The Supermum Syndrome

Maria writes at Feisty Tapas, she’s Spanish, married to an Englishman and they have one child. She is a WAHM, translates, writes freelance and a myriad of other feathers in her cap but it’s all getting a bit too  exhausting – read on and let me know if you see yourself in this post. Tweet Maria too she loves to chat! Or find her on Facebook
feisty tapasSince always I have been one to take everything on, whatever it is. I am totally aware that, if I put my mind to it, I can do it. I may not be the best at everything or at anything but, if I can do it, I do it.

Then I became a mum, the whole world turned on its head, nothing went as I expected and things… well, things changed when I least needed even more change.

I have carried on as always, I have kept on doing everything, I went back to working from home but now in the company of a child and I have kept on doing housewifey things (I must confess that I am quite rubbish at being a domestic goddess). 

I even started a blog for goodness sake (a blog can serve multiple purposes: call for help, psychotherapy, support network, friendship, it truly is endless in its giving). 

We have thought about childcare but, in between the fact that I know I can carry on and the fact that I’m not one to throw in the towel, why have childcare? And the fact that it involves research (I tend to be quite detailed in my research, it’s part of my job): find a place, ask for an appointment, etc. It just ends up not happening when I realise that I just can’t bring myself to take a decision, what if something goes wrong? Then something does go wrong elsewhere, even if it is in Qatar and I think no way! But I so need some help with LittleT.

Basically, with me, the fact that I can do everything doesn’t mean that I want to and that there aren’t certain things that I dread doing and put off because they ultimately scare the crap out of me.

Today I am exhausted, today I told my husband on the phone that we need to find childcare. Today I should be…

feisty tapas


This is as far as I got writing this post the other week, probably 2 weeks ago, because this is one of the things that really scare the crap out of me. These are things that I try to keep inside of me until one day I explode.

I decided to retake the post and, in the aim of research, I googled the title I had chosen, The Supermum Syndrome. Do you know what? It turns out I am not the only one suffering this ailment. Hooray for the Sisterhood of Mum.

Then I watched the film I don’t know how she does it on DVD and it all got me thinking: why do we feel the need to be supermum?

I started thinking of all of this because there have been lots of things getting me down lately:

– A really energetic child who I am constantly trying to get more focussed

– Family demands of the Spanish kind (imagine family pressure and then multiply it by 1,000). Let’s not go there.

– Clients not taking no for an answer, the most difficult of clients who seem to have forgotten how to do their jobs, I swear a year ago they used to be quite efficient. I have a theory: either a) everyone has forgotten that the economy isn’t that buoyant at the moment and they really shouldn’t rest on their laurels or b) they are just spreading themselves too thin. The truth is that, if I say no to a client, I do mean it and in fact I say it for their own good, because I know I am not going to do the quality of work they are used to receiving from me. They actually know this, they have been working with me for years. I may earn less that way but it keeps my reputation where I have had it for many years and it means I haven’t missed a single milestone of my child’s life so far, I was the one sitting at the kitchen table recording her first steps on video when I saw the determination in her eyes.

On the other hand, it was hard enough to make people realise before I became a mother that when I say “I work from home” I literally mean “I WORK from home”, just like other people earn their livings at more traditional places of work, home is my place of work, yes it is, but now I have to put up with the “oh so you have a hobby “looks (and I don’t even mean my blog, i.e. the thing that is keeping me sane).

feisty tapas bubble

What I don’t understand: with so many of us working from home, is this lifestyle so difficult to comprehend? And no, it’s not a hobby, it’s my career and profession (as well as a whole chunk of who I am and something I am extremely proud of. Talk to any stay at home mum: even if society doesn’t think so, they work really hard. Looking after a child, keeping them entertained and trying to do housework with them around your legs is indeed hard work, running a household in this economy is hard work, trying to save money when the prices of everything are on the increase, meal planning (of the kind that the family will eat and a long etcetera).

I have to add that it is not just mums who juggle, just the other day I got talking in the playground to a father who turned out to be Spanish and married to an Englishwoman. She works, he looks after their 2 year old and he seemed to be feeling a bit overstretched.

All in all, for me it is a relief to know that I am not the only one feeling like this, going through this.

What is it that makes us keep pushing on? Why do we think that we need to show to ourselves and the rest of the world that we really can cope with everything? Add another ball to my juggling act? Oh, go on, why not? What is one more ball after all, right?

I do wonder: does this Supermum Syndrome affect people equally whatever stage they are at in their lives? i.e. mums in their teens, early or late twenties, thirties and fourties?

Mari, did you have the same expectation of yourself with your first pregnancies and with the twins? Did you feel the world expected more or less of you? Or is it perhaps a 21st century syndrome?


  1. June 18, 2012 / 8:12 AM

    I was always guilty of underestimating just how much stay at home mums did prior to becoming one myself. Now I see that working was actually like being on holiday compared to looking after my baby and the house, running round after my 10 year old and trying to work out how on earth to make some kind of a living for myself (not that I’ve even managed that bit yet!). The baby is at that not crawling yet but wanting to be in/on/touching everything stage and is certainly very demanding, he keeps hurting himself aswell while trying to crawl etc so leaving him unless he’s asleep even just to load the dishwasher is asking for trouble, couple that with the fact that he’s decided over the last week not to go to bed before 10pm again and I literally have no time to do anything else other than cook dinner and maybe grab a shower if I’m lucky so how you fit in a full time job as well as having a toddler there with you all day I’ll never know! x

    • June 18, 2012 / 8:23 PM

      It is so hard, isn’t it Kat? I think the stage you’re at is the one that requires immediate adaptation and 360 degree vision. I remember life totally changed once T was on the move dragging herself around the house and it happened just as I thought I was getting to grips with it and finding a good balance. I don’t cope very well anymore and she so enjoys to be with other kids, I need to get her some childcare even if only one day a week. Thank you for reading and commenting :)

  2. June 18, 2012 / 8:20 AM

    You are so not alone! I used to work from home, then started a new job in January whereby I work from work during mornings (start at 5am) and work from home evenings and weekends. I know what you mean about people not taking the working from home side of the job seriously – it’s so irritating! But we’re all in this together – and sometimes I think you HAVE to accept that you CAN’T do everything all of the time. x

  3. June 18, 2012 / 10:13 AM

    I think it’s a very confusing time in society at the moment, where we feel we should work because we can and because feminism has helped us in so many ways, but we also want to do all the mothering.

    It’s just not possible to be successful at everything.  It never was, it’s just that the things we weren’t good at before kids didn’t bother us as much.  You can’t work, do all the childcare, keep the house clean, do all the chores and do it all well.  Its not possible.  You need to work out what you can dump and delegate – it’s surprising how just getting rid of a little bit can help.
    Big hugs hun – I’ll be doing the same thing over the next couple of weeks, cos as you know it’s been a tough couple of months for me xxxx

  4. Karaguppy
    June 18, 2012 / 1:45 PM

    I am with you there. I now work from home (as a childminder) and it is so much harder than I thought.
    Hubby still thinks that I can manage all the household chores, entertain a myriad of children (some mine, some not) and be a domestic goddess.
    I think there is a lot of pressure on parents to be super human! I do feel different now I am in my late 30s to when I was younger but I am not sure if it is my age or whether times have changed. I am far less career minded now than I used to be and strive for a perfect work life balance (if there is one of course)

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