It is a word that has slipped so rapidly into the mainstream that 'supermum' even has its own entry in the Oxford Dictionary.
OK, I know what you're thinking.
What's the big deal? It's just a harmless compliment, an expression of admiration for those mums who seem to manage to keep all their plates spinning at once.
But stay with me.
What exactly are we saying about parenthood when we bandy about the term 'supermum'? You see, our culture has an obsession with Instagram-worthy perfection. With success, power and image.
And this obsession has filtered into our perspective on parenthood. We're in a never-ending battle to respond to those voices that demand we be spectacular, infallible, powerful.
According to this point of view, weakness and failure are shameful, things to be shoved far back into that cupboard that no-one ever looks into.
What if I told you that your family can benefit enormously from your weakness? That we miss out on a lot by thinking of imperfection as the enemy?
Let me elaborate.
Here are 5 reasons why imperfection is actually good for your family. It’s time to kiss the supermum myth goodbye.
1. Weakness helps us to become more compassionate parents
Have you ever found yourself in a major crisis? Who was the best person to talk to about it?
Let me guess. Someone who'd been through the same thing, right?
The thing is, when you talk to someone who has faced a similar challenge, you don’t get empty platitudes or tired clichés. You DO get genuine understanding and compassion.
By holding rather than denying our weakness, we develop a bigger fund of compassion and understanding. And when our children, partners and friends run smack bang into their own crises? We can offer them something better than a thousand self-help books: a little kindness.
2. Our weaknesses can become our greatest strengths
You've heard it before. Maybe in a job interview, maybe on a first date. "What are your strengths and weaknesses?".
Seems like commonsense, right? Of course strengths and weakness are different, we say. They're opposites: like night and day, good and bad.
But here's the interesting thing.
The wisest people about certain issues are the ones who've actually struggled themselves. When you're struggling with something, you try strategies, read books, talk to experts, roadtest theories and sort fact from fiction in real time. Before you know it, you've developed a serious arsenal in an area that was once your greatest shortcoming.
And this is the kind of person your kids need in their corner when they are dealing with the tough stuff.
3. Your imperfection (rather than trying to be a supermum) will help your children come to terms with their own imperfections
News flash: Your children aren't perfect. Shocking, I know. The fact is, they will never be perfect. They will grow, yes. Develop maturity, hopefully. But perfection? Impossible.
One really destructive force in a child’s life is feeling like they don’t live up to their parents’ expectations. And when we expect perfection, of ourselves and others, well, then they can't live up to our expectations.
By acknowledging our own imperfections, we are letting our kids know that it's also okay for them to get it wrong sometimes. By admitting that we make mistakes, they learn that mistakes are not the enemy, but a potential ally. An opportunity for growth, for redirection, for humility. This will give them the courage to try again, to persist through the challenges, creating genuine strength and resilience.
And these are the kinds of grown-ups our world needs.
4. Your imperfection will help your children come to terms with an imperfect world
Let’s be honest, the world is sometimes a messy place. Dealing with this is one of the challenges of growing into adulthood. It's easy to be fooled into feeling that we need to have EVERYTHING under control, of trying to order our worlds so that they fit perfectly around our children.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t prepare our children for a world where things won’t be so neat.
And you know what?
Gaps in what you are able to accomplish creates an opportunity for your kids to step in and share the responsibility. This brings about a fundamental shift in mindset from: “the world exists to make me happy”, to: “how can I help?”.
5. Weakness brings solidarity
When perfection is our aim, its nasty cousin, comparison, inevitably tags along. Comparisons kill friendship and joy. It's definitely not much fun hanging out with someone who dedicates all their energy to maintaining THE IMAGE.
However, when we accept our own imperfection, then we can develop genuine relationships with our family and friends.
Relationships that go beyond the frenzy of keeping up appearances are absolute gold. A great writer, Henri Nouwen, once wrote: “Often there is solidarity in weakness…it leads us to the center of joy which is sharing our humanity with others.”
In a certain branch of Japanese pottery, when a bowl gets a crack in it, the fracture is repaired with gold. The flaw isn’t seen as something to hide, but as a unique feature of the object.
The same thing applies here. You are a great parentbecause of, not in spite of, your weaknesses.
Let’s learn to rethink our own perspective on imperfection: to move through it rather than deny it, to hold it rather than hide it. Because then, our families will become more resilient, more compassionate and, ultimately, havens of peace and love in an image-obsessed world.
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