Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 8:34AM
Okay, so what is UP with all the trendy names used in recent years to replace the term Mother? (And who are the people creating them? Writers? Society? The Fashion Industry? Or, gasp, other Mothers!?) Everywhere you turn you hear them: “Mommy-on-the-go,” “Modern Mom,” “Soccer Mom,” “Mocha Mom,” (yuck) or the worst one in my opinion, “Super Mom.”
I admit I can fall victim to all the promises that go along with the glamorous title. (I also admit I DO think the Sienna minivan commercials are hilarious.) At just the words I am deluged with images of well-dressed women gracefully balancing their many tasks, carpools, and appointments while still making time for massages, lunches, workouts and organic, gluten-free meals made from scratch. These women can change a diaper (or a tire) as they run a meeting via satellite; they stay organized by selling old items on Ebay; they regularly read books and attend lectures without ever putting their kids in daycare or spilling coffee on their designer white shirts! It’s an imaginary standard, probably accrued from years of ideals in fashion mags, sitcoms, and movies combined with the self-imposed ideas I have about motherhood and my own worth. It took me a long time and much courage to realize I sincerely believed that the more I accomplished, the more I was worth loving.
Like any good campaign, the Super Mom one is seductive and deliciously tempting. Not only for its fabulous accessories (think Prada diaper bag and Bugaboo Stroller), but also for its God Complex. As a Super Mom, I have superhuman power: I can see through walls, and like Clark Kent, with a change of costume fulfill all the other roles in my life without ever breaking a sweat! Super Moms can be there for everyone! Clearly, moms are not the only ones who have this struggle—we all give ourselves titles complete with made-up rules and parameters by which to live and against which to measure. We do this hundreds of times a day, linking our identity to any number of monikers (Daughter, Wife, Sister, Friend, Yoga Teacher, Writer, Social Coordinator, Busy, Always Late, Impatient, Dependable.) This thread runs deep (one of the reasons it is such a hard one to deny!). It plays into the standards we set for ourselves, the ones set for us by our parents and upbringing. It reflects our generation, our history, culture, and values. It also serves as an endless diversion from ever having to really examine ourselves, or from a yogic perspective, our SELFs.
How we feel about ourselves and how we interact with others is inextricably linked to whatever title or “hat” we’re wearing. We define ourselves proudly, “I am a Stay At Home Mom.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s natural and unavoidable. However, if we are always measuring ourselves against some unattainable standard (that we have invented), we will always fall short. Super Mom has to face the limits of humanity—and it’s a tough pill to swallow! The struggle for Super Human status leaves us feeling less than human, a failure, drained and resentful of all the effort. We end up defining ourSELF with what we are not, by what we have not done rather than what we are or what we manage to do. So how do we hang up the cape? How can we retire some of these delusions of what/who we should be, and just BE?
The key to keeping those self-inflicted titles in check is Awareness. Thank you Louise Hay, who says (I’m paraphrasing) “Your thoughts are just thoughts. If a thought arises that doesn’t serve you well, cast it out and think new thoughts.” It can be that simple, but it takes practice! It also takes much courage, patience, and gratitude. If I let go of being a Daughter, Wife, Sister, Friend, Teacher…and, gulp, Mother…what am I left with!? Fear sets in. But then I realize I’m just me and I am still here, in this body, in this space, breathing in and out and doing the best I know to do (most days). I don’t go away. I don’t change form. I remain. I can acknowledge my efforts, those that succeed and those that fail. And I can be so thankful I have another day—not to be better, but to just experience each moment and have all that potential. Maybe I am late and my shirt is dirty, maybe the dogs went unfed…maybe I ignored my child in favor of the phone or even couldn’t, can’t, love my mother in quite the way she needs me to. But I’m still here—I can be defined simply by existing. My existence defines me. Facing that flawed and unglamorous reality without judgment, with gratitude, is a Super Human feat itself, no?
So maybe Super Mom isn’t the worst title I could have—as long as my powers serve me well. With heightened abilities of awareness I can use laser vision to recognize when I go astray. Then, with lightening speed I will conjure thankfulness and correct my thoughts and behavior. I will make myself invisible to the ever-reaching arms of expectation and I will cast Doubt and Fear out of the universe.
Super Mom (Or dad) Meditation
The next time you’re in your loaded SUV, waiting in line for a latte or child, take a moment. Put down your iphone, and close your eyes. Allow all the titles you identify yourself with to come to surface. You can see yourself in those roles like watching a movie screen, or imagine the words in front of you. If emotions or feelings arise as you do this, acknowledge them and then let them go. Practice yogic breath (even, smooth breath with regular, slow inhales and exhales passing through the nose), and release each of those titles and all that goes with them—you can imagine them burning up or floating away or shooting them with a laser, anything that speaks to you. Keep breathing and recite (silently or aloud):
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I am grateful for who I am.
Practice this meditation any time you feel overwhelmed or
become aware of yourself waiting.