“Supermom” Has Too Many Choices

It’s epidemic these days, an undercurrent of anxiety that thrums at the heart of parenting: Supermom is beset by too much information and too many choices. Do you perpetually feel like you’re a just a little behind the 8-ball, missing some crucial opportunity that’s going to put your child behind? Yikes, we didn’t play Mozart through speakers on our pregnant belly, we didn’t use the latest pre-reading iPad app, we didn’t get in on that whiz-bang college-prep (or high-school prep, or for that matter, pre-school prep) program!

If this rings a bell, I feel nothing but compassion for you, and my wish for you is to find the sweet spot for shifting from Supermom to sane and centered mom. We’ve all been conditioned to jump (or get jumpy) when the endless smorgasbord of choices glistens before us, beckoning with a glut of possibilities for that perfect something that will fill in the gaps of our insufficiency. At the California Women’s Conference next week, I’ll be sharing the main stage with Sarah Ripard and Mallika Chopra to decipher the puzzle of why we’re all so…frazzled…and to offer a practical toolkit for mastering sane and centered mothering.

Putting This SuperPickle Into Perspective

It’s no wonder we haven’t yet gotten this parenting thing right as a human race. It’s a tall order, requiring what sometimes feels like self-sacrifice on the part of primary caregivers — usually mothers — for the first few years. No wonder we’re still spinning our wheels over the issues of domestic oppression, autonomy, choice, and economic empowerment about which brave feminists raised our consciousness generations ago. I feel deep gratitude to them for generating a culture in which I had the freedom to choose whether I would stay home with our son and daughter or return to my work in television production and turn their care over to others.

But in the mode of the many deep paradoxes that mark the evolutionary mandate of parenting for peace, I also feel unspeakably grateful that I chose (for reasons that at the time were incomprehensible to me) to devote myself to the transformational calling of full-time mothering.

Let’s remember that the first stirrings of the feminist movement grew out of the ideal of bringing value to women — to their voice, their needs and their contribution, which at that time was primarily made domestically as mothers and homemakers. Perhaps now that others have fought hard for us to have a choice in the matter, we can choose with more freedom and tranquility to dedicate a few years of our life to the most influential position we may ever apply for.

Take Heart, We’re Getting There!

This ideal of parenting for a generation of peacemakers is so demanding, so sophisticated, and demands such a level of maturity, we are culturally only now barely up to the task. It took us all those eons of time to develop the balance of intellectual knowledge and heart, plus the technological machinery to free many hours in each day,[1] so that perhaps now is the first moment in our history when this is even possible! What do we think the industrial and technological revolutions liberated us for? Might it be that a key purpose of having our time and our excellent minds freed up through all that brilliant technology, was so that we can, for the first time, have the luxury of time we need to quicken this next evolutionary leap? This is indeed the first time large swaths of the human family have the time with which to reflect on our inner lives, to come to really know who and how we are, and how we can become our very best — and then to offer our best to our children, these future citizens who will inherit the world at a most pivotal time in its history.

Time pressures aside, I also suspect that many of us, with all of our issues, harbor fears that we aren’t equal to the momentous role of shepherds to these newly minted beings with limitless potential. We lack this or that virtue, we’re clumsy with intimacy, we’re imperfect. We can barely wield a screwdriver and we’re being asked to build a space station. Take heart: our shaping force on our children, which is huge indeed, need not be constrained by our own limitations and challenges, but is rather open to the wider horizons of the ideals toward which we dedicate our energies.

Sorting through the din of modern life to simply figure out what your ideals are requires time. Making the internal and external shifts that begin to align your living to those ideals requires time. And being with children at the pace and the fullness they require for optimal growth-over-protection development definitely requires time.

Our ingenious innovations of the twentieth century gave us the gift of time.

Let us use that time to offer the twenty-first century the gift of a new kind of innovation: a generation built for peace.


[1] With a car I can go to three places in a half-hour that once would have taken three hours each; rather than spending an entire day washing clothes in the river (and how would I dry them if it’s raining?), I spend an hour; with a telephone I save a day or more of traveling it would have taken me to go see the person. The list of course goes on — email rather than the post office; running water rather than long, heavy walks to the well; with electricity, life and activity can continue past six in the evening; I can even go buy groceries at night!

Image by happyworker

Marcy Axness

About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of “Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers,” and also the adoption expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak around the world on prenatal, child and parent development, and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. On the wings of my new book I’m delighted to be speaking at many wonderful conferences all over the world in the coming months, and I’m happy to be sharing dispatches and inside glimpses with you here on Mothering.com! As a special gift to Mothering readers I’m offering “A Unique 7-Step Parenting Tool.”