The Supermum Myth: my life of checks and balances.
Melanie Mackie is a woman with many roles including training advisor, mother and blogger. Here, Melanie shares her story and gives us a glimpse into her world, shining a light on the myth of the ‘Supermum’ and the extraordinary level of multitasking that it takes to ‘do it all’. To read more of Melanie’s witty and honest writing, join her blog at A Cuckoo Laid an Egg in My Nest!
It’s 6am on a weekday. The radio cuts through the silence and I hear footsteps padding down the hall. The Ranga (8) slides into my bed and squishes beside me. He is warm and soft in his flannelette pyjamas. I ruffle his red hair.
Twenty minutes later Olivia (9) slips in on my right hand side. Her long limbs latch onto mine. We have formed a mummy sandwich.
Everyone is still – our breathing rhythmic. For a moment there is calm.
My hand reaches up to feel my scalp. I wonder if I can get away with it for another day. I opt for baby powder and a bun and settle in for another ten minutes.
And so my day begins.
"I know I’m going to be late for work, I know I’m going to eventually lose my temper, I know I’m going to feel guilty and it makes me feel 50% effective 100% of the time."
Some mornings run smoothly and I am surprised by my level of productivity (I can drink tea, check emails and blow dry sodden school socks simultaneously), but others – let’s call them the “Broken Lego Mornings” – are not so smooth.
The Ranga is on the autism spectrum and any number of things can tip him over the edge to varying degrees – too many instructions, unfamiliar foods, long pants, obsessive interests etc.
But…Broken Lego Mornings are unexpected, unaccounted for and unfixable. They have the power to violently drag the scales in one direction.
It starts with a panicky whimper and escalates quickly into a full blown meltdown. Every muscle in my body tenses as I know we are going NOWHERE until we find the missing Lego piece/fix the broken Lego police vehicle. How those brightly coloured bricks and their happy little yellow headed friends can have such demonic properties is beyond me!
Broken Lego Mornings bring the whole house to a standstill. I know I’m going to be late for work, I know I’m going to eventually lose my temper, I know I’m going to feel guilty and it makes me feel 50% effective 100% of the time.
I spend the rest of my day processing my mental checklists and stacking options against one another:
Small grocery shop on the way home from work vs a proper shop with the kids after school.
Help with homework and have scrambled eggs on toast for dinner vs forgoing the homework for a fully cooked meal from scratch.
Increase my work hours to aid my financial capacity vs continue with my current arrangement, spend time with the kids and minimise OOSH fees.
Yes, I’m well aware I’m an over-thinker. However, I’m also aware the buck stops with me. All of my decisions whether major or minor have the potential to stabilise or destabilise my little family unit of three.
"I’m in the moment – at least I’m trying to be down with the whole mindfulness thing – but I also have one eye fixed on the clock counting down the minutes until “My Time”.
I was mulling over this for several days recently when I came across 24 Hours in Emergency. Who needs a therapist when you can take advice from an English reality hospital program?
A mum sitting with her two kids in Accident & Emergency waiting for her son to pee into a bottle said, “So I’m a single mum, so what?”
And she was right.
I’m also a single mum and I work and…
My reality is my reality. It is what it is.
Women should be each other’s greatest advocates, but we are not. We should be our own greatest advocates, but we crucify ourselves.
It’s 7pm and we have formed another mummy sandwich, all six of us (me, Olivia, The Ranga, a ventriloquist’s doll, a stuffed dog and a giant rainbow coloured bug). We are squished on the lounge under a blanket watching episodes of Cake Boss.
I’m in the moment – at least I’m trying to be down with the whole mindfulness thing – but I also have one eye fixed on the clock counting down the minutes until “My Time”.
It’s 8pm and Olivia’s voice shouts from the bedroom. “Muuuum, how much longer can I read for?”
8.15pm and The Ranga joins in. “Muuuum, is the hall light on?”
8.22pm. The Ranga again. “Muuuum, can you tuck my sheet in?”
8.40pm and it’s back to Olivia. “Muuuum, did Buddy from Cake Boss ever make a Hershey’s chocolate cake?”
8.45pm. Silence, except for the low hum of the television.
I immediately want to ‘treat’ myself and rifle through the pantry. It’s My Time and the possibilities are endless – there are cookies and tea or chocolate and wine. There’s Hoarders to watch and Facebook and Pinterest to trawl through. There’s a half made crocheted rug to complete and pieces to write.
I settle down on the lounge; one hand poised on the remote and one on my phone.
Suddenly I lift my crooked neck off the cushion and wipe the drool from the left hand side of my mouth. It’s 12.30am and there are re-runs of Friends on rotation.
I drag myself to bed and form a cocoon until the radio cuts through the silence at 6am.