If you are raising a child, perhaps you know Her. The fashionable, flat-bellied mum with the color coordinated, well-behaved children. You know, the over-achiever who does everything well, volunteering at school, dishing out homemade gluten free organic treats, making crafts, finding time for her spouse, and keeping an immaculate home with a smile on her face at all times. She is…the Supermum. It’s an ideal that many of us may strive for, but one that can often make us feel badly when we may not measure up. If you are a Supermum, I sincerely applaud you and admit that I am envious. If like me, you have your good and bad days, here are some observations that I would like to share.
The Supermum has a secret that few people know – and it is that behind a perfect façade, she may actually be exhausted, and things might not always be as they seem. You see, the natural law of “something has to give” is always working against the Supermum. Magic is not real, and no one has the ability to bend the limitations of time, so how does she get everything done so effortlessly? With a lot of effort.
I have three kids and have known many Supermums. I can tell you that often times they sacrifice sleep (not a great idea when you have MS), set highly ambitious daily schedules (what a luxury to have all that energy, right?), and are often overloaded. (Stress is certainly not good for MS!)
Raising a child when you live with a chronic illness makes you a whole different kind of Supermum. Every day you may be battling symptoms that impact your energy, mood and physical wellbeing in a war that nobody else can see. It may be difficult to reconcile, but the sooner you let yourself off the hook and stop beating yourself up for not living up to the Supermum standard, the better you and your family will be.
MS moms have to walk to a different beat, and that is okay. Managing your MS must be part of your daily routine. Talk about it with your spouse and make sure it is a shared priority. Recognise that because of MS, you have more on your plate than most families.
It is okay to put your own needs first. If it means mum needs to rest, extra video time for the kids, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, that is okay. You may have to lower your own standards, and for many that is hard. But once you do, letting go of all that mommy-guilt may actually feel liberating.
Traditional roles of housekeeping and childrearing often need to be examined in many families, for many different reasons, not just MS. So don’t feel badly about it. Can the kids help more around the house? Is your partner willing to cook? Helping out actually gives children a sense of achievement and builds confidence.
If there are family or friends who are willing to help, by all means go for it! Can you exchange babysitting or set up a weekly play date? Or hire someone to help with household chores? I know it is hard, but say no to the guilt! If someone helps you and you can’t reciprocate, a thoughtful note telling how much you appreciate his or her assistance goes a long way.
Do your friends and family lift you up or bring you down? Choose to spend your time with people who understand and are supportive of you and your children. Online support can be a lifeline. If you are able, seek out other MS mums who get it. If a relationship is toxic or making you feel less than, perhaps it is time to put some distance there.
What are the things that you can do for your kids that make you feel good as a parent? Reading together? Focusing on nutrition? Quality time at the park? The answer is different for everyone. Set your own yardstick, or and as my mom always said to me, “run your own race.”
Perspective of what really matters is a gift. The bar for mothers has been set high; we are all Supermums in our own way!