The do-it-all mom. Super mom. The idea of modern motherhood is infused with an idea of superhero abilities. When I was pregnant with WallyV, a mom-friend gave me these wise words, “Just wait. You will be walking in from the grocery store carrying a baby carrier, bags of groceries, your purse, your diaper bag, baby toys, your breastpump, and a gallon of milk. You will be able to do a million things at once. You will be doing things you never thought you could do before.” I couldn’t wait to get my powers.

Weeks later I was in that position, balancing 1,000 things on the way in from the store. But I didn’t feel like Superman, with everything lightly dangling from each finger while I stood upright and powerful. I felt like the cartoon klutz—falling one way, falling another, bumping into things, knocking everything in my path over, with the door miles away. I could do this balancing act, but I was still a mere human. (Although, I did surprise my sister with an arm wrestling tie when WallyV was around 7 months old—where prior to carrying around a 20 pound kid in a 7 pound carseat she had always creamed me, I was finally able to hold my own.)

Recently I’ve received quite a few checks to my ego. I invited a friend to a local event and then put it in my calendar on the wrong night and missed it—her sweet text checking in that I was okay had me hitting my forehead for days. I mixed up Pakistan and Palestine in conversation with two of my favorite smart world traveler friends—they had visited Palestine and I went on and on about how beautiful it must be there, since I had just read a book all about it. As I went into greater detail, my idiocy was revealed and someone tactfully pointed it out. I read a novel-length book about Pakistan and had no idea what I was talking about (not to mention that I am a lifelong Christian, and hello, the Holy Land!). I hit my forehead for weeks about that one. (“No one will think I’m smart anymore!” I said to my sister after that. “Don’t worry, I never thought you were smart in the first place,” she replied. Thanks for keeping it real, Liz.) And then, in front of 20 of my favorite people in this town (my book club), an entire glass of red wine flew out of my hands and landed on a white carpet. (As another side note, Oxyclean for life!)

I don’t want to be telling you this. I want to be telling you how smart I am, how together I have things, how everyone admires my gracefulness. And most of all, I want to be able to tell you that because I am so smart, so graceful, and have things so together, I am a supermom. But I am not even that.

This story is about Trouble. Trouble with a capital T. No, I am not being dramatic here. This is about the proper noun Trouble, the board game that was my undoing, that initially inspired this self-examination, that revealed something that has been true all along that I have been failing to see. The Wallys and I have played hours of Trouble since we got it for Christmas (and Vivvi, sweet Vivvi, must have wandered the house for hours, since she has no interest yet and she is Vivvi). We had been into Sorry, and we’ve discovered that Trouble is a version of that game—like Olympic speedskating, if Sorry is distance, Trouble is short track—it’s faster, more exciting, with way more potential for taking other people out. We have played so often that when WallyV played with his Poppy, Wally III, and Nana, my in-laws were convinced that he was some kind of savant, jumping to the correct spot on the board without counting how many spaces he had to go, quickly taking his turns, strategizing. It would be impressive if it weren’t because we are simply obsessed with this game.

But here’s my trouble with Trouble: I always lose. I don’t play as often as the Wallys, so I copy their strategy. I even ask WallyV which moves to make, and I still lose. I have horrible luck with the game—I have been known to pop 1s, the worst possible roll, 10 times in a row. And worse, I have been a move away from winning several times and I’m taken out, or sent across the board, or a combination of those until I lose. (I imagine myself trailing Apolo Ohno, the required closeup of me, hands on my head, drifting around the rink—such potential, Olympic dreams dashed again.)

This losing isn’t yet where my ego comes to play. This isn’t yet the big reveal. That was just a story about my eternal bad luck with the game.

Here is the down and dirty truth: Trouble has exposed that I am a miserable loser. Before you feel sorry for me, I am not talking about the “L” on the forehead loser. I am only saying that after so many times of losing this game in such a spectacular way, I started to get mean. I watched myself transform into an angry player, complaining about my bad rolls, sighing and growling about other player’s moves, and even accusing husband Wally of turning WallyV against me, accusing him of laughing at my misery. Over several losing evenings, my behavior got so bad that husband Wally threw the towel in and said he would not play with me anymore. I begged him to give me a chance, and he did. The next night, I came in with a fresh attitude. As it loves to do, the game turned on me again, and I got mean. My behavior was so bad. WallyV then turned to his dad and joked, “Mom is being a crybaby.” I was ready to lash out, but I stopped.

I considered my behavior, my inability to keep myself in check in the face of this drasted game, and I saw it: I am a crybaby! A crybaby who cannot help getting mad at Trouble! I laughed, looked at him in is “oh-no, I-am-getting-in-trouble” eyes, and said, “You are right!”

The supermom would never set such a horrible example! Where were those damn superpowers? When I realized I was being an idiot and I couldn’t help myself, it was sort of refreshing. I am—gasp!—not perfect. I have always known this, but somehow, in this moment, when my 5-year-old pointed it out to me, I really allowed myself to know it.

As I reflected on this Trouble and all of the other things I had done recently that put my imperfection into the spotlight, I realized—I am not, in fact, a Supermom. You see, there is this thing called Mom Guilt. It happens because we think we should be superhuman—a supermom would not ever run short on patience. A supermom would always have a clean house. A supermom would definitely not get mad at a dumb game. So we feel guilty about it. But what if we didn’t expect ourselves to be supermoms? Would we be happier? Would we be less judgey to others? Would we somehow become more patient, less angry (and in my case, better at losing games)?

And does this apply beyond parenting to life in general? We feel like so much of life is about hanging on tight. Being in control. Not losing it when we lose a dumb game. Not letting others see our flaws. Saying the right things, doing the right things. My ego would like myself and everyone else to operate under the illusion that I am perfect. But a lot of time and mindpower can be sucked up into that illusion—a lot of wasted time looking in, when I could be looking out.

To have it all together, we have to hold it all together, right? What happens if we let go?

No one benefits when I try to be supermom, superhuman—when I try to be God. I am not God, and I’m so glad for that. (I told my Bible study that I prayed for boobs all the time in middle school, and I’m so glad I didn’t get them. I would not have used those powers for good!) I don’t want a world where I have big boobs and everything goes my way. I am a fool! I am a person who forgets appointments, mixes up countries, spills wine, prays for boobs, gets mad at games that don’t matter in front of my child who has learned to lose better than me. I am not Supermom. I am a human being, and I can’t fault myself for that. The best I can do is to learn and improve upon these flaws—double check my calendar, look at a world map, get a better grip on my glass, get plastic surgery (just kidding!), watch my son’s learned example of losing. And then, I can allow myself the grace of being human.

The act of raising a child has a way of shining a light on our imperfections. When you become a mom, you might as well check your ego at the door. It is not going to survive the spit-up stains and lack of sleep, the 12 hour work days and strains on time, the toys everywhere and the public tantrums and the scraping away of your patience and the raising of human beings who are paradoxically independent and dependent. You will be messy, you will make mistakes, you will fall on your face. You will not be Supermom. I have been living with this realization for a few weeks, and it is incredibly freeing.

No, you will not be Supermom. But you will be something even better—you will be a human with the awesome responsibility and privilege of seeing other humans through life. If you can stop dwelling on your ego, you’ll have more time to dwell on the good stuff. So give yourself a break, acknowledge your humanness, allow yourself to be human, and let go. And odds are you will be a more super mom for it.

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