn a living as a writer but I also want to write every day. I want to make it a habit and a profession. It’s still a work in progress but I’m getting there. Slowly, day by day, word by word, I’m working at the craft of it and learning more about freelancing as a career.

 

I try and build my days around these three pillars. Some days I’m focused and efficient and at the top of my game. Some days it hits 4pm and I wonder where it all went. I’m not a Supermom. Just me.

Do you have a priority list like this? Anyone have a family mission statement or personal mission statement that they use to decide where to put time and energy?

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Comments

  1. Alison Gresik says

    Ah, so cool that you found Capital Mom through this post. She’s been a close friend for years, and I know that her dropping “the myth of everything” has been a long process and not an overnight decision, and I’m really excited to see where she takes it.

    Isn’t it so heartening when you see women around you with similar values (family, community, simplicity, art) coming to the same conclusions?

    I have also found that dropping stuff has been a much better alternative to “getting on top of everything”. And my personal mission statement is this:

    Every day I create art that tells the truth, I make choices that honour myself and Spirit, and I enjoy the pleasures of life, so that I may experience myself as joy.

    (BTW, I love hearing the whispered confession of your desire to make a living as a writer. Welcome along.)

    • theminimalistmom says

      The world feels small some days. I was reading through the comments on Capital Mom’s post, saw yours, and the Ottawa connection clicked. Thank you for sharing your personal mission statement here – lovely and so nice to see/read from your website that you are living it. :)

  2. Michelle says

    I loved this post. I’m not a mom and I’m lucky to not have some expectation to be a “Superwife,” but I do feel the daily expectation to be some superhuman entity who can balance work, marriage, a demanding cat – all while keeping a clean house and a sparkling personal appearance. (I write this, FYI, from my home office in my jammies.)

    I sent a link to this post to my husband. I think he gets my passion for decluttering our house, but I think this outlines some of the fringe benefits of adopting a minimalist lifestyle … getting priorities in check.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks, Michelle. So right, decluttering and slowing down does help you realign your day to day living with your big pciture priorities and values.

      Home office + jammies sounds great! I do a bit of that in the early morning before my son is up.

  3. Linda says

    I’ve never tried to be a Supermom, I just wanted to be a Stay-at-Home Mom. Now that our youngest is a senior in high school, I need to find a new title but the house is full of stuff to go through, and it’s holding me back. I’ve read a lot about organizing and simplifying, and have bursts of purging, followed by shopping. About a month ago, I googled minimalism and found your blog. I want to thank you for helping me to look at my things in a new way, and for giving me fresh motivation.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thank you for your kind words, Linda. Sounds like you are on the verge of an exciting life shift. My mom started a new career outside of the home in her early 50′s. 12 years later she has a career she loves and has been promoted several times. Good luck to you on your decluttering!

      • Linda says

        In spite of my short-comings, our 4 oldest children are college graduates and are doing very well, 3 are married, and we’re grandparents. More importantly, I love my children and they love me (clutter and all). I’ve been a mom for 31 years and I’m still crazy about my kids. The only thing “wrong” with them is that they live so far away. I miss them. My ideal priorities are God-others-myself. Lately I feel that even God is telling me to get rid of my stuff!

  4. Minimalist Mommi says

    I too get caught up in being “SuperMom.” I now figure people will take me or leave me, so perfection got the boot. I’m currently trying to figure out my priorities and what direction I want life to take. I’m trying to think that having my boys (both VERY unplanned) was a blessing in disguise because it’s giving me time to possibly go a new path rather than on the intensely scholastic path I was headed.

    So glad that there are so many other moms out there saying “screw it” to perfecting motherhood!

    • theminimalistmom says

      I’m trying to play to my strengths and then mitigate my lack of skills/motivation in other areas. I’m not really into crafts so we just have some basics here for colouring. Henry gets his craft time at nursery (daycare) a few mornings a week. Other confessions from this un-perfect mom: some days he just eats a bunch of snacks (fruit, cheese, crackers) for lunch while in the stroller on the way back from the morning activity.

  5. Capital Mom says

    Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your list. It is very close to mine, including the inclusion of writing, but shh I am only going to whisper that to you and not admit it out loud. I also want to thank you for letting me know that the post speaks to you. That means a lot.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thank you for writing and sharing your words. They struck a nerve and I kept going back to read your post one more time. My mother has just visited for a week and I pretty much let the housework and laundry pile up. We cooked, walked, visited, watched BBC docs on tv and took my son to the beach. My kitchen floor needs a good scrub but sometimes living trumps being Supermom.

  6. Bliss says

    Single mom. Two kids, both girls. Global perspective. I learned a big lesson in my recent move to more urban quarters from the suburban dream home. Minimalism is a relative concept. It boils down to having less stuff than space. Emptiness has a meaningful purpose. I found your blog through a tweet. Nicely timed. I just hauled a closetful of outgrown toys to Goodwill. I’ve still got some work to do! Shrinking the space has drawn our family closer. I like it a lot. We’re cooking all our meals from scratch now.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Agreed: minimalism is a relative concept. By a lot of standards we aren’t true minimalists. We own far more than 100 things. But getting rid of A LOT of our stuff and even moving into a smaller space has given us a better perspective on what our needs really are. And our needs have very little to do with things and a lot to do with people and having more time. Good luck in your urban digs!

