The Secret Life of a "Supermom"

Meet Debbie

As a little girl Debbie dreamt about having a career, getting married, creating a family.  She went to college, worked hard, graduated. She began a career in advertisement, which she loved, and started to advance to higher level positions within her industry.

Debbie found a great guy, Mike, whom she married and swore to love forever.  They had a great relationship, were pretty stable financially, and within a couple of years after getting married decided it was time to start a family.  

Debbie and Mike welcomed their first baby, and life was never the same again.  Debbie was so excited to become a mother and even though nobody had taught her how to be a mom, she promised herself that she was going to be the best mom on the planet to her kid.  

The journey of motherhood

Life was sweet but got a little stressful as Debbie navigated all the ins and outs of being a mom and a wife, while building a career in advertisement.  It was stressful and exhausting, but Debbie kept right on because she was committed to pursuing career success and to be the best mom and wife she could be.  She was determined to do it all and have it all.

The pressure builds

Within a couple of years a second baby came.  Debbie and Mike were ecstatic to add a new member to their family and adored their kids.  Life got even busier as Debbie navigated the transition to being a mother of two while also being a supportive wife and working.  Her days became a blur of work meetings, projects, preschool drop offs and pickups, making dinner, running errands, tidying up, baths and bedtimes, and then falling into bed exhausted each night, having barely enough energy to talk with her husband, let alone make love.  Rinse and repeat.

In the midst of her busyness, Debbie felt guilty for not being as present as she wanted to be for her family.  She longed for more quality time, but there was so much to do between work and home. She did not want to stop working, as she loved her job, plus she and Mike could not afford their current lifestyle with one income.  The guilt also stopped Debbie from taking time for herself, as she felt that she was already gone enough due to work.

As the kids got older and got into school their schedules became even busier with homework, birthday parties, school functions, and extracurricular activities.  Debbie managed to switch to a position that was not what she really wanted, but it offered a paycheck, benefits, and flexibility in her schedule. With this “extra time” she could even volunteer for the kids’ school activities sometimes, and she said “yes” to helping out whenever she was asked.  

With so much to do Debbie began to see her friends less and less, giving all her free time to her family.  Her social life consisted of time at the office and the casual conversations she had with other moms at her kids’ school.  She missed the heartfelt, honest conversations she would have with her two best friends, both of whom were busy with their own families. The workouts she used to enjoy were slowly replaced with trying to catch up on missed sleep.  Debbie was constantly on the go, rushing from place to place, feeling pretty overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. But she pressed on because, what else is a good mother supposed to do?

Burnout

Other working mothers she knew were on the same boat, so Debbie figured that this is just how it is as a 21st century mom.  She began to experience increasing anxiety, headaches, tearfulness, irritability, and had zero sex drive. She began to have a glass or two of wine in the evenings to take the edge off and help calm down the racing thoughts that kept her awake at night.   And oh how she resented those stay-at-home moms who didn’t even have to work and seemed to have all the time in the world to cook and clean, and do crafts with their kids, and volunteer for every activity at school.

Debbie’s doctor prescribed a medication to help with the anxiety and the irritability, and another one to help her sleep.  Several moms she knew seemed to be on medication anyway, so she thought it wasn’t a big deal.

Resignation

Debbie figured that she just needed to get used to the idea that this is what her life would be like until her kids went off to college.  She would then launch her children into the world and see the product of all those years of sacrifice. Then she would have lots of free time for herself to write that novel she always dreamed of writing, or start the advertising agency that she planned to create one day, or perhaps even take those French cooking classes.  Once the kids were grown she and her husband could take that romantic European vacation they had talked about for years, and have all the time in the world for each other. Maybe.

The “supermom” myth and mommy burnout

Can you resonate with Debbie’s story?  Debbie’s story is a classic example of the “supermom” myth in action.  Debbie clearly did her best the show up as the best mom and the best person she could be.  And yet it is also plain to see that all of her hard work came at a significant physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual cost.

Debbie’s experience is characteristic of what Dr. Sheryl Ziegler calls “mommy burnout,” and it is more common than you may realize.  Unfortunately because it is so common, many women have come to accept this as “normal.”

Consider, however, the long term impact of living this way.  Can we really expect to give our best to our kids even as we deplete ourselves and neglect our own physical, emotional and spiritual needs?  Is it possible to maintain healthy and happy marriages and friendships when we don’t make them a priority? Can we truly hope to inspire our kids to pursue their dreams even as we bury our own dreams under a mantle of martyrdom?   

A call to change

If you find that you’re in the throes of mommy burnout do not despair.  I’m here to tell you that you do not have to accept “mommy burnout” as your “normal.”  Realize that “normal” does not mean “good” or “unchanging.” Many things have been considered common and “normal” at one point or another, but that never meant that they were OK.  Take slavery, for example, or the fact that a hundred years ago women could not vote, or buy property on their own. Those things all changed overtime, thanks to certain people deciding that they would no longer tolerate it and taking action to make a change.

When it comes to motherhood, you have the power to create a different experience than that of a  burnt out “supermom.” In fact, you can be a fantastic mom, wife, and human being when you honor and prioritize your needs as a woman and a human being.

How do you do that?  Read on!

Time for a “reset”

As human beings we have infinite ability to change and grow, no matter what stage of life we’re in.  The advantage is, of course, that the sooner we correct our trajectory the sooner we and those close to us can reap the rewards of that change.  And change starts with a decision and a commitment, followed by action.

Today you have an opportunity to begin a new story of motherhood, one in which you recognize and meet your needs, are authentically you, love yourself as you are, honor and pursue the things that bring you joy, nurture key relationships in your life, and show up as the absolute best mother, wife, and human that you can be while feeling happy and fulfilled.

Often times an intense, immersive experience can be just the catalyst to set change into motion by deepening our level of awareness, bringing us inspired insight, and solidifying our resolve, thereby speeding up our progress toward the outcome that we want to create.  I have been through several such transformative experiences and have felt the power that they can have. I also believe that when it comes to our lives, and the lives of our kids, time is of the essence. Therefore, anything we can do to move forward right now is an opportunity to be taken.

If you are ready for a change and want to gain clarity and receive support to bring more calm, joy, confidence and fulfillment into your motherhood experience and your life, I invite you to give yourself a few days of serenity and restoration at the Restore and Grow Experiential Retreat for Moms.  This experience offers you the chance to connect with nature, with yourself, with amazing women like you, and with supportive mentors who can help guide you toward your best life. Give yourself this opportunity. You’ll be glad you did!


Dr. Raquel Muller