Title: “Supermom Syndrome”
Text: Proverbs 31: 10-31, Selected Verses
Date: May 12, 2002
Faster than a toddler in toy store.
More powerful than a teenager’s attitude.
Able to leap from work to dance lessons to dinner preparations to toilet training to toilet cleaning to teacher conferences to the pediatrician’s office to helping with homework to bed and to breakfast and to work again ALL in a single bound......she’s SUPERMOM!
You know, they say that “Spiderman” broke all the box office records for an opening weekend a few days ago, but I guarantee you that IF there were such a superhero as “supermom,” a film about her would draw in
hundreds of millions of dollars IF the women who wanted to see it could find reliable babysitters!
My friends, today is Mother’s Day, and although I’m sure there are plenty of mothers out there who would like to THINK that they can be a supermom, the simple fact of the matter is, like Spiderman and Superman, SUPERMOM doesn’t exist! She’s a figment of our imaginations! There simply is no such woman - although many mothers try.
In fact, as I’ve observed the lives of many mothers these days, I’ve seen plenty of women who have what you might call “supermom syndrome.”
And since “supermom syndrome” hasn’t been officially recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association, what I’d like to do is spend a few minutes defining it for you today.
And as we define what the symptoms of “supermom syndrome” look like today, we’re also going to look at the medicine that the Bible prescribes which can help a mother be healed of this ailment whenever it starts to take over her life.
So, what I’d like you to notice first of all then is that a woman who is suffering from “supermom syndrome” will often hold on to the belief that she can DO IT ALL.
Tom Eisenman describes the typical day of a woman suffering from supermom syndrome and it might look like this:
She gets up before dawn to begin her nonstop day. She will set out breakfast for the family and then pack lunches, scrub faces, coach last-minute unfinished homework, chauffeur children, change diapers, mix
baby formula, scrub floors, wash windows, do laundry, scour the bathrooms and toilets, feed the hamster, let the dog out, let the dog in, let the plumber into the neighbor’s house, cheer the soccer team, bandage scrapes, wipe noses, be a den mother, fix dinner, do dishes, attend school meetings, send a Mother’s Day card to her mother-in-law, referee sibling fights, bathe children, read them stories and tuck them in, finish some accounting work for her job, sew on a couple of buttons, put the finishing touches on a devotional for her small group Bible study in the morning, and fall into bed at midnight.
If a mom works outside the home, she will generally be trying to keep up with all this by cramming it into her second shift, the shift that begins the instant she walks in the door from work.
You see, my friends: women who have supermom syndrome THINK they can do it all. And guess what, the Bible even reinforces this image that many Christian mothers have of themselves as we heard in our scripture reading just a few moments ago from the book of Proverbs, chapter 31. I mean just listen to some of the things the Bible says about the ideal wife and mother:
▸ She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
▸ She gets up while it is still dark;
▸ she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
▸ She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
▸ She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
▸ She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
▸ She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
▸ she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
▸ She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
▸ She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
▸ She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
▸ She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
So, how do you feel about that last line there? “She does not eat the bread of idleness.” Now if you’ve ever met a woman trying to be supermom, you know that she LIVES and DIES by that line!
And I believe all this raises an interesting question for the Christian mother, and the question is this: If this is the description the Bible gives us of the “ideal wife and mother,” then does that mean that it’s OK for a mother to attempt to be a supermom? Does this mean that supermom syndrome is actually a promise from God rather than a problem to be avoided?
I don’t think so.
I think the key here is finding the appropriate balance between making sure that you don’t become a lazy mother who “eats the bread of idleness” and being a mother who thinks you can “do it all” when you can’t!
I mean, have you ever stopped to read that passage in Proverbs 31 closely? Most women I know haven’t. Most Christian women hear those verses and say, “see, God expects me to burn the candle at both ends and work til I drop!”
But look closely at those verses again. For example, look at verse 15. In verse 15 it says that this ideal woman “provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”
Did you hear that? Her SERVANT GIRLS ladies! This is a wealthy woman we’re talking about here - she’s got servant girls.
Now I don’t know about you, but most women I’ve met who have servants tend to use those servants to relieve some of the pressure on their lives.
Yes, certainly the woman described in Proverbs is a dynamic, busy lady. She’s obviously accomplishing a lot each day - and that’s good. But I have a hunch that what’s not mentioned here in Proverbs is that she’s also a balanced individual. In her specific case, she and her husband are wealthy enough to have
servants - so who knows, maybe she’s not changing as many dirty diapers as some of you did with your kids - maybe she’s not cleaning as many toilets - or even sweeping as many floors.
The fact is, this “ideal” woman we read about in Proverbs does provide an excellent model of the work ethic God expects a faithful mother to have, but no woman should automatically say that she needs to fit into the exact mold mentioned in this passage.
Some of you are single mothers - you don’t have the benefit of the wealthy husband this woman obviously had who is an elder in the community. Some of you are mothers who don’t have the money for housekeepers and cooks and other people to help lighten the load in
So it’s important that you seek balance in your life.
