'Superhero Syndrome' Is Killing Moms, But Nobody Seems To Notice

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Peter Muller/Getty

Why is it that when I take the time to get my kids up and dressed in the morning, nobody says anything, but when my husband does it, the world stops spinning to applaud him for his hard work? Why does he get the “bless your heart” stares when he’s in the grocery store with a screaming toddler, and meanwhile I get the “shut your kid up” glare?

It’s unfair, infuriating, and I won’t get used to it.

For many families, the woman of the household becomes the mother of the household. With that role, she cooks and cleans, and cooks while she cleans… doing it all while she’s nauseated with sickness over the faintest smell of garlic at nine months pregnant too. She carries the mental load of the entire household, and somehow we’ve failed to see that she’s sore and tired from the heavy toll and well past the point of being run down.

She thinks for everybody else, keeping track of the nittiest and grittiest details not another soul would likely know. Such as which cup the toddler won’t throw a colossal fit over during dinner. Or who has a doctor’s appointment that week, where it is, and what time they need to be there. And even the “correct” way a preschooler prefers her hair to be parted each morning to avoid a meltdown.

A mother is who sets days into motion, juggling the many mental and physical tasks of parenthood while trying her hardest to be the best at everything she does… the best mother, best employee, and the best partner to her loved one as well. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, if we’re honest, that’s because it is.


Mothers are the world’s tired and thankless superheroes. Though we assume our many roles well, the magnitude of them are unfair among genders, to say the least.

A mother is the root of a household. Without her, the whole world might just spontaneously combust and come crumbling to the ground. So I’m curious… why don’t we do more to nurture her?

Society has placed so much weight on her shoulders, and when the rare occasion presents itself where she expresses the hardships she faces, she’s criticized as being “ungrateful” for the life she wanted. In the year of 2020, we are still unable to see that the mother of the household is far too exhausted than what her current situation calls for. All stemming from the many jobs she takes under her wing.

Even with help from a significant other — specifically speaking