It is fairly routine for segments of society to adopt new phrases to describe their circumstances and aspirations. Cultural languages can be quixotic and, at times, grating (never more so than when they go around claiming words we once loved as their own in some weird undirected mass branding effort.) I am the first to admit that I am conversant in several cultural languages - some more elevated than others. Because of my writing and sphere, the one I find myself speaking often is Mom Who Interacts Through Social Media For Professional Or Personal Reasons (Ummmm, I am obviously open to other name ideas for this language). There are phrases and words in this language that sit comfortably in my heart and home. There are other ones that make me want to light every piece of clothing I’ve ever bought from Anthropologie on fire.
A few examples of firestarters:
Twee. Which is too bad. Because some things really ARE twee. And now I have to be like, “Wow, that is just so excessively quaint!”, when describing them. It’s a real loss on my part.
Creative. As a label, example: “As a creative, I feel….” blah, blah, blah. Living is an act of creativity. You don’t get the corner on that market. Get outta here.
Influencer. Hey. Influence this.
Dirty Hair. Any reference to it. But especially as in “X Day Dirty Hair”. We get it. You don’t always wash your hair. Neither do I. But you aren’t connecting with me through your dirtiness. You are showing me how great you’ve been able to make yourself look EVEN WHILE DIRTY. Me and my oil slicked cow lick aren’t really relating. Also. Wash your hair.
Organic. It’s like when you talk to your racist 80 year old aunt...did she have to tell you the race of the man at the store to get across the point that she was talking about a man? Well... do you HAVE to tell me the banana was organic to get across the fact that your kid likes peeling bananas? Probably not.
In the spirit of the new year, I’d like to add another word/phrase to the firestarter list.
I know it’s been around since we can all remember, but I’ve been seeing it get a lot of play over the last few months. It started out as a declaration - a comment followed by exclamation marks on instagram pictures of perfectly cooked dinners or photos of beautiful women shepherding their gorgeous children to their organic, no plastic playplaces lunch dates. (Oh! Your three year old won’t sit quietly in her polka dot peacoat while eating veggie sushi? Hmmmmmm.)
Slowly, Supermom has morphed from exclamation to designation. SHE, with her perfectly coiffed hair and children that eat homemade food every night is a Supermom. HER, career, wardrobe, collaborations, house, marriage is worth exclamation. THEY, are supermoms. Not like you and me, with our dishes in our sink and our hearts in our hands and our kids on the couch in front of their second tv show in as many hours. Not like us with our ordinary hopes and our average accomplishments and our marriages and motherhoods that are sometimes glistening and sometimes grimy. Supermom is something you earn. And ladies, according to us, very few are gonna qualify.
Supermom is an image based label. It’s handed out for pretty pictures and pretty crafts and pretty travels with pretty toddlers in tow. But images aren’t reality.
Listen, everything you see on social media is staged. Everything. (A good friend recently told me, "My husband asked me to send a picture of a recipe for his coworker the other day. My first thought was, 'How do I style this?' What is happening to me? I need to step back from IG, obviously.")The pictures of perfect corners always, ALWAYS, crop out the messier whole. The make up tutorial was filmed while the kids fought in another room. The dinner was made while the beds were rumpled. The children were styled while a call to a friend was postponed. Before we get all high and mighty, let’s take a breath and acknowledge that we all do this. I mean, when was the last time you instagrammed a selfie in the middle of a fight with your husband? Just that omission means you are cropping and retouching, also. It’s okay. Aspiration for beauty does not in and of itself constitute a failure. I like the high points, too.
So where is the failure? Is it in the pretty woman’s every present and ever perfect representation of herself? I would say, no. It isn’t her job to temper our reality or manage our expectations or validate our reality. It’s our job. What do we do instead of reveling, rejoicing and revealing the things that make us each worthwhile and worth work and worth love? We swipe open our phones, scroll until we find an object of worship that just can’t seem to touch our own reality and call her Supermom. I mean she must be better than us because her life looks so much better than ours, right? And then we scroll some more and like some more and label some more until finally we bring ourselves to face the imperfect light of our unfiltered life. It isn’t fair to the women we revere and it isn’t fair to us. They shouldn’t have to live up to Supermom and neither should we.
We all deserve better.
Hey, mommas. I could get all lovey dovey and say we are ALL Supermoms and way to go and gold star and snuggles! But I think that glosses over the issue. Motherhood is hard. And there are days when I am much better at it than others. Some days are not super. And there is no gold star given for misguided effort. But increasingly, I’m learning that while the high points are many splendored things, it’s our ability and decision to wait out, kick through and breathe beyond the low points that makes motherhood an act of the extraordinary.
Supermotherhood is for suckers.
You and I are engaged in something much, much harder and much, much grander.