With the prevalence of social media such as Facebook and Instagram where everyone’s best image is typically showcased – and is often significantly embellished with filters – many moms become overly concerned with an idealized view of a “normal” family. Moms in particular must consider the excessive expectations that today’s families place on themselves in regards to normalcy. Marriage and parenting is a tough job and requires self-sacrifice, service and flexibility. While there is conflict and resolution within a 45 minute television sitcom, real-life marriage and parenting involves more complicated interactions and exchanges that can be a shock to young couples and families as they experience life together. “Individual and family stress are often greatest at transition points from one life cycle phase to another, as families rebalance, redefine, and realign their relationships” (McGoldrick, Carter, & Garcia-Preto, 2015, p. 20).
Mothers today have a lot to live up to. The benchmark mother of the 1950’s was June Cleaver, the mom in the popular sitcom of the time “Leave it Beaver”. This super woman attended to her children, kept the house in working order, and still had time to provide a welcoming environment for her husband as he came in the door after a long day’s work. The typical Cleaver mom was family-focused and filled her day with PTA meetings and community volunteering in addition to being available mentally and physically for her family.
Fast forward to present day, moms (and dads) are trying to do it all. Piano lessons, sports teams, college prep school, and a myriad of other activities flood the schedules of contemporary youths. But, with the ever-rising prices of housing, food, and healthcare, two-income families have become the means to afford such luxuries. The “perfect mom” of this decade seems to be the working, stay-at-home, community volunteer, family-devoted and self-sustaining “super-mom”. She requires very little in the way of sleep or emotional renewal. “Busy” is her mantra, and she is content to do it all.
The “super mom” ideal has created a scenario in which just about any woman will fail miserably. As a result, anxiety, guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy in parenting are typical presenting problems in therapy. Great moms can easily fall into a pattern of unmet personal and perceived societal expectations, resulting in feelings of guilt. While the phantom “super mom” happily juggles work, parental and marital expectations, real women fall under the weight of this unreachable ideal and quickly become overwhelmed, dejected, and ready to turn in their capes.
Neither families nor children come with an instruction manual.
Parenting is a journey where success is often a floating target. Much of the learning process is experiential and requires failure to achieve success. Mothers of today must embrace the fact that ideal family functioning is a myth. Such ideals propagate the model that there is one right way to move along the journey. Each family is unique, and they learn to function in distinctive ways. So, give yourself permission to redefine the “super mom” and throw the “shoulds” out the window. Wear your cape proudly, even if it’s splattered with this morning’s breakfast or last week’s Pinterest attempt. Be confident that – though parenting is full of ups and downs – you are exactly what your child needs!
Need a little help letting go of the impossible standard of Instagram-worthy perfection?
Try starting with these basic tips:
1. As you scroll through social media, remind yourself that people post “highlight reels” not reality. When was the last time you saw a Facebook post from someone glorifying their emotional eating spree or what their laundry room looks like when company comes over unexpectedly?
2. Remember that there is nothing inherently sacred about busyness. More is sometimes just that – more. Choose your involvements like you would investments: ask yourself what gives the greatest return for your investment of resources (time, money, sanity).
3. Be wary of comparison. It is the thief of joy and contentment. God has created you uniquely on purpose. You aren’t supposed to fit into a mold that society calls perfection; you are called to fulfill the unique calling God has given you, in the way that only you can fulfill it. Own your blemishes as your superpower.
If you would benefit from having a Christian counselor walk with you through the pitfalls of parenting, please call or email us to set up an appointment today.
McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Preto, N. (2015). The expanded family life cycle:
Individual, family and social perspectives (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.