You know the feeling, don’t you?
You are in charge of everything.
You are the one who has to help everyone, find everything, cook, tidy, clean, look after the baby, play with the toddler, wash up, fold clothes, bath the kids and put them to bed.
And, to top it off, you have a “real” job!
So, you mop up spilled apple juice and argue about the pros and cons of riding the cat while straining to follow the muted conference call.
You awkwardly type emails to clients with one hand and stir ready-made pasta sauce with the other while beating yourself up for not cooking from scratch.
You clean the house with a 2-year old sitting on the hoover while mentally rehearsing tomorrow’s meeting.
This is multi-tasking to the max. It is overwhelm deluxe. But it is never enough.
If you do well in your career, the state of your house reflects the neglect and your children are left to entertain themselves or watch you do chores.
If you enjoy quality family time, you feel guilty for not making more effort to prove yourself at work.
And, if you feel on edge because your stress level has reached crisis point, you explode at your husband as he gets home from work and dares to mention that he is tired.
It's all frustrating, upsetting and incredibly depressing.
You try your best. You are so exhausted. And the constant guilt makes you want to cry.
Why do you always fail so miserably?
Well, the truth is, you don’t!
You just believe you fail for 2 important reasons:
1. You compare yourself to HER
She is the first reason why you think you are a failure.
She home-schools 4 impeccably behaved and extraordinarily gifted kids without ever losing her temper.
She climbs to the top of Mount Success in record speed without ever feeling stressed.
She maintains an immaculate home and award-winning 3-acre garden without ever resenting her husband for not helping out enough.
She spends 5 hours a day hurtling down playground slides with the kids without ever getting sick of it and cooks home-made whole-grain lasagne from scratch.
And in the evening she settles down with a cool glass of vino for some well-deserved leisure time after the children are blissfully tucked up in their cosy beds.
Her muscles are toned, her hair looks gorgeous and her clothes are stain-free.
She has it all, she effortlessly achieves it all.
And you HATE her for making you feel like a second-class Mum!
Sometimes you even hate yourself for failing to compete with her. She makes you feel inferior and not good enough.
And it sucks. So bad!
What is wrong with you? Why does the Supermom cope so much better than you do? Why do you always miss the mark? Why can’t you be more like her?
But the thing is, no matter how hard you try, you can never measure up to a Supermom.
Because you are comparing yourself to the Yeti!
The outrageous secret of the Supermom
Do you want to know the tragic truth?
You beat yourself up for no reason! Because Supermoms are a myth.
They don’t exist!
They are the Yeti of motherhood.
Everybody knows the stories, people whisper in awe about them, many claim to have spotted one.
But there is no definitive proof!
Seriously, have you ever met a true Supermom? In person?
Or was it just a blurry photo of a Mom-shaped rock or mountain leopard?
Yes, some will put on the costume and fake it. And they convince you when you meet them at the school gates or read their ridiculously happy Facebook posts.
But, fact is, you don’t know them. And behind closed doors, they struggle just as much as you do.
They suffer the same gut-wrenching guilt, the same soul-sucking exhaustion, the same heart-breaking failures and shortcomings.
They just don’t tell you!
2. You listen to the worst advice you can give a working Mom
I am sure you heard this before.
If you feel upset because you don’t ace motherhood like the Supermom, well-meaning people will tell you:
“The only person to whom you need to compare yourself is YOU!”
Ouch! That’s exactly your problem and the second reason why you feel like a failure.
Because you don’t cope as well as you used to!
Once upon a time, your house was spotless.
Now it looks like the setting of the latest episode of “Obsessive, compulsive hoarders” (ok, you have yet to spot a rat, but who knows what might be lurking under the mountains of toys, clothes and paperwork).
You remember being a balanced, cheerful person.
Now, you snap at the kids if they dally at bedtime. And the distressed cries for “Mommy” when you drop your youngest off at nursery make you sob uncontrollably in the car.
A long time ago, your career prospects were excellent.
But now you live in constant fear that your boss will notice that your game has been off for months and that you haven’t contributed nearly enough to justify your salary.
You used to have everything under control! So, what happened?
The eye-opening reason why working Moms struggle
You blame yourself for your struggles, don’t you?
Complete and utter failure appears to be your destiny. The tragic story of your life.
But you are wrong!
It has nothing to do with you!
No working Mom will ever get everything done without killing herself. Because a day only has 24 hours.
No shit, Sherlock, right?
But think about it for a moment. Do you really appreciate that, with and without children, the number of hours in your days is equal?
You were busy before you had children, weren’t you?
Your 24 hours were filled to the brim.
You slept on average 8 hours and took one hour to shower and get ready in the morning.
You spent approximately one hour in the car, 8 hours on work commitments and 2 hours on household chores, cooking and planning meals.
Add 2 hours of social engagements, voluntary work and regrettable favours to acquaintances you couldn’t say no to.
And top with 2 hours of time for yourself to use for hobbies, the gym and keeping up to date with Grey’s Anatomy.
And that’s it! All gone!
Now add the constant needs and demands of small children, the infinity loop of tea parties, soccer games, snack requests, spilled drinks, filled diapers, grazed knees, runny noses and quarrelling sibling.
And you love your children, more than your own life. You want them to be happy and have the best possible start in life.
But basically, you are trying to squeeze another full-time job (with unpaid overtime) in a day that is already overflowing with tasks and chores!
And I agree that women should be able to claim 12 extra hours per day from the Government the minute they have children. But unfortunately that’s not how it works.
So, something has got to give! You have to sacrifice the to-do list items with the lowest priority.
And sadly, as a working Mum, these items are usually your me-time, your sleep time and your sanity.
Hobbies? What’s that?
Let’s face it!
You never get any time to yourself! You can’t even remember the person you used to be. The person who had hobbies, interests and time for friends.
You sacrificed her on the altar of Motherhood in exchange for meeting your own unrealistically high expectations.
Yes, you’re disappointed with yourself because you can’t manage to “have it all”. But you aren’t a failure! You just don’t have the time! That’s all!
Of course, your house used to be tidy and clean, your trousers ironed and you could dedicate the extra hours to your work to feel proud of what you accomplished.
But that was before you had kids!
For now you will have to settle for good enough! And you have to prioritise what is most important to you (hint: it’s not the household)!
Stop comparing yourself to the urban legend of the Supermom. Stop beating yourself up for not measuring up to a past, childless version of yourself. Stop chasing the Yeti.
OK, you might not run for employee of the month or newcomer of the year right now. Sure, the neighbours might think your house and garden are a disgrace. And sometimes your kids will watch far too much TV and eat junk.
But these things don’t matter. You do! And you are doing your best! Be proud of yourself and give yourself a break.
The day will come when you’re in control again.
When you can submit the perfect work project on time without significant hair loss, crippling guilt and sleepless nights.
When the words “hobby”, “alone time” and “relaxation” regain their meaning.
When you will fondly remember the small, sticky hands reaching up for a hug, the soft cheeks pressing against yours, and the little voice whispering into your ear: “I love you, Mommy!”
But today is not that day! Today you have to choose.
So, cut yourself some slack.
Make peace with the chaos and mess that is a natural part of parenthood! Accept that having it all is not an option (at least not right now)!
Ditch the guilt and prioritise yourself every once in a while to maintain your health and sanity!
And enjoy the time while your children are small.
Because sooner than you think, they will be off to college and you will be a train wreck for losing your best friends.
About the author: Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a working Mum, health scientist, energy healer and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself no matter what. Download her free "Work-at-home Mum's comfort finder" and discover why you are a hero (even if you feel like a massive failure).