Saturday, 15 April 2017

I'm not a supermum... I'm a mum!

After the birth of my first son, I was a physical mess - it took me a good 5 days to recover. Once home, the shock of what being a mum entails started to hit - my husband runs his own business so didn't take anytime off. He'd come home during his lunch break if he could, and shortened some of his days in that first week, but for us it was life as usual. Along with that and the string of constant visitors that comes with having a baby, I had my first mummy-meltdown 10 days after our little man was born. 

That prompted us to start our routine (read more about the reasons we chose routine here) and life started making sense. Some people don't like the 'restrictions' that following a routine places on them, but for me it meant freedom. I could plan my days accordingly, go to appointments and take bub to lunch at hubby's work. It also meant that for a new mum, I was getting a fair amount of sleep, which helped the recovery process and allowed me to be the best mum I could be for our son. 

6 weeks PP, I was back playing indoor netball, and joined a mums-and-bubs fitness group twice a week. This allowed me to socialise with other mums and work on getting my fitness back, which is very important to me (NOTE: I'm talking fitness here, not necessarily weight/size). Generally, life was pretty good - our routine was working nicely, and despite a few meltdowns and minor health complications here and there (including mastitis) we decided to add another little person to our mix. 

During this process, we also thought we'd better extend our family home AND I thought I'd work to complete my Masters of Education so that when I was ready to return to work I could increase my chances or securing a permanent teaching position. Hubby was also given the opportunity to complete a degree through a NZ university with a colleague. Cue the word "Supermum" starting to be thrown around by friends and family - meant as a compliment, it started playing on my psyche. Chaos started in the January of that year - renovations saw us moving out and living at my parents for 3 months. I started my degree. Hubby started his. I was raising a toddler while growing another human. Despite some stresses that arose from such a hectic life, we thought we were doing well. 

Fast forward to Christmas Day 2014 and me in a bedroom at my in-laws crying uncontrollably, shaking and unable to process anything! This was my moment of realisation that things were not okay - and it took another year for the fog to start clearing and for me to realise that saying 'YES' to everything wasn't a good thing for me or my family. 

I'm a people-pleaser - I don't like the thought of people not liking me, or giving a reason for people - even strangers - to be annoyed or disappointed with me. The problem with this is that you start saying YES to all sorts of things. As a naturally organised, A-type personality I thought I could handle being a single-parent while hubby studied and travelled. I thought I could attend all the family and friends events that were on. I still maintained a position on the local netball club committee. I even returned to work in a special needs setting - all because people told me I was a SUPERMUM.

A thank you card from my netball team mates
The problem with this word is that it sets people, especially mothers, up for failure. It's also what I believe is contributing to the rise of post-natal depression, chronic and adrenal fatigue, because it implies that:
  • we've got a handle on everything and we're always happy and calm;
  • your children never misbehave, and they're settled and happy all the time;
  • you've got the picture-perfect relationship and family;
  • you've got a plan for every day; and
  • there's nothing you can't do - you're super human!

While I know people use the term 'supermum' as a compliment, it actually adds to the already enormous expectations women in today's society place on themselves. It implies that we can complete any task or tackle any issue with a  calm manner and get it completed without compromising any aspect of our lives - but this not feasible, and actually makes it seem like you're failing miserably if you ask for help, or say no to something!!! Hence my breakdown on Christmas Day - a day that is meant to be filled with happiness and love, turned into a day I realised my world was crumbling. It was the start of a big shift in my life, and it took a good 12months for me to learn that people wouldn't hate or leave me if I said No, and that I wasn't failing if I did ask for help!

To start helping myself, I booked myself in to psychologist - some would see this as a sign of weakness. I knew this to be a move towards strength. I wanted to clear up some things in my head, be reassured that my gut feelings weren't invalid and that what I needed to tell people wasn't going to mean people hated me - or that if that did occur, they weren't meant to be in my life.

Then I worked with my husband in reaffirming what was important to us as a family, and as individuals - this was vitally important for both of us and made us realise that having kids means that some of our plans need to be put on hold for a while, and our focus needs to shift to them, and us as a couple. We also made more of an effort to make time for us as a couple - yes, we're parents but to be the best parents for our boys we needed to be a happy and loving husband and wife team. 

Now, I am a person who likes to be involved in various local community activities, keep fit and teach - I've learnt that to be happy in myself and be the best wife and mum for my boys I need to put them first, then do what makes me happy without the side of guilt! One day my kids will be grown up and will have their own interests, so it's important to me that I maintain mine and not make my life all about my children or husband. PLEASE NOTE, I'm not saying this approach is wrong. What I am saying is, that you need to take time and be honest in what makes you happy. Discuss this with your significant other and kids (if they're old enough). Make time to do the things you like, and allow time for your partner to do the things that make them happy. Make time to spend quality time as a family doing things you all enjoy. Don't be rude to people, but tell them the truth about why you can't do something - they'll understand, even if they don't like it. Listen to your body - if you're tired, don't feel guilty about cancelling on the girls - be honest and they'll understand! 

And remember, the only person who have to be super for is your kids - and you already are!


  1. I Love this post! I totally agree and have said similar myself. I had my crying in controllably breakdown when pregnant with number 3. Everyone was telling me what an amazing job I was doing and when I asked for help they just didn't believe how much I was struggling too! Your story really resonated with me! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Michelle - I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you too. It's possible the worst moment of my life, but at the same time the best. I'm glad my writing about my experiences resonated with you, and thank you for sharing your experience. The more we talk, the more we make those around us realise that we're doing what all women would do for our families, but that at times everyone needs help. Much love to you and thank you for taking the time to read and comment.