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.