I am not a SuperMom. Sure, I've played her once or twice on Facebook (Why yes, those are organic muffins, made while my child played with homemade finger paints, after I folded eight loads of laundry and cleaned the bathrooms using eco-friendly ingredients from my own refrigerator!), but she still — for me, at least — remains an elusive character many of us love to hate and long to be.
I became a mom in the 21st century but was born in the early 1970s, not long after the burning-bra feminist movement took hold and long before the internet claimed our complete focus. My parents were hippies, complete with long hair and flower-child clothing and the requisite marijuana patch tucked between the sunflower and vegetable gardens. My mother admits her generation of parents had it easiest: outside your immediate circle, no one was watching (and more importantly, critiquing) how you mothered. Peanut butter sandwiches were a school lunch staple, and backyard birthday parties the norm with simple cakes and canned lemonade and homemade piñatas and real film cameras for pictures.
Now, with everything so easily shareable with a click, we have Facebook to offer exhaustive (and opinionated) parenting advice, Twitter to keep us abreast of every risk facing our children in real time, and Pinterest to make us realize that the seven-layer rainbow cake we made for our child's seventh birthday is now passé and not that impressive.
By the time we had our daughter in 2008, the world had changed completely. We had lived through 9/11 and the United States had its first black president and we had the convenience of the World Wide Web literally at our fingertips. Smartphones were tucked in every new mom's nursing bra, or in the pocket of a chic diaper bag, and social media sites — like Facebook — made it easy to share everything from your child's first steps to viral "what should we name our baby?" posts. It was impossible not to feel like you were failing in some area of your life on a daily basis, which was altogether a new and unwelcome feeling for me.
Before our daughter, I would have never believed the chaos a seven-pound, brand-new human could wreak on our lives.
Before our daughter, I would have never believed the chaos a seven-pound, brand-new human could wreak on our lives. How I would go from someone who could put in a full day at work, exercise, cook dinner leisurely with a glass of wine while having an uninterrupted conversation with her husband . . . to someone who poured the carton of egg whites on her cereal rather than milk, who thought success was taking a shower, who cried multiple times a day — sometimes for good reasons (breastfeeding woes), sometimes not (when Brad Carlton was killed off The Young & the Restless). I was confused how I went from SuperPerson to a, well, less-than-super-feeling mom.
And so — armed with social media and determination and desperation — I decided to give the SuperMom thing a try. We went to library time and music classes, all before she could sit up on her own. I published a post on my blog every day for the first year of her life. I became a baby-wearing expert, owning no fewer than six wraps I could whip across both our bodies so we could go forth and be productive, together. I designed a list of what I called "one-minute tasks" — things I could accomplish in 60 seconds or less (unload half the dishwasher, make a grocery list, return an email, fold a dozen laundered onesies, eat a banana) — so I had to-dos to check off. I tried my hand at homemade baby food, pureeing organic chicken breasts and sweet potato and only gagging a few times. I put her in the playpen so I could do lunges and crunches and push-ups beside her. I was doing it! Look at me go!
Then I went back to work, and the wheels fell off the bus (no longer going round and round, round and round, round and round). Gone were the baby-wearing trips and homemade food and minute tasks and exercise. Also gone was my ability to be as productive at work as I had been before — when you have to choose between an important client call and one from the daycare saying your daughter has a fever, there's only one you can reschedule. It was one of the most stressed-out times in my life, and no one was happy.
But the internet told me I could push through these dark days (our social identities are wily, lying types). There was proof in my social streams that other moms had figured it out. They could pack artist-worthy lunches into puzzle-like bento boxes and go to yoga and write homemade thank-you cards and squeeze in a bit of work and prepare a dinner full of antioxidant-rich veggies from their bountiful backyard garden, all while reading the classics with their three children before bed. If they could do it, so could I. Right?
So I became that mom who, for Valentine's Day, chopped up dozens of unused crayon pieces to melt into rainbow-colored heart-shaped crayon molds to hand out to her class. The next year we made birdseed feeders (also heart shaped), which was messy and took enough time that I swore that was the end of my crafting for elementary school V-Day gifts. I'd pack her in the running stroller with snacks and jog around the neighborhood. We created DIY birthday cards using potato stampers and paint and a lot of patience. I perfected a low-sugar banana muffin recipe that had both avocado and zucchini hidden inside. I took carefully positioned photos for Instagram that showcased the Frozen-themed Elsa cake complete with homemade blue sugar "ice" shards, but hid the three destroyed attempts it took to make it presentable. I was doing it! Look at me go!
Now, if you're a mom, you've already figured out where this is going, right? The bottom line is that the organic pureed chicken (I still gag when I think of it), the seven-layer rainbow and Elsa cakes, the Valentine's Day crayons, the countless Insta photos showcasing a SuperMom existence that was mostly for show . . . none of it really mattered, in the end. I'm now well into my 40s, my daughter is nearly 9 and wise — she regularly asks me not to post photos on social media — and I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary with Facebook, so I've learned a thing or two.
Mostly that I was never a SuperMom because of how many things I could check off at the end of a given day, or because I was Pinterest worthy — one time, for that damn Elsa cake — or because Instagram has some gorgeous, life-smoothing filters, but because however messy life was (is), my daughter is thriving. Moments of perfection are lovely — we need them to remind us that sometimes we CAN do it all — but it's the imperfections that make us relatable, good mothers. Our kids are going to be just fine as long as we can do three things: love them, listen to them, and be present for them. No one needs Pinterest for that.
Right now my daughter is still young enough (both in size and desire) to snuggle into my lap early in morning when we wake up, and though I don't fit the social media criteria for SuperMom (and never will), I know I'm Super in her book. Look at me go! I'm doing it!
Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and international bestselling author of Come Away With Me and The Choices We Make. When she's not mulling plot lines, she can be found running with her husband, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, and perfecting her banana bread recipe. Karma lives just outside of Toronto with her family. Her third novel In This Moment, hits shelves on May 30, 2017.