The always funny Kyran Pittman of Notes to Self (and soon to be Kyran Pittman of Planting Dandelions, her upcoming book) was grumbling on Twitter the other day about the term “Supermom.” I myself have raged about the Supermom concept the odd time, particularly during those times of the year when I feel like I’m being forced to enter the Mommy Olympics (I will always feel encouraged by my Aunt Ruth’s comment on that post, that she wouldn’t even have qualified for the Mommy Special Olympics — especially as she managed to raise two wonderful people to a happy healthy adulthood).
I went into an extended rant about this just about the time Chris “graduated” from Grade Six last year. I thought I was being amazing, having been on the parent committee for the “graduation” party, buying him a shirt and tie that matched each other, giving a little two-minute “Tribute from Parents” talk at the ceremony, and getting the afternoon off work to, you know, show up. For some reason I was overwhelmed with inadequacy when I found out a few days later that for the last day of school, two moms had arranged a special “End of Grade Six” swimming party at the Aquarena complete with snacks, etc., for all the Grade Sixes. I assumed they had just arranged to bring all the kids to the afternoon swim and serve some junk food in the party room afterwards, but later I found out no, they had actually RENTED the place for a party so it was JUST the Grade Sixes there. They rented. The Aquarena.
How to compete with that?
You don’t, of course, unless you’re crazy and you actually think parenting is a competitive event. But that was the point at which I officially lost it and delivered a big speech to my kids about how, unlike the moms who threw the party, I Am Not Supermom. I am Pretty Good Mom, and I hope I am aiming low enough that I might actually hit the target.
As a result, Emma made me the bead necklace which you see me modelling in the picture above.
Most of the time, I’m OK with being Pretty Good Mom. I’ve never felt the need to compete on many of the levels moms stress themselves out about: perfect hand-sewn Hallowe’en costumes (don’t make me laugh!); home-baked cookies sent to child’s school (I do bake, but not for export); nutritious organic lunches grown in my own garden patch (ha ha ha ha ha. I ❤ supermarkets).
But the fact is, secretly, I do want to be Supermom. I think we all do. Not necessarily the mom who rents the local pool for the class party or the mom who hand-crafts gifts for her child’s teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week … most of us are at the level of mental health where we know we can step away from the things that aren’t Our Calling and not worry about it. At least, I hope we are. I think I am.
I want to be Supermom not because I want to be perfect, but because I want to turn out perfect kids. And again, I don’t mean this in the sense of kids who are overachievers in every area of life, little Einsteins … I mean, I want to end this process having produced happy, reasonably well-adjusted, healthy adults, who make it across the rough waters of adolesence to the shore of adulthood without having their little boats capsized by addiction, teen pregnancy, depression, bullying, legal troubles, or completely severing themselves from the family unit and holing up in their rooms with the doors closed from ages 13 to 17. I want them to grow up to have jobs and like their jobs, to marry and love their partners, to have faith and love God, to be productive and responsible and not ever, ever get cancer or get hit by a bus.
I guess what I want is for them to have perfect lives, and when they get nicely settled into those perfect lives, to say, “Thank you, Mom! You and Dad made this all possible. You gave us everything we needed, taught us every important lesson, trained us to become the people we are today! All Hail Supermom!!”
They don’t have to actually say the words “All Hail Supermom.”
Some days I really do feel Supermomish. This long holiday weekend I let both of them invite a friend for a sleepover and I managed to get supper AND brunch on the table, take the kids out to a wholesome family movie, and arrange for everyone to have a pretty good time. That’s super enough for me. Then, within minutes of their friends leaving, an altercation with one of my darling offspring was followed by Stressful Homework Time with the other. I could have handled both situations so so so much better, and it all left me feeling like Barely Adequate Mom.
And the fact is, I feel that way a lot. I lose my temper at them. They lose their tempers at me. They encounter obstacles that I’m not able to sweep out of their way, or train them to effortlessly leap over. I think I should get Emma to make me a new necklace. Barely Adequate Mom sounds good. For my worst days, we can keep one called Totally Ineffective Mom.
Someone had cause to remind me the other day of Philip Larkin’s profane but oh-so-true poem that starts: “They f@#* you up, your mum and dad.” That line’s carved on my brain, but I’d forgotten that the second line is: “They may not mean to but they do.” Which is even more depressing, because it means (and, I think, is correct in its analysis) that even us Pretty Good Parents who really do try our best and have the best of intentions, are still going to damage our offspring one way or another.
Since I have not taken the advice with which Larkin ends the poem (“Get out as early as you can / And don’t have any kids yourself”) I am left to muddle through as best I can, hoping to minimize the damage to them and to me.
I really hope this is not just me. I hope all the Pretty Good Moms (and Dads!) out there feel like this sometimes. Do we all have days when we aspire to be Pretty Good Parent, and fall short and feel like Barely Adequate Parent? I hope so. Because sometimes, Barely Adequate Mom, trying not to screw up the kids too badly — is all I got.