Us women have come a long way since the 1950s. A Google search for “1950’s sexist ads” comes up with such gems as a ketchup advert for a product that, presumably, had an easier to open bottle. The slogan: “You mean a woman can open it?”
The good news is that, in the UK at least, the majority of people recognise that women can open ketchup bottles just as effectively as men can. In fact, I’ve been known to open a number of jars that my husband couldn’t budge. And no, he didn’t loosen them for me.
It is great that women can now choose to have a career outside the home if they so wish. However, society has not fully caught up with this change, and while we might be able to work, we are often expected to do so without falling behind on domestic and mothering tasks. If we can’t go to all of the school assemblies, many of us feel like we might be failing as mums.
And even if we do stay at home full time, modern life seems to pile on the demands. In the 1970s, you could just make your kids some hot dogs, give them a cup full of juice, then throw them outside to play unsupervised with a stick and a ball. Today, you’re expected to cook organic, nutritionally-balanced meals while ensuring they are engaging in developmentally-appropriate, stimulating, supervised (and safe) activities.
The general feeling (propagated by everyone being fabulous on social media) that we need to be good at everything and live up to a certain ideal of womanhood and motherhood is pervading our lives. The sheer force of expectation on modern mums is taking its toll on our mental health. This is the problem that new book, The Supermum Myth: Overcome anxiety, ditch guilt and embrace imperfection, hopes to put right. It states:
“In our society there is relentless pressure for women to be exceptional at everything: gold-star mother, excellent partner, dedicated career woman, committed friend … [but] Supermum simply does not exist … The internet is awash with mum blogs, hashtags and handles with the recurrent theme of Being a Bad Mum: ‘bad mum’, ‘terrible mother’, ‘guilty mother’, ‘the guilty mothers club’, ‘#badparent’, ‘#mumfail’, ‘parenting fail’, ‘notparentingtheshitoutoflife’. This is a reflection of our ongoing struggle as mums with not living up to our own, and society’s expectations of what we should be a mothers. Pre-empting others’ judgement by judging ourselves as failing.”
The book points out that it’s simply not realistic to expect to achieve perfection in every aspect of your life. And when you see that other mum on the school run, perfectly dressed and serenely calm, she is not perfect either. Nobody is achieving the over-achieving supermum goal and everybody is getting it downright wrong with parenting and life sometimes. You may sometimes feel like everyone is handling life better than you, but odds are they feel just the same.
The Supermum Myth asks us to embrace “good-enough motherhood”. One in which we might not wash our hair for a week, but our kids are happy and safe. One in which we don’t feel guilty for plopping them in front of the telly so we can get some work done. It asks us to stop beating ourselves up for our perceived shortcomings, and start acknowledging our successes.
Of course, changing the way you think about your life is easier said then done. That’s why this book gives you practical tools, using a range of established therapies, to help you identify your negative patterns of thought and then work towards changing your mindset. There are all sorts of exercises that you can dip into when it suits you, to help you reset your thinking about your relationships, your thinking, your career, and your whole self.
This book dropped into my lap at a time when I did feel like I was drowning in a pool of my own ambitions for myself. I do want to be the successful career woman, the wonderful wife and mother, and the social butterfly. It is okay to want these things … as long as we don’t accompany our goals with a whip to beat ourselves with when things don’t go as we hoped. This book reminds us to enjoy the lives we have right now, instead of looking always onwards to an elusive perfection. Buy it from Amazon.
I was given this book free of charge in return for my honest review.