The worst superhero

You know a phrase I hate?



Admittedly, there are a few superpowers you gain when you are a parent. Things like the ability to change a nappy on a moving baby in under 20 seconds, the skills required to simultaneously lift a hefty four year old in one hand, a giant bag of groceries in the other, and fold a buggy with your foot.

The ability to carry out a reasonably grown up phonecall whilst also breaking up a fight, with one child clinging on to your back, avoiding the Lego being thrown by another child in an aggressive fashion at your head.

The self-restraint necessary not to strangle your offspring when they wake you at 5.45am demanding Cartoon Network, which you banned a few years ago in a fit of self righteousness about TV ideals, only to have to repeal the ban when you realise that without Cartoon Network, no dinners would ever be cooked.

I can pair 29 socks in LITERAL seconds. The odd ones are shoved together like awkward teens at the end of a night at a seedy disco. The leftover one always gets tucked into Will’s drawer for the joyous day when all socks are reunited. 

 Some superpowers, I think I probably should have acquired by now, but I appear to have missed. Like the ability to get three kids to school before the morning bell goes. Although I have perfected the art of shoving them through the classroom doors in the seconds before their teachers get to the ‘S’ section in the register (the joys of a later-alphabet surname! Who knew?!)

I’ve also never managed to:

Return the library books without incurring a fine. “Did you know you can renew them online?” they always say, brightly. “REALLY?” I say, my eyes glazed over with the despair of paying 50p fines on Beast Quest books for the last year, because I can never find the PIN code I need to renew them online.

Leave the house with all three kids, but without returning 47 times to pick up: keys/wallet/phone/lunchboxes/shoes(!)/wipes/enough snacks for three months/bike helmets.

Finding the time to apply eyeliner in the morning without looking like a recently bereaved goth.

Being able to find the right batteries/charger at the right time. Sensing my horror when faced with a drawer full of assorted very similar but crucially different chargers, Will has taken this job on as his responsibility. Thank f*ck. 

 Wearing a wrap dress but not looking six months pregnant. “Ooooh, a FOURTH?” No. Just a decent-sized breakfast, actually. Thanks. 

 Having exactly the right mix (I’m pretty sure there is a formula somewhere for this) of contents in your handbag. They include: precisely the correct Lego mini figure, pens of EXACTLY the right shade/thickness, wipes x 2 million, tissues, lip balm, calpol (somehow) gloves, spare knickers/t-shirt/wardrobe, a YoYo Bear with a card they’ve not seen before, enough raisins to crush into the largest carpet, a drink that doesn’t create a small lake in aforementioned bag.

Seriously, anyone who can do that last one must be a mathematical/mothering genius and I salute you, lady.

Women sometimes use the phrase ‘Supermum’ in a sort of sneery way, at women who appear calm and together. There’s nothing more annoying than a public tantrum by your half-naked devil child than the tantrum being witnessed by a load of Boden-tastic mums who CLEARLY have their shit together. Bloody Supermums, you might mutter under your breath, in between hissing hollow threats at your bundle of angry joy and sobbing profusely.

Some men use the phrase in a jaw-droppingly patronising way to describe the wonderful job their wives do whilst they are out at work, doing Important Stuff.

I wouldn’t have truly believed this until I heard it at the park the other day. “I don’t know how Emily does it, with the two of them at home all day. She must be Supermum, or something!” Ha! I bet Emily occasionally ditches her lycra and halo and drinks G&Ts at 5pm, or puts Cartoon Network on while she hides in the kitchen to read her Twitter feed, a frozen pizza burning quietly in the Aga. Maybe not, maybe that’s just me. (But we don’t have an Aga, so it can’t be!)

The point is: no one is really a Supermum. Superheros, are, after all, fictional. Mums are not. Mums are real. Wonderfully, messily real.  

And every time we use that phrase; wistfully or bitterly, we say either ‘I can never really be your friend becasue you are TOO GOOD’ or ‘I hold you in such high esteem you CANNOT FAIL.’ And the pressure builds on poor Supermum.

Unable to fail, she continues to Instagram her homemade chicken nuggets, but fails to mention that no one liked them so they all had beans on toast and a choc-ice. You see only the organic chicken nugget shot and cry a little, weeping that you are not a supermum too. You resent her more.

Mums are real people. They were real people before they were mums, and – newsflash – no super-powers are actually bestowed at the point of delivery. (If there were, my first superpower of choice would definitely be the ability to sit down comfortably.)

We do everyone a disservice when we say Supermum. It dehumanizes the most human job of all: raising children.

Of course everyone screws up sometimes, it’s just that some people are more upfront about it than others. And maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons that some people are less upfront about their reality is that they don’t want to let all the people who have called them Supermum down.

No one is perfect. Some people are genuinely brilliant parents, 99.9% of the time, and they find the whole thing very natural. Many of us are not those people. We need to be less resentful, and more happy for them. Many of us chalk a day up as a success if no one has died and everyone has eaten a meal that wasn’t entirely from the freezer.

We’re all human, very few grown-ups wear lycra and a cape all day. And we need to remember that.