The “Super Mom Syndrome,” as some call it, is a phenomenon that affects millions of women around the country. Some believe it is a product of generational conditioning, some believe it’s the result of biological differences between the genders, and a few secretly cast blame on that pesky June Cleaver, who effortlessly set a precedent for the American mother that few of us will ever be able to impersonate.
So which is it? Biological or conditioned? Or is it one of those unexplained forces that draws little girls to dolls or instinctively pitches a mother’s protective arm to the passenger side of the front of a car at the onset of a sudden stop?
Annette McMillan, stay-at-home-mom of two, believes it to be a conditioned response to the way many members of our adult population’s generation were parented. “My mother did everything while we were growing up. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids. I think I’ve subconsciously buried myself into the same role as a wife and mom because that’s how I grew up,” says McMillan. “Even when my husband does take the initiative to clean the kitchen, I spend the entire time consumed in guilt and counting every missed crumb. Honestly, I’d rather just do it myself.”
Dr. Reuven Bar-On, a psychologist from Isreal, spent many years developing a test known as “The BarOn EQ-i.” This test measures the overall “Emotional Intelligence” (EQ) of men and women and examines five factors: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Adaptability, Stress Management and General Mood. “We have consistently found that women are more aware of their emotions, show more empathy and act more socially responsible than men, whereas men cope better with stress,” said Dr. Bar-On.
Wait just a minute here. So if men biologically cope better with stress, why do women often naturally assume the role of the family housekeeper, nutritionist, cook, doctor, psychologist, tutor, fashion advisor, party planner and healer of all physical and emotional plights? The answer may be as simple as the inability of some women to delegate and the men who become accustomed to it. And if this is true, how much control do we, as women, have over our natural hunger for perfection as a wives and a mothers?
John Gray, Ph.D., author of best-selling book, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, advises a reader in a recent newspaper column, “Sometimes, what you get depends how you ask for it. Try making your requests in small increments. For example: ‘I know you work long, hard hours and that you’re very tired when you get home. I’d appreciate it if you’d just take a moment to put your shoes in the closet and your work clothes in the laundry basket.’ When you make a small request without justifying why you are doing so instead of giving a long list of reasons and concerns; men are far more likely to accommodate your request.’” “Often a woman will feel guilty that she ‘cannot do it all.’ The simple truth is that you can’t work around the clock. None of us can or should,” he said.Amen to that.
So maybe “doing it all” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For many of us, it’s a lifestyle to which we’ve found solace. Maybe the answer is finding a better balance of time between household duties and family. Maybe it’s sitting down with our partners and earnestly discussing our need for help around the house. Maybe the answer is letting go and making diligent efforts to put housework last, and for just one day a week, experience life without window cleaner. After all, a little dried grape jelly on a countertop never killed anyone, did it? Perhaps the answer will never be found. In all likelihood, moms will continue forging ahead in our efforts to make our households and everything in them run as slickly as possible, despite the lack of time we often end up with for ourselves. Maybe the trophy for all of our hard work will come in the form of silent admiration from our sons and daughters, who, after having families of their own, will look back on our efforts one day and whisper quietly, “How did she do it?” And maybe, in the good company of a certain other veteran group of super moms, to whom we’ve held our own proverbial torches from time to time, we’ll be whispering back, “I did it because I loved you.” Until then, you do realize, of course, that someone is going to have to pick up that sock over there that didn’t quite make it to the laundry basket? Right! -
“Portrait of a Super Mom” by Tonja Brossette.