It’s Harmful to Pretend to be Supermom

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I remember all the feelings from when I had my first baby almost six years ago. Joy, utter disbelief at how we created something so freaking amazing, relief, exuberance, nervousness, exhaustion. But none was more harmful than the feeling of being invincible.

This feeling of invincibility is actually a symptom of postpartum psychosis, but I didn’t know it at the time.

I was now in charge of a new, helpless little baby. It was as if my ego grew tenfold in the moments he was extracted from my belly and the only person who could do things right for this tiny person my husband and I had brought into this world was me. Because I was his mama, of course.

He liked how I swaddled him best, how I rocked him just right, how I fed and burped him. I was trying to breastfeed exclusively which, looking back now was a mistake given how lack of quality sleep is a trigger for mania in my case, but I was putting the baby first, not my mental health. I never gave myself a break because I thought if I did, I’d be failing as a mom.

What I know now, after experiencing postpartum psychosis when my son was four weeks old, after recovering and going on to have a second baby, is that pretending to be supermom is harmful. It’s probably one of our worst habits as moms – pretending everything is fine when it’s not. This type of facade hurts everyone in the family, especially the mom.

Once I opened my eyes, looked around me and started to engage openly with other moms, I began to realize we’re all in this together. And the more honest we’re able to be with each other, the more we’ll see that we all have our struggles as new moms, whether it’s postpartum depression, affecting one in seven new moms a year, or something more rare like postpartum psychosis, or maybe it’s that you secretly hate breastfeeding but are scared to admit it for fear of being judged. No one is supermom. And that’s okay.

Motherhood is one of the most emotionally challenging, depleting yet fulfilling at the same time, demanding yet rewarding, never-ending roles we’ll ever play in life. I don’t want to do it wearing a costume. I don’t want to pretend. I want to be me, mistakes and all. It’s those mistakes as a mom which have taught me I’m human. Not superhuman. I expose my imperfections so others know they are not alone.

Together as moms, let’s vow to stop pretending to be superheros. If we’re tired, let’s rest. If we’re stressed, let’s ask for support. If we’re scared, let’s reach out for comfort and help. And if we think something may be wrong with our mental health, let’s talk about it so that we can get treatment and get back to being mom. Let’s vow to do our best as moms, but let’s not forget to take time for ourselves, too. Because when we take care of ourselves, we’re able to stay mentally healthy and present for our families. And that’s all they’ve really ever asked of us in the first place.

Photo Credit: HamburgerJung via Compfight cc

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About Jennifer Marshall

I married my college sweetheart at 24 and we have two fun-loving, energetic kids. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 in 2006, I had to navigate my pregnancies while managing my mental illness. I write at bipolarmomlife.com to share my experiences with others so they realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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  1. Thank you so much, Jennifer. The day I stopped pretending and started being honest about my feelings was a very big day in my recovery from postpartum anxiety and depression. I know many women will be able to relate to this as I have.

  2. Jennifer, I recognize myself in this so much. I was telling my mother how to hold my son exactly the right way, as if I were the expert. I was ridiculous. Thank you for sharing this story so others can benefit!

  3. Brigid Visser says:

    With you breastfeeding that releases positive endorphins which probably really helped in your situation. Also, the fact you were capable of giving cuddles and showing your baby love makes you a lot stronger than you think.

  4. This is great. Not just for new moms, although it was a huge issue for me too when mine were little. Now that they are older, they learn and gain self sufficiency. I’m not doing it all. Makes for compassionate kiddos. When I’m sick now, they help me.

    • Thanks so much, Jenny. I agree. Now that mine are older they’ve become very compassionate. I had a headache the other day and was laying on the couch while my two were playing quietly, and my older one drew me a get-well card!

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