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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10 responses

  1. Really great blog Amanda, brings light to the chaotic lives of many mothers today. It is incredible to see the shift it gender roles among the house after only two generations. The fact that the percentage of mothers working has more then double over the years, shows that equality within the work place is building, although equality within a marriage may not be. For some men the idea of fatherhood is routed within play and recreational time rather then assisting with care giving tasks, leaving the mother to juggle work, child care and home care. When I was reading this blog it made me smile to see that today’s Supermom is expected to be a breadwinner and caregiver, whereas when I was younger the term “Supermom” is the nickname in which my sister and I gave my stay at home mother. I am unsure if the roles between mother and father will ever shift, although I do believe that mothers feel a lot of pressure within today’s society to be the “ideal mom”. With social media the world is able to view a mothers every move, scrutinizing their choices causing mothers to feel isolated and ostracized if they admit to any struggles. It is important that there be communication within a marriage to equalize care giving tasks and allow for both parents to find leisure time for themselves.
    Thank you,
    Kaitlyn Willis

  2. Great Post Amanda,

    Well researched and interesting stats. I really think my mom qualified for the “supermom” description. She worked full time, and co-ordinated all the activities my sister and I participated in. This topic is interesting as I was part of the first discussion group, where we read and studied How moms now do the work at home and also contribute to the joint income with their partner. However, these studies presented the fact that dads do their part and feel they have done a good deed by being involved in kids sports. My mom and dad seemed to trade some of these roles. Mom however did not lose her leisure time. Her hobby, was and is equestrian, through her influence my sister and I become young riders and also participated in equestrian. I feel this is a great way for parents to enjoy leisure and their hobbies while being busy and a super mom.

    Just thought Id share my experience in relation to the post,

    Andrew Connors

  3. Great post! Loved reading it!
    I also wonder what raising children will be like for women our age. It is generally expected that we will need to be fantastic mothers and successful in our careers. I also believe that some men are changing their expectations of women when it comes to this. In my experience of people my parents age, they don’t really know how to address this topic. They presume that even though the woman has a career, she is to be up on all the house work as well. For men our age, I believe this idea is changing. Many of the young men I have met understand the pressure and pull that women may experience when it comes to their career and family life. They are taking on some of the house work and child care responsibilities that are stereotypically for the wife. Maybe I’ve just met a lot of nice, understanding guys, but I think this mentality is much more common than in the past. This shows progress and I hope that men continue to see that women need their leisure time and continue this trend of sharing responsibilities.

    Hannah Monteith

  4. Great Post Amanda,
    It is very true that today’s mothers in our society, whom are being asked to perform an almost impossible juggling act of being out in workforce and making sure everything is running smoothly at the home, women are truly given superhuman expectations. Which as you pointed out leaves no time for leisurely pleasures that they once may have enjoyed.
    I know my mother, who was a teacher, during the school year didn’t have too many hours for her to go out and enjoy her own leisurely activities. She was busy teaching during the day and at nights she had my two sisters and I to deal with the rest of the time, splitting responsibilities with my father as to who was taking who to which sporting event.
    I do believe that we are seeing more of a shared roll between parents in the household as well as workforce. But believe you are correct that in the case of the media portrayal society needs to step away from the Supermom being the norm in families so their is not such a heavy burden put on them.
    Cheers
    Mike Miller

  5. Great Post Amanda,

    I completely agree that women are given this ideal of being a super mom, and if they do not achieve this role they do not feel like they are fulfilling their duties as a mother. My Mother for instance, worked part time and had three children. She would get off work rush to pick us up from school, take us to our various activities and would have a nice big super ready for us when we were done. She never stopped and never had anytime for herself.
    Women are being encouraged to join the work force and it is becoming more of a norm for mothers to have jobs as well as the father. Which is great for women and is such great progress. However society is not doing a good enough job at encouraging fathers to take some of the house work or parenting responsibilities. Your right the media is a big factor in this issue. There are very many sitcoms that show the super mom, running all around to take care of her children, and the father gets home from work cracks a beer and sits on the couch.
    I believe there has been some real progress when it come to fathers taking on responsibilities around the house. I coach a swim team and there are just as many of the dads picking up their daughters as there are moms. The media needs to do a better job at showing split responsibilities taken by the mother and father. Women need to have time for themselves, and time to participate in leisure activities.
    Thanks!
    Emily McKim

  6. Great post Amanda!
    I agree completely because when I was growing up, I played multiple sports and it was always my mother that drove me and picked me up to all my sporting events along with looking after my sister and getting supper and lunches ready. Even if it was just going to a friend’s house, my dad was always working and/or just didn’t jump up when I asked for someone to drive me places. Might I add it was different than what most mothers are today because they are balancing work and children where my mom and dad owned a business so she was able to come and go whenever she pleased. I do believe that the majority of supermoms have no time for leisure activities and this can possibly lead to stress or depression if they never get to do something that they want to do. I think that times could be slowly changing and fathers are starting to do more of the care giving tasks as well, but it most definitely will still be a stereotype in the media that the mothers should do it all.
    Sarah Holt

  7. Amanda what a great past, its so true that moms in our society have very high and sometimes unrealistic expectations. They are expected to do it all, leaving the women who can’t feeling as if they have failed. While women being more active in the workforce is a step in the right direction in terms of gender equality, the expectation that they must also be responsible for all of the household duties as well is unrealistic. The household jobs and raising the children should be a shared aspect of parenting as a pose to the fathers in most cases getting away with doing the bare minimum. This imbalance definitely creates a problem in terms of leisure time for moms this lack of time for themselves can lead to many problems. You brought up some very good points on this issue that effect many families, its defiantly an issue that needs to be taken into consideration for younger generations.

    Julie Macfarlane

  8. Hey Amanda!

    This is a really great way to present this information! I really do agree with you – women are presented with a set of expectations that may not even be attainable for them in many cases. The women who do are often worn so thin that (like you said and we have discussed in class) often times their leisure time takes the hit. This then gets into the whole idea that women will often times feel the need to let other people know that they are a successful “Supermom”, and post details about their day on things like Facebook. I believe this is often part of a reassurance tactic for some moms who re feeling the pressure and need encouragement to continue on with the tasks they are approached with in everyday life. I also believe that we can be quick to label men to be at “fault” for this, when in reality, I’m not sure if that is entirely the case. I believe that could be a contributing factor, but I think in many cases today, men are open minded and are willing to take on responsibility when they see a need. I would say that the “supermom” has been turned into a vicious cycle – since some women choose to raise children in addition to a career, many feel they must do it to fit in, or even to be successful. As a society, we are all at fault. Again, great post Amanda! You nailed it on the head.

    Lori M.

  9. Nice one Amanda.
    You did a really good job arguing the debate on leisure and the impact expectations of the mother. It is vital that everyone has the opportunity to participate in leisure activities because as you mentioned, there are huge psychological and physical advantages. I believe the social advantages to their well-being is just as important as well. As we have discussed in class countless times, the value on leisure activities to give social needs is huge. Social networks and individual support systems are constructed quite often in the leisure and activity realm. I can easily say that many of my good friends are from my sport teams/clubs and I feel many people would agree with me. The “supermom” is not getting the time to meet new people, which has a negative impact. The opportunity to socialize with others who have the same interests in you can allow for positive interaction on a weekly basis with someone who is not immediate family. I believe this is important for all individuals of society; to have the opportunity to socialize and create support/networks with others in the community.
    Thanks!
    Alex H

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