- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: Supermom

Several years ago, my friend Kim fit the profile of a young “supermom” perfectly. You know, the one who looks like a million bucks, has time for the gym and a weekly mani-pedi, volunteers as soccer-team mom for her daughter, and is a top producer for her company.

While other moms struggled in the back-to-school frenzy to find washable Crayola markers in classic colors - 10 count, not eight, mind you - plus red plastic folders with pockets, and more, Kim had it under control. All supplies were sorted, bagged and delivered to the classroom ahead of time. And she kept up that pace all year long.

She was a supermom to be envied. Or so it seemed.

Inside, however, she struggled with depression, anxiety and insomnia. She was driven to succeed in all corners of her world - but her drive propelled her right past the small joys in life. Intent on fulfilling her own high expectations - whether as mom, wife, employee, team player, you name it - she expended great energy juggling those roles, satisfied with nothing less than a perfect performance.

As it turns out, the supermom cape doesn’t wear so well in real life.

A new study by researchers at the University of Washington found that “supermoms” (women who project the image - and believe the myth - that they can juggle children, home, husband, career and volunteer work with perfection) end up more depressed than other moms.

One researcher, Katrina Leupp, put the problem this way: “Ascribing to an ideal that women can do it all … increased the level of depressive symptoms compared to women who were more skeptical of whether or not work and family can be balanced.”

Working hard is a great American value - but the supermom syndrome fails women. It creates the unachievable expectation that perfection in everything is not only possible but also necessary - right now, all it at once, in every arena. It creates an internal pressure cooker where the threat of failure simmers below the surface and genuine happiness and peace evaporate.

As Kim learned, it’s a recipe for depression, discouragement and unhappiness.

How to Save Your Family: Be a “Real Mom” Not Supermom.

Remember, supermom is a cartoon character.

The University of Washington researchers found that the moms who were happiest were those who held a realistic view of the challenges of combining work and family. They knew the juggling act was tough, so they adjusted their lives to fit that reality.

What does that mean in real life?

First, take off the rose-colored glasses and assess your life realistically. What are your family’s priorities? Do your activities and use of time match those priorities? Or is your time scattered over a multitude of less important tasks while your most important relationships go untended?

Story Continues →