I grew up watching TV shows with beautifully poised, coiffed mother-figures like June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Claire Huxtable, and heck, even Wilma Flintstone. They always had the right thing to say at the right time with the right hair, make up, and clothes. That was the kind of mother I wanted to be.
And then I had kids.
Those TV supermoms didn’t have children with toes poking out of their socks while wearing their t-shirts tag-side-out. They didn’t take their kids out in public with half their PBJ sandwich contents dried onto their cheeks.
I’m pretty sure their family vehicle didn’t host remnants of the previous six months’ snacks, Happy Meal toys, Lego heads, broken crayons, and a missing tooth lodged between the van’s seat cushions.
When we lived in L.A. I knew a real-live mother of eight that was like those famous TV moms.
She was the beautiful matriarch of a model family that occupied an entire church pew. Amelia’s eight perfect angel children sat politely through the whole service while I wrestled with the dilemma of taking my two kids to the children’s rooms where they would scream their heads off like I had dropped them off to get their limbs removed. It was that or try desperately to entertain them in the sanctuary without looking (or sounding) like I was trying to entertain them in the sanctuary.
Of course Amelia’s hair was coiffed and her clothes matched. In addition, she “encouraged” a few of us other moms by explaining how much her husband (who worked from home) appreciated that she had the whole house spot-cleaned and vacuumed every morning by 9:00 AM in case her hubby had clients coming to the house. Oh yeah, and she fed everyone a nutritious hot breakfast too. Every day.
When I was pregnant with number three I wanted to know her secret, so I began the conversation by asking her, “Amelia, don’t your kids ever drive you crazy?” She looked me in the eyes with concern (pity?) and simply replied, “No.” End of conversation.
Dejected, I surrendered my idea of being like a TV mom or even a supermom wanna-be. The harder I tried, the less “super” and more exhausted I felt. Instead, I began to make messes with my kids, including oozing science experiments, pungent kitchen fiascos, and finger paints for handprints and footprints. Our home was lived-in yet functional, our fridge was covered with kid projects, and I usually (okay, sometimes) got the laundry done before we ran out of socks.
I decided to store our bowls and cereal boxes in bottom shelves so the kiddos could help themselves to breakfast. (Most cereal is fortified, you know.) I also decided to forgo any semblance of “coiffed” and instead donned sweatpants for our school days. My “homeschool uniform” consisted of said sweatpants, a fleece, crocs, and a blanket wrapped around my body so that I looked more like a walking green burrito than a mother of three humans. (This is still my favorite outfit, BTW.)
Those perfect TV moms I had previously emulated were no longer part of the equation. I also surrendered attaining “perfect Amelia” status (God bless her). We did, however, master the art of concocting a perfect mint milkshake and a perfect imitation of Morgan Freeman’s iconic voice saying, “Everybody poops.”
We had fun just being together. We brought books and boardgames to the park on school days, cannonballed off swimming rafts, erected snowy igloos in honor of the Eskimos, randomly initiated one-note four-part harmonies, and jointly crafted nonsensical poems about chewing gum and bean-farming insults (don’t ask).
A supermom’s cape is invisible. Other supermoms can see it because they wear a cape too. That cape flaps in the breeze while mom drives the messy, mystery-odored family van with the windows down and “Disney Silly Songs” blaring. It sparkles in the sun as mom sprays her kids with the garden hose while they run through the Slip ‘n Slide in the backyard. The cape frames her messy bun while she rakes leaves into a pile so the kids can leap into it with a single bound. And it provides cozy warmth while she is reading to her children snuggled on the couch, intentionally ignoring the dishes piled up in the kitchen sink.
What does it take to be a supermom? Not what I thought. Supermoms trade perfection for play, control for connection, and appearances for experiences.
If you want to be a supermom, simply fasten your invisible cape onto your shoulders and enjoy the journey.
(And by the way, that cape looks great with sweatpants.)