The Supermom Era

By Amanda Blackmore

There is a new superhero in town and she does not wear a cape, have invisibility powers, or produce webbing out of her wrists. She does, however, perform seemingly impossible tasks without asking for any recognition. She is your mother. Women with children have reached a new level of busy and there is no end in sight. What does this mean for future generations? Will our generation’s daughters be as run-off-their-feet as our mothers are?

Generally, the percentage of women participating in the work force has increased for the past thirty years reaching 59.3% in 2008 (StatCan, 2014). In other words, our mothers are more likely to be a part of the work force now than our grandmothers were in their day. Furthermore, the employment rate of women with children under 16 who are living at home has increased from 39.1% in 1976 to 72.9% in 2009 (StatCan, 2014). It is also known that, generally, women are the primary caregivers in the family when the family includes a heterosexual couple. A generation of supermoms has appeared because women are now expected to work outside the home and continue to be the primary caregiver at home.

This seems like an unreasonable expectation. When I was growing up, my mother stayed home with me and my three siblings and she was busy enough simply taking care of all the unpaid work associated with running a household like caregiving, making meals, and cleaning. I cannot imagine how our household would have survived without her around every day if she were to have had a full time job outside the home. However, we see that employment rates for women with children are increasing. Women are now taking on the role of both caregiver and wage-earner, and thus we have the supermom.

The supermom is portrayed in commercials and television shows as the norm and the ideal parent. The media tells young women that being a good mother means being a supermom. She must be able to handle all household tasks perfectly, and she must also be able to hold down a full time job. To further express this ideal, men in commercials and some television sitcoms are portrayed as idiots who cannot adequately handle house work or caring for children, especially after coming home after a long day of work. These male characters encourage women to believe that they must do it all.

With this new supermom construct, women’s leisure time is taking a major hit. When a mother is expected to make supper, do all the housework, and put the kids to bed all after she has returned from work, how does she find any leisure time for herself? Leisure time has so many psychological and physical health benefits. It is difficult to deny that most people living in the Western culture could benefit from more leisure time. So why do we pressure women to be supermoms?

It is crucial for the wellbeing of future generations of women that we give them back their leisure time and abolish the construct of the supermom. The media is full of unrealistic expectations for women, and young women are learning that they must be completely exhausted all the time to be considered a good mother. Although we cannot always control what is displayed by the media, we can think more critically about how we expect our mothers and our female peers to behave.

Consider these YouTube videos. One has a humorous take on the demands of motherhood while the other warns of actual danger associated with being a supermom.

1. Let It Go – Mom Parody
2. Go Red for Women presents: ‘Just a Little Heart Attack’

 

 

 

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Constraints to women participating in leisure and sport by the perception of others

By Meggie S.

Due to the way that female athletes are perceived by others, many are conscious of the way they look both on and off of the field, court, or whatever playing surface to which their sport belongs (Ridgers, 2007). There are social pressures for girls to uphold a certain image even in the sport context. Female athletes are being perceived as thin, lean, muscular women with perfect and almost flawless skin. But this isn’t true or possible for many women in multiple sports.

The tricky part with female athletes is they want to come across as if they don’t care what they look like. They want to portray a certain image of effortlessness, when in fact it takes us quite a while to get this look. Many girls that I have played with in my career have taken tremendous effort getting ready for a game or training session. There will always be spectators at a session, and many girls need to have the confidence of looking their best to play at their best. I am guilty of this myself. I cannot play my sport unless my hair is straightened, because it looks better in a ponytail than when it is curly. Many of my teammates in the past liked to have their hair in a “messy bun” which will look effortless, but it will have actually taken them a number of attempts to get the bun looking just right.

I read in an article that boys grow up having the opportunity to have many male athlete role models. There are a variety of looks that these athletes portray. Girls, however, did not get the same opportunity to have many female athletes as role models. The media was also very selective of the female athletes that were promoted. They were also wary of how they promoted these women; they had to look beautiful no matter what their sport was.

If women don’t feel they fit the ideal image of beautiful athletic women, they may choose not to participate in sport. The way we promote female athletes in society does not help women overcome this self-consciousness. It is quite common to hear female athletes complaining about how big their thighs are or how they need to lose weight. If we are talking about sport specific body image issues, many athletes have big thighs due to their powerful quadriceps muscles which they develop through their sport. And even though these athletes may feel they are “too fat” to fit the athletic look, they are, realistically in most cases, the ideal shape and nowhere close to being overweight.

I know many of my friends growing up have stopped playing their sports because of how they felt they looked in shorts or training gear. They did not want to be judged by spectators at an event not fitting the look that is marketed of female athletes.

This principle does not just stop at sports unfortunately. Women are too afraid to go swimming whether it be a pool party or a day at the beach, because of how they feel they look in their swimsuit. I have heard many older women in my life exclaiming that they have to lose ten pounds before they go buy an outfit for some big event coming up.

Women should adopt the mindset of most men. They let on, at least, that they are comfortable with the way they look. In sports participation, it seems that no matter what their shape, nothing will interfere with their level of participation. From my own observation in the senior recreation leagues in Nova Scotia, there are a number of men from every type of fitness level, shape, height, and weight playing together on teams. With the women’s league, however, it is seldom that you see any variety in fitness level or body types on the teams.

In conclusion, I think society needs to be aware of the way girls feel their own body image is a barrier to participation in recreation and sport. With advertisements for female athletes like this going around, who could blame them?

 

meggie photo

References

Ridgers, N. D., Fazey, D. M. A., & Fairclough, S. J. (June 01, 2007). Perceptions of athletic competence and fear of negative evaluation during physical education. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 2, 339-349.

How the Media Portrays Female Athletes

How Women’s Athletic Wear is Portrayed in the Media