Since my first daughter was born in 2011, I found myself floundering for my identity. I had always been fiercely independent, working since I was 15 and always doing something even though I was lucky enough to have financially supportive parents.
After her birth I found myself trying to figure out who I was outside of a wife and a mother. My social construct around what it means to be a “good mom” and a “strong woman” was reflective of society. I felt as though I should be more than just a wife or just a mom. I simply felt like I wasn’t enough if I wasn’t doing more than just taking care of my child and my family. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I spent my children’s early years trying to find myself.
As the years have gone on, we have added two more girls to our family. I have been freelance writing since early 2012, but I have also created a slew of other businesses, including an in-home preschool and my own military-spouse based website. I have done blogging, vlogging, social media management, virtual assistant jobs, writing, editing, public relations consulting, and video editing. I have run marathons and became a regular at gyms because if I didn’t do the longest race or I missed a day at the gym, then I wasn’t enough. I was weak and less than.
Of course, over the past eight years, I never saw myself this way. I saw myself as being “Supermom.” I was constantly asked how I “did it all” and still survived. The truth was that I was barely surviving. Don’t get me wrong- I am proud of my accomplishments and I know many other moms who work from home while having babies, toddlers, and/or homeschooling. But as my children got older I started to realize that this “yes man” attitude wasn’t because it was best for me- it was because I was trying to avoid the anxiety and stress of being a wife and mother.
It seems to be that many mothers feel the same way. Research has shown that this generation of moms feels pressured to do everything on her own and be the “perfect mom.” A study was conducted to see how the pressure to be a perfect mom is related to parental burnout. Researchers found that “women’s experiences of pressure toward perfect parenting are related to higher levels of guilt and stress.” The study concluded that “feeling pressure to be a perfect mother was positively related to parental burnout, and this relation was mediated by parental stress, by a stronger cognitive prevention focus aimed at avoiding mistakes as a mother, and by higher maternal gatekeeping behaviors taking over family tasks from one’s partner. Moreover, pressure toward perfect mothering had a positive direct effect on career ambitions; and a negative indirect effect, such that mothers with higher felt pressure toward perfect mothering experienced lower work-family balance, which in turn related to lower career ambitions.”
In short, this study found that moms are not only putting pressure on themselves by taking on all the familial tasks within a household but also because of the societal pressures to be a “good mom.” In turn, these pressures can cause mothers to feel as though they should be doing more in their careers but then find themselves falling behind because of work-life balance.
Personally, I can attest to this being true. The pressure of being a good mom, nay, a “Super Mom” for the past almost decade has caused me to burnout and reevaluate my role as a wife and a mother. It has taken me this long to realize that there actually is more to life than always going, going, going and that many of my activities and career ambitions outside of motherhood were simply me filling my days so I wouldn’t get bored of being just a wife and a mother. I needed something else, something of my own, to make me feel like my life was of enough value.
I want to tell young, new moms that it’s ok to feel like you’re losing yourself. You are- you are a whole new person. The woman you were before has transformed into someone else. But you aren’t completely gone- your ambitions and your dreams are still there. Don’t try to hold onto them so tightly that you feel stressed at every turn. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to feel like it’s too much. There is no reason to stress about being a super mom- because you already are.