"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
July 2, 2012
Donning Our Capes
by Melissa Howell

If I could wave a magic wand and redefine the meaning of one word, it would be this: supermom.

According to dictionary.com, supermom is an informal term for a mother who can combine child-care and caring for her home, and employment outside of the home. But in many circles, I've heard it used in a slightly different way - to describe a mother who seems to be practically perfect in every way, a mother who makes perfect meals from scratch every day of the week, keeps a spotless magazine shoot-ready home, throws amazing parties with details that could rival a royal wedding, has children who never misbehave and are immaculately dressed; and so on.

Know anyone who can do all of that and more? Not someone who appears to do it all, but actually does? Me neither.

It seems as though I've been hearing and seeing the word supermom more and more frequently. And a recent Time magazine article that shows a certain questionable picture and asks "Are You Mom Enough?" doesn't exactly help. Mom enough for what?

Earlier in the summer, I found my children running around the backyard, blankets loosely tied around each of their necks, "flying" around to perform superhero tasks. They called themselves the Spanish Superheroes, and went by the monikers of Superhero Uno, Superhero Dos, Superhero Tres and Superhero Cuatro. Their mission was to protect la casa, and teach Superhero Cuatro to count in Spanish.

We could all take a lesson from this. As mothers, on a basic level, we strive to protect our homes and those who therein reside, and teach them the things that are important. There is great power in this.

In an article titled "Lessons from Eve" in the November 1987 Ensign, Elder Russell M. Nelson shared a few lines that he said sustained Sister Nelson through the years and "reflect her sense of priority." My heart leapt for joy when reading this, because they are the very same words my grandmother has repeatedly told me:

"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow.
For babies grow up,
We've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby,
And babies don't keep."

Elder Nelson went on to say, "I'm glad Sister Nelson has not tried to be a 'supermom.' But she has been a 'soothing' mom. This she has done simply by being herself."

We all have different God-given talents. But no one has all the talents and abilities. Rather than using supermom to describe someone who seems so completely amazing and perfect, we could amend it to describe a mom who does the best with what she has. We do this, like Elder Nelson said, simply by being ourselves. And within that, we can all have supermom moments.

Do you love your children, do your best to teach them honest and good principles, and spend quality time with them? Super.

I had a discussion recently with one of my book clubs (I love to read, and I am in two book clubs) about the idea of supermom. As amazing as it is, it's undeniable that such social media and internet channels as Facebook and blogging have created a new stage on which many moms perform. A friend commented that every status update or blog post, in a sense, is a performance. I hadn't looked at it in that way. But she is right.

I like to think I am honest and real and don't try to paint a picture of a life I don't have. But have I framed a certain photograph so it doesn't show a messy kitchen or pile of laundry? Yep. Have I become fascinated with someone I have never met except electronically and subsequently coveted the appearance of her life? Yep.

With such new mothering stages on which to perform, it's sometimes difficult to find the place between letting our lights shine and using our talents, and giving a false perception and appearing to be, well, a supermom, either knowingly or unknowingly. Such are the pressures of our digital parenting generation. And it can create unnecessary, unhelpful and sometimes pressure-filled comparisons. If only we could remember Elder Nelson's counsel to simply be ourselves.

Inside each loving mother is a supermom in some form, and we all have supermom moments. Perhaps your super-talent is throwing amazing parties, or immersing your children in the scriptures. Perhaps it's teaching them to play an instrument, or simply teaching them to love nature. None is better than the other.

I showed up to my daughter Isabel's dance picture day a couple of months ago in a frantic running-late state of mind, thanks in part to a rough night with my toddler. Isabel's hair was undone, because, after four years of dance, I still can't make a ballet bun. One other dance mom swooped in and neatly swept my daughter's hair into a perfect bun.

"Where's her tap shoes?" someone else asked. I blinked, staring at her as if I'd never heard of tap shoes in my life, then came to my senses and realized I had left them at home. Another mom graciously found me a substitute pair.

And makeup? Was she supposed to have makeup? Again, someone jumped in and saved me. I say hand these women some capes, for not judging my ineptitude that day and instead forming a band of mothers to provide service and support. It was proof once again that it really does take a village.

My son recently participated in a research study that looked at the effects of therapeutic horseback riding in kiddos with autism. During one of the riding sessions, another boy, whom we'll call James, was having a beautiful riding lesson until he suddenly became extremely upset and defiant, eventually throwing himself on the ground in the dirt at the horse's feet. While all of the instructors and volunteers struggled to help James and figure out what was wrong, I overheard James' mother quietly saying, "The cone. Just fix the cone. He needs you to fix the cone." But they were too far away to hear.

After the instructors and volunteers had helped a nearly hysterical James over to his mother, she then explained to them that he was upset because one of the obstacle course cones had been knocked down by the horse. Armed with this seemingly simple yet invaluable information, they led James over to the cone; he righted it, calmed down, and happily returned to his mother. I was in awe of her gentle love and ability to know her son's needs so completely. I say, hand the woman a cape!

I look at other mothers who seem to have superhuman powers of patience that I will never in a million years possess, or those who have all of their children's school work and projects neatly organized in a perfect system, or some other part of mothering in which I feel inadequate. And then I remember Elder Nelson's words.

I can be myself. I can respect and admire the strengths in other mothers that I lack, without feeling inadequate. I can do my best to love my children and hone my strengths and talents as a mother, while striving to improve in those areas where I don't shine. I can pull out my cape from time to time and have a supermom moment.

We all can.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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