The baby is crying, the dog is barking, your husband is snoring, and you look over at the clock and realize you went to bed just five hours ago. You grab the baby; let the dog out, and sleepwalk to the coffee pot. The dishes from the night before are still piled high in the sink, and you’re out of formula for the baby. You run to the store to grab some formula, still in your slippers with a coat on to hide your pajamas. By the time you get back home, the other kids are demanding breakfast. You pour them some cereal, pack their lunches, and hurry them to the car be- cause you’re late once again to drive the car pool to school and daycare. Oh, and you’re still in your pajamas!
You arrive home and finally pour yourself that first cup of coffee. Now your husband wakes up from his restful night of sleep and is so glad you’re home for a little hanky-panky. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” you shriek. He looks at you in wonder, as if he can’t figure out why you’re never in the mood.
Does this scene sound familiar to you? It’s someone trying to be a Supermom—running around like a basket case with an endless to-do list trying to please everyone and ending up frazzled and exhausted.
Before recovery, this was my life. I wanted to do it all: be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, and the perfect employee. I wanted to live the picture-perfect Christmas-card life. Everything needed to look good on the outside. The house had to be spotless, like a model home where no one actually lived. The outfits my children wore were matching and of the latest fashion. My body needed to be perfectly toned and slim. Trying to keep up with the Joneses (whoever the hell they are) was exhausting and unachievable—and it conflicted with my recovery program and principles.
I have witnessed many mothers (including myself) fly around in the Supermom cape at speeds faster than lightning so we don’t have to stop and feel the feelings of not being enough. I teach my clients this mantra: “I have enough, I do enough, and I am enough.”
We often don’t stop to realize the impact our Supermom role has on our children. Not only do they grow up believing that moms must do it all, but most kids these days are over-scheduled themselves, pulled from one place to another. They’re up at six thirty in the morning, attend school all day, and then run from piano lessons to soccer until dark. When these kids finally arrive home, they need to start their three hours of home- work. It’s no wonder our kids are stressed out, exhausted, and cranky—just like their mothers—or that they, too, turn to alcohol and drugs.
Trying to do it all can literally kill us.
Oh, what a relief when I finally surrendered my Superwoman cape. It was so exhausting to be everything to everyone and no one to myself. Often we moms never make it onto our own to-do list, putting everyone else’s needs before our own, including our basic needs like food, sleep, and hygiene. I was actually quite shocked when I surrendered the cape and the world didn’t fall apart without me. It was a relief and a disappointment at the same time.
I remember one evening when my former husband and I were newly separated. Our kids were two, five, and eight. It was his night to have the kids, but I just popped by to drop off some unnecessary item I knew they couldn’t live without. (The item I was dropping off was actually my fear that they were not okay without me.) But as I entered the one- bedroom apartment I saw my former husband cooking delicious food, with music playing and my kids dancing while they set the table. I was so shocked, I had to sit down on the couch to absorb that they were all surviving without me running the show.
In recovery, one of the best things I did was to make a commitment to myself that Monday nights were all for me. The kids spent Monday nights at their dad’s house, so this was my night to say no to the rest of the world and yes to me and my well-being. No work, no housecleaning, no meetings, no dates, and no going out anywhere. Giving myself this time not only improved my sanity, it also benefitted my kids greatly. I was able to be more present, grounded, and calm to handle all the challenges and blessings of motherhood.
I heard about another woman who found time for herself by hiring a babysitter. When the sitter arrived, she’d walk out the front door and then sneak in the back door and tiptoe up to her room to take a nap.
Sober Mom’s Tools to Stop Being Supermom
- Give yourself a permission slip to say no to the next ten requests for your time and energy. A polite way to say no is, “Thank you so much for asking me, but I have an appointment at that time.” Only you have to know that your appointment is your naptime!
- Take Erma Bombeck’s advice: “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.”
- Take a “mommy time-out.” If your kids are young, put on a video (even if it’s the fifth time they have watched it that day), make sure they’ll be safe, then go into your bedroom and lock the door for a brief time.
- Make a list of everything you think needs to be done today. Then review each item, asking yourself, “Will the world fall apart cape and post this sign on the refrigerator: Your emergency is not my urgency.
- Here’s your new mantra: “I have enough, I do enough, and I am enough”. Write it on the bathroom mirror in red lipstick. Post it on the refrigerator. Put it on your dash- board in your car. Stick it to the forehead of your children and spouse and if that doesn’t work, get a tattoo.
As a motivational speaker, certified life coach, and certified addiction coach, Rosemary O’Connor has helped thousands of people bring positive changes in their personal and professional lives via her workshops, coaching, articles, blogs, and speaking engagements via stage, television, radio, and webinars.
Rosemary is the founder of ROC Recovery Services, which provides recovery coaching, life coaching, consulting, and treatment placement for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. In 2015, Hazelden Publishing released her new book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery – Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids.