By Margary Rogers
Being a mom can be one of the most exhilarating feelings that a woman can have. It can also be one of the most exhausting feelings that a woman can have if she suffers from the supermom syndrome: over-excelling, over-exerting, over-extending herself to things and people that are not necessarily priorities.
Dr. John Demartini, an author and world-renowned specialist in human behavior, says, “Women who juggle careers and family or single-handedly manage a handful of kids, inevitably become vulnerable to the supermom syndrome.” The supermom syndrome “arises when you begin to feel exhaustion and immense guilt at the same time for all the things you have got to do, but can’t get it done.” This feeling is so overwhelming.
Dr. Demartini also says a supermom may just find herself experiencing the ABCDEF’s of depression: anger and aggression, blame and betrayal, criticism and conflict, depression and feeling down, exhaustion and exit-strategies, frustration and fatigue.
Let me tell you, I experienced all of these feelings before the pandemic, but the pandemic saved my life! You heard me correctly; the pandemic saved my life. Well, not really the pandemic per se, but the stillness of the pandemic saved my life.
There were many transcript orders (even with an awesome scopist) and many activities, practices, and events scheduled. The weekend before the pandemic, March 7 and 8, 2020, I was so overwhelmed, exhausted, overextended, overworked. The following weekend, March 15, my daughter was to be in a big-production fashion show that she had been practicing for for three months. She was also in another modeling group that had an event at the Kennedy Center scheduled for March 21.
Ava was in gymnastics, ballet, swim team, tennis, ice skating, and on and on. I was running from one practice to take her to another practice. This is still while school was in session and while completing transcripts for lawyers at D.C. courts, with the help of my scopist.
I felt so overworked on my court reporting job. Just a week before the court shutdown due to the pandemic, I had proposed to management possible flextime schedules for court reporters like some of the court employees were given. But to no avail; it did not and, reportedly, could not happen due to the requirement that court reporters be present in the courtroom at the time of proceedings.
I’m a firm believer in prayer!
I vividly remember praying and crying to God, saying God, please allow some event, activity, or job to cancel; God, please work some kind of miracle. Why? Because I was exhausted and overworked. I had said yes one too many times. Again, that supermom syndrome, thinking that life will not go on without my “yes” had come into play. In addition, court was busy. My scopist even said that she had never worked for any one reporter who had so much work in her many years of scoping.
The weekend of March 21, there were four events that I was scheduled to attend, host, create, or be a presenter at: my daughter’s ballet recital, being a presenter at my friend’s women’s conference, and attending Ava’s Kennedy Center modeling/dance event. And because I was on the events committee at my daughter’s school, I was scheduled to help set up for an International Day event. Everything was to occur on the same day, around the same times. And I had not said no to attend or help with any of those activities.
Whew! I know your head is spinning right now just listening to me. (Laugh.)
I am not telling you this to receive any kind of sympathy. I am telling my story because you may have been in the same situation before the pandemic and I want to help, if possible, save us moms from reverting back to that busy, unrealistic, unfulfilling, people-pleasing, and deadly lifestyle of trying to do everything for everybody and feeling guilty if you are unable to do it all.
My schedule was jam-packed. But listen here: We, as moms, have the power to say yes or no to what we add or what someone else tries to add to our schedules. We do not have to be a supermom with superpowers, but we must have the power to say no. We must have the power to set boundaries. We must have the power to ask for support and help and to delegate some of our responsibilities to our spouses, our children, and others. We must have the power to say yes to self-care and say no to the supermom syndrome. We must take breaks and mental health days. If you are an official, you may be able to take some sick or annual leave. If you are a freelancer, you may have to turn down some work. We must rest.
Shondra Rhimes, a successful television producer, screen writer, and author, summarized this in one of her TED Talks entitled My Year of Saying Yes to Everything. She concluded that she would say yes to things, people, and moments that mattered, to things and moments that exemplified love to herself and to her family.
Let’s take on that same philosophy. Let’s say yes to being present in the moment, not always on our cell phones, busy, over-extended and distracted, responding to and “liking” every post on Facebook or other social media outlets. Let’s be present, not thinking about next week or next month. We do not have to attend every event because we feel we are going to miss something or upset someone.
You do not have to answer your phone every time it rings …especially from people that you know are going to drain your energy. Play with your children (uninterrupted), eat your dinner (uninterrupted), and go to sleep (uninterrupted).
You know, when I was praying to God that something has to give, something needs to cancel, I truly believe that if I would have continued another week, another month, another year in that supermom, unrealistic way of living, that I was going to literally die of exhaustion. God saved me. Stillness saved me. Cancellations saved me. Postponements saved me. Sleep saved me. Sanity saved me.
As a mother, and especially as a court reporter mom, let’s keep these five words in mind.
1. Self-care. Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well. Rest your mind. Love yourself.
2. Support: Seek help from your spouse, siblings, children, and other resources or people to help you with motherhood. As the old African proverb says, “It takes a village” to raise children. Delegate some of the responsibilities. My friends always joke with me and say that they are going to call CPS on me because my 8-year-old daughter knows how to wash dishes, cook, fold and iron clothes, vacuum, sweep, clean her room and her bathroom. Now, her cleaning may not be what I would do if I was cleaning, but it’s OK. Remember, we must surrender and let others help us, even if they do not do it the way we would do it.
3. Set boundaries: Set certain days and times where you are unavailable. For example, “I do not answer phone calls after 9 p.m.” Do not allow people to schedule you for things and events that you have not agreed to. Set a day or time that your child/children know “this is mom’s special time so we should not bother her.” Do not take on more that you can handle. If financially possible, secure a reliable and quality scopist so that you can spend quality time with your children.
4. The supermom syndrome: Don’t allow the supermom syndrome to take over your life. Sit still and be grateful for the many accomplishments that you have already made as a mom and in your career. Know that you are enough, and you are doing enough. Once you become a mom, you naturally acquired certain occupations. You are a provider for your child/children, a disciplinarian, a leader, a caretaker, and a protector. You are enough and you do enough. Be proud of what you have already done.
Don’t be fooled by social media and all of the photos that you see with other moms doing 500 things with their children. Do you! Be the best mom you can be to your children without competing and comparing yourself to other mothers. Please do not compete and compare yourself and your progress with people or court reporters who do not have children.
5. Save your life. You deserve to live. Put you on your schedule!
Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official and CART captioner in Washington, D.C.