  7. Kalista says

    What a great post! My husband have had a series of discussions about the same topic lately. We’re still figuring out exactly what out priorities are (other than our kids and each other, of course!) but we’re excited to make these changes!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  8. RebeccaTI says

    Hi! I’m not a huge blog reader, but I do follow minimalist mom. I’ve been lurking for a few months and thought I would finally leave a comment.

    I believe the internet in general (especially networking sites and blogs) makes it easier for people to project a false image. Most people want others to believe they have it all together because they would like to actually be that person and live that life. The internet has contributed to the myth of the supermom/superwoman actually existing, when in reality she doesn’t!

    That’s why I find this blog refreshing. You give great pointers and ideas on pairing down “stuff”, paying off debt and living a simpler life. But you never pretend you are perfect in those areas and you are always quick to admit you are a work in progress! Thank you for your honesty and humility! It is why I continue to follow this blog.

    • theminimalistmom says

      What a lovely comment. Thank you so much. I appreciate hearing that my message comes through in my writing. As you wrote, I’m not claiming perfection here but sharing our journey (the triumphs and the failures). The path to getting out debt, reducing your stuff and living intentionally isn’t a linear one.

  9. Starr says

    I needed this today. I just got back from playgroup where my kids are the only ones not in preschool or in music/dance/sports classes. It left me questioning if I’m doing the right thing. But now I feel better about the choices we’ve made for our family!

    • theminimalistmom says

      That’s another thing I am working on: not comparing. It’s so easy to just see a small slice of one family’s life and compare it to yours. Those children that are in all the classes might not get as much family time or, those parents have found that their children thrive in structured classes.

      We do a mix of things here: a few mornings of nursery (daycare), one music/action class a week, sometimes we visit a drop-in indoor gym, sometimes we go swimming or to the beach. Sometimes we stay at home for the afternoon and Henry puts a rock from the beach down a toiler paper tube 87 times while I fold laundry. You know your kids best :)

  10. D Sedivy says

    Thank you for this blog and your link to the article!!! So appropriate!!!
    PS: Is there any other way to get your book besides PayPal? Please let me know!

      • D Sedivy says

        I am sharing this with at least 3 moms as shower gifts and WANT/WILL/MUST send you a payment…I may have my coworker use her Paypal!!
        Thank you!

  11. Ian says

    Great post! You’re making excellent progress, but acknowledging honestly the areas where you’re not, and accepting it. That’s progress in itself!

  12. Suzanne says

    I love this. I call my style of mothering Gud enuf mothering. Similar principles although I am still working at putting my health nearer to the top of the list.

  13. Apple says

    I must say I still try and be a Supermum. Not at the “my kids never watch TV and eat sweets” state anymore (gave that up when first kid wasn’t even a year old:)), but still want to be a great mum to my kids, a great companion to my husband as well as work, study, try and cook from fresh ingredients every day, bake, keep the house clean, keep myself fairly presentable all day. Some days it is great to literately do nothing but play with the kids and eat pizza from TESCO in an untidy house though. :)

    • theminimalistmom says

      My mom was/is Supermum. Our house was kind of a shambles (six kids, one parent that worked) but my mom made things happen for us. I was really into sports and she always found the money to get us to a sports camp in the summer. When my sister and I started rowing she got up at 5am to drive us to practice. She told me I could be and do anything I set my mind to and I believed her.

      I want to be a Supermum too but ‘doing it all’ just isn’t going to happen. I’m not sure I will ever make Halloween costumes but I’ll always try to bake something from scratch for the Halloween party.

      • Apple says

        Your mom sounds wonderful. My mom was/is similar, maybe that’s why I feel I need to be a Supermom too.
        I need to work on being contented with not ‘doing it all’. ie. not being a great mom/housewife as well as having a demanding professional career. Especially, as my mom lacked in some things, which I know I do much better than she did.

    • Apple says

      I’m glad it worked out for you Jo. :)

      I kinda regret having my hair cut. Apart from the fact that it makes me appreciate long hair more, I hate having to wash it and dry it (or put it into ‘shape’ with hair-gel) every morning.

      (ps. Jo knows I got my long hair cut to very short in Sept)

      • KT says

        I agree – I chopped my shoulder length curly hair and went from running out the door in a pony tail, to having to wet and gel my hair daily to stop from looking like ronald mcdonald…. it may work for most, but short hair was horrible on me

  14. B-Man says

    “There are only so many hours in the day, only so many days in a life, and I want to spend them pursuing happiness.”

    Okay so I am not trying to be super mom so I can’t speak to that but the point you made above, everyone seemed to be talking about it today, starting with me. Where I work we all dread Monday. Is this how I want to live? Always waiting for the weekend?

    It is a bitch trying to find that work/life balance. Striving for some idea of perfection is impossible no matter the venue. And the stress of not getting there takes so much joy out of my life. I have to realise that at some point it has to be good enough. Now if I can just get my boss to see it that way.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Everybody’s working for the weekend. – Lover Boy

      Having been in the 9-5 grind, I understand. Until the job prior to having Henry, I was working for the weekend almost every week. It sucked. But then I got a job I enjoyed, and while it wasn’t paradise I liked it. I liked the people I worked with and I liked the projects I worked on. Not to say I didn’t have bad days or long weeks but most Mondays I was quite happy to arrive at my desk and get started on the week. What changed? I was working for a great company, I was working on short and long term projects varying from hours to months. There was a work cycle and completion and accolades and learning. It wasn’t assembly line stuff. I think it suited my abilities and interests more than any previous job. And my coworkers were interesting, funny people that I learned a lot from.

      So… do you change jobs or do you change your attitude? Rowing coach used to say at the boathouse he had a nice break from his family and with his family he had a nice break from the boathouse. Essentially: enjoy where you are at at that moment.

  15. melanie says

    The whole Supermom myth is really just that isn’t it – a myth. It makes me a little crazy when I think about it because I would like a cleaner house but I know myself well enough that “clean house” is always below Family, Cooking & Writing on my list. It is a hard myth to let go of though. These days I’m just trying to get us all dressed and clean in the mornings and then move on from there.

    • theminimalistmom says

      I also feel like certain seasons of your life will be messier than others. You have two small children who probably both still need help getting dressed. As they get older things will change. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I have a young son and my aim for house cleanliness is ‘good enough’ not sparkling. I vacuum twice a week so outside of those days there will be crumbs on the floor, possibly a stray raisin or three.

  16. Dara says

    Excellent article! Thank you! My personal three are family, health, and god. Letting go of others expectations of me (including my own, and what I *think* others expect of me) has been the first step toward truly living my own life.

  17. Erin says

    Lots of great comments here. I don’t try to be anything I’m not – I’m just trying to be the best mom to my own kids and wife to my own husband that I can be. I think what’s offensive about the “Supermom” ideal is that it implies that you must be in competition with someone else (or multiple someone elses!) at all times – like my kids are the best dressed or the best in their soccer class or the best reader at school, or I make the best cupcakes, ad nauseum. I’m not competitive, so I don’t buy into that ideal, but I can see how some people can fall into living that way. Unfortunately, there’s never an end to the competition until you decide not to participate. I jokingly tell my friends that I like to set my kids’ expectations low, that way if we do something over the top they are really genuinely excited – there’s nothing worse than a sense of entitlement in a six year old. :) And you’re quite right – minimalism dovetails nicely with the rejection of pursuing things that don’t fulfill you.

  18. KT says

    Ahh the super mom – I spent years trying and was successful for a while, but when I got pregnant with my third child and was not sleeping (in doing all the things I ‘needed’ to do), and throwing up all day with morning sickness I almost had a break down. My husband insisted that I get help – my world crumbled as a ‘supermom’ does NOT need help.
    Fast forward several years… it is a struggle not to try and achieve everything that I want, but I try to remind myself I would rather do less things better, than more things that are sloppy.
    Plus now I try and outsource the cleaning to the kids!!!

  19. Jessica says

    I hear you! I took a break form Facebook and it’s been so wonderful! I have more time to spend doing the things that are important to me, like taking care of the people in MY HOUSE instead of caring about what my acquaintances feel like bragging or complaining about. Facebook never made me feel good. Why do keep using it?
    I’m a huge paleo/primal diet advocate and it sounds like that’s the direction you are going in. You will feel like a million bucks once you nail it down, and it’s nice to have that as a starting point. You don’t every have to be perfectly paleo (I’m mot) but it is a place to start from that helps me effortlessly maintain weight and eat well.

  20. Rachel Denning says

    I loved this post. I’m constantly working on doing this – cutting out what’s not important to me so I can focus on doing the things I do love. We even went to the extreme of moving out of a house and into our truck so we can eliminate house work and rent/mortgage payments and instead use that time and money to drive with our kids from Alaska to Argentina! We’re loving it. We get to spend time everyday doing amazing things (visited the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City yesterday) instead of cleaning my house!

    Thanks for writing this.

  21. Jennifer Lunde says

    Good for you about the diet. That is what most people should be eating. http://www.scdrecipe.com may be helpful for you. Not necessarily single foods, but healthy none-the-less. I follow the SCD diet for health reasons. Good luck! Sometimes cravings are hard, but I know it will bring not-so-fun consequences if I “cheat” on my diet.

    • theminimalistmom says

      SCD looks quite similar to what I am working towards (whole foods, no dairy, no legumes, no grains). I find when I am eating this way I sleep better, have more energy and fewer food cravings. It will be a slow journey as I try to change my habits so that we mostly eat this way all the time.

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