I mean, if you’re suffering from supermom syndrome and you’re living with the illusion that you can do it all, chances are, you’ll end up doing NOTHING particularly well.
It’s like a woman once said, “It’s amazing that you have so much to do in a day and seem to have so little to show for it.”
The antidote to this symptom of supermom syndrome is to seek BALANCE in your life. It’s important to adjust priorities and be willing to let certain things NOT GET DONE. Even God tells us that we all need to
take a Sabbath, or a day of rest, when we can focus on Him and on the love relationship we have with Him through Christ.
You know, my wife has a little verse hanging in a picture frame on the wall of our house. I think I’ve shared it with you before, but it’s worth repeating. It goes like this:
Some houses try to hide the fact there are children living there
Ours boasts of it quite openly, the signs are everywhere
Smears are on the windows, little smudges on the doors
I should apologize I guess for all the toys on the floor.
But I sat down with the children and we played and laughed and read
So if the doorbell doesn’t shine, their eyes will shine instead.
When at times I’m forced o choose the one job or the other
I want to be a housewife, but first I’ll be a mother. (J. Matthews)
The remedy for thinking that you can do it all is to learn how NOT to get certain things done so that you can focus on what’s important!
Then second, please notice that a common problem associated with supermom syndrome is the false impression that you can HAVE IT ALL.
Jesus says this in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Notice there that Jesus says that we need to be on our guard against “all kinds” of greed. And that should remind us that greed is a vice that takes many forms and it can very quickly attack those who could fall victim to supermom syndrome.
The fact of the matter is: you can’t have it all. God never said that we could “have it all” (at least not according to the world’s standards), and certainly this life we’re living in this world of sin is a life that is filled with trouble and struggle.
The other day I turned on Oprah and she was interviewing women who were having to come to grips with their inability to bear children as they
got into their late thirties and forties. And what Oprah was doing was having all these experts explain to women that in spite of all the advances in the science of fertility, most women, as they grow older, have a more difficult time conceiving children.
She then interviewed a woman who talked about how she had pursued a successful career for many years and decided that she and her husband wouldn’t even try to have children until they were in their mid to late
thirties. By the time they started trying, they owned a six bedroom house, and I would assume, probably had the bank account to match.
But then their world fell apart as the wife suffered several miscarriages and hasn’t been able to carry a child to term.
Now, was this a heartbreaking story? Yes it was. But it also illustrated a problem many modern Americans have - and that is: we think we can have it all - so we try to grab it and get everything we want out of life.
But you know what? Things don’t always work out the way we’d like.
The reason some moms are trying to be supermoms is because they think they should have it all. They want to have kids - but they also want to have lots of extra cash around so the kids can wear designer clothes
and go to exclusive clubs, schools and camps.
Some moms simply need to downsize. If a mom’s working seventy hours a week at an outside job so the kids can wear Ralph Lauren, maybe she could work forty hours a week or twenty hours a week and have the kids wear “Wal Marte.”
The hard truth about supermom syndrome is that sometimes it can be caused by greed - or the desire to live a lifestyle we can’t afford. When that becomes a causative factor, the only remedy is to downsize - period.
Then third and finally, please notice that many mothers who suffer from supermom syndrome are operating under the illusion that they can CONTROL IT ALL.
My friends, mothers - and especially mothers who suffer from supermom syndrome - are especially good at wanting to CONTROL the people they love and the events that effect the people they love.
Mothers seem to have a “wired in” desire to protect their children from all harm - and for most mothers struggling with supermom syndrome, the best way to protect their kids is to figure out how to control their kids and how to control all the situations their kids will find themselves in - and that can cause a supermom to finally crack - because guess what?
YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT ALL! And if you try, you’ll spend your whole life feeling worried and stressed out, and then, you really will end up having a breakdown!
I know we’re watching a situation unfold right here in our church family where we all wish we could control it all. Many of you know Shelley, a nineteen year old in our church who’s been battling cancer for almost two years...... Shelley’s under the care of hospice these days and I guarantee you that there are plenty of us who wish we could control what’s happening to Shelley right now.
But the truth is, no one can truly control what will happen to Shelley, as much as we would want to try.
And as we watch Shelley deal with this terrible disease, it serves as a potent reminder that no matter how much we love our kids - no matter how much we want to be able to protect our kids - we simply cannot
All we can do is TRUST the One who does control everything.
In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us these poignant reminders of the fact that we can’t control things the way we’d like when He says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...... Therefore do not worry
about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
My friends, today is Mother’s Day. And although there are some of you mothers out there who are suffering from supermom syndrome, there is hope for you today.
Today it’s time for you to admit that you can’t do it all. It’s time for you to recognize that you need rest and balance in your life - that you need to
prioritize the things that are important and learn how to live with the fact that there are going to be some things that you WANT to get done that you simply WON’T get done - and that’s OK.
Today may also be a time for you to admit that you can’t have it all - and that’s OK too. Maybe God is calling you to downsize.
And finally, today is the day to recognize that you can’t control it all - only God can do that. And your job as a mother isn’t to control your kid’s lives, it’s to help them learn to trust the Lord who controls their lives.
Happy Mother’s Day.