On being called 'Supermom'

Written by guest blogger Kayla Schadegg

If I had a dollar for every time I catch the phrase ‘supermom’ thrown my way, I would be a millionaire.

Not to toot my own horn, but in all practicality, our society that overflows with mom-shaming is also apparently quick to make a martyr of any mama who bears a burden with any semblance of grace. Y’all, there are plenty of super things that I do as a mother: I always, always, always share my lunch and dinner with Kerrigan (and I hate sharing food with a passion). Kerrigan’s hair bow stash sends her baby buddies into a tailspin of envy. She learned, with careful guidance from me, to smile at a camera when someone says, “Cheese!” at the early age of six-months-old. But let me just lay this on you: loving my baby, feeding her, working hard so she sees how to be strong and independent?

Nah, those aren’t even close to being super. That’s just motherhood.

Although we may look like a pretty typical family, we have a lot of wacky factors at play. My husband works a midnight shift, so he leaves for work in the middle of the night and sleeps during the day once he gets home. He provides incredibly well for our little family, so much so that working is optional for me. I choose to work because I have an intense passion for what I do—anyone who has ever talked to me about my job knows that I could talk your ear off about what I do. And yet, people will still tell me I’m ‘super’ for going to work. There’s nothing super about being a working mama. It’s hard to leave Kerrie with a nanny on days she’s grumpy or sad. It stinks when I have to miss the first night of swimming lessons and my husband goes by himself because I’m on the closing shift.

But you know what is super? I’m doing something I love. One day, when Kerrigan is older, she’ll see me working my butt off and know that she, too, is capable of having her dream job. Some days I barely scrape it all together—the nanny shows up and nothing is ready, or I roll into work with wet hair and no make-up on… but in all reality, all moms do what I do. All moms want their daughters and sons to see the value of hard work; we all want our kiddos to follow their dreams.

Somewhere, amongst my own lofty dreams to breastfeed my baby, I wound up discovering that babies with Down syndrome often struggle to nurse because of low muscle tone, called hypotonia. We tried desperately to make it work, making tons of visits to breastfeeding clinics and having several in-depth conversations with our pediatrician, who, bless her, really wanted to help make it work for us. Unfortunately, four months into a time-sucking triple feeding routine, we were both mega-burned out. My husband was trying desperately to get a job, I was heading back to work, and we were in the process of buying a new house. With all of that in mind, I made an executive call and switched over to exclusively pumping.

Let me preface with this: being an exclusive pumper is ridiculously difficult. It requires a lot of time, a lot of stuff, and a lot of determination to push through supply dips and days where you don’t want to deal with interrupting life to squeeze in a pumping session. As intense as that all is, it’s not super. I wanted to be able to give Kerrigan breast milk until she was one and I was afforded the opportunity to do that. It was inconvenient to me, but what part of being a parent is ever convenient? Again, what seems so ‘super’ to others from the outside is really just me doing what I think is best for my sweet little nugget and my family.

By the time I roll around to discussing Kerrigan and her Down syndrome diagnosis, that’s the big whopper. I’ll finish up with this: you truthfully never think you can handle something until the cards are on the table and you look at the hand you’ve been dealt. I spent my whole life saying I could never be a special needs mom. I watched my incredible parents raise my sister, who has a learning disability, and I said, “Wow. They’re superhuman! I could never do that,” but I do. I do it on a daily basis. I learned how to be a working mom, how to (sort of) get myself organized so I can do both of the things that I love—and my whole family is happier because of it. I figured out how to make full-time pumping work, suffered through the rough patches, and I know for a fact Kerrigan has seen the benefits of it. I get to give myself a little pat on the back every time I put another bottle into the fridge.

I’m navigating these roads as a special needs parent and taking it all one day at a time. I research constantly, I work twice as hard at home as I do at my day job, and I never miss an opportunity to talk about or advocate for my kid and her future—and I guarantee I don’t do any of that better than anyone else does for their own children.

I’m not a supermom. My kid still has meltdowns and screams at patrons in restaurants. I’m just a totally, very normal mom, and I’m a lucky one at that.

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