The myth of the supermum

SuperMum. She is that lady in the daytime ads for paper towels and other household products. Her home is immaculate, her hair always done, her kids are neat, and when little Timmy comes in caked in mud she simply tilts her head to the side and smiles, hands on hips. Ah, Timmy.

She sits on her sparkly white couch in her white pants  (a sure sign of a meticulously kept calendar) drinking tea and swapping organic baby food recipes with her SuperMum friends. You know her well, perhaps you even aspire to be her, but you know what? That bitch ain’t even real.

In the western world, we are fed this idea of motherhood. That a good mother is someone who willingly gives up her life and sacrifices her own wants and desires to be in service to her family. Mums who go back to work “early” or getaway on long vacations sans kids are often labelled as selfish. But if you can work from home, and tend to the kids, and keep a clean house for guests while serving up home-baked goods – all with a smile – then, congrats, you have reached SuperMum status. All praise be to SuperMum.

Seriously, have we even moved on from that painfully idyllic depiction of the 1940s housewife? The truth is, no one is SuperMum.

This is an image we see blaring at us from every television ad, every billboard, every magazine. Even if we ignore the SuperMum image she lives in our peripherals and influences our perception of motherhood. If you want a closer look at such depictions check out the hilarious It’s Like They Know Us. You won’t regret it.

Myth of the supermum - Katie Melbourne

So what is wrong with aspiring to perfection? Well, for one it is an unattainable goal. So many mums struggle with the drastic changes that becoming a parent brings to the everyday; to sleep, to your body, to your role in society, your life goals, your finances, to your very purpose in life. There is enough changes to stress you out without this pristine SuperMum image reminding us of how parenting life should look and how ours completely does not.

At the least this causes exhaustion and stress trying to keep up, at worst it causes depression. The next thing you know we are perpetuating the sickeningly sweet language that accompanies such imagery, talking about every smile being a miracle, and how life has never been better when in reality parenting is so often messy, tiring, and thankless. Not that there aren’t moments of joy, but there are also moments of despair. A realistic depiction of parenthood is desperately needed.

Having SuperMum around doesn’t leave room for the rich diversity of real motherhood experiences. Instead we find ourselves all putting on airs, trying to play at perfection while sweeping our struggles beneath the rug.

Dammit, let’s kill SuperMum. Let’s gather together with our torches and pitchforks and bury that ridiculous image of female perfection. We don’t need her. We don’t need any idyllic goal for inspiration. All we need is a mirror held up to the realities of motherhood: the chaos, the mess, the joy, the fun. The fuck-it-I’m-sure-it-will-all-work-out-eventually nature of parenthood in general. The more we share our honest stories of motherhood, the more SuperMum melts. Oh, what a world, what a world! Good riddance.

This piece was originally published on the website of Catherine Deveny. It was written after attending one of her Gunnas Writing Masterclasses where she gave me a creative enema. 

One thought on “The myth of the supermum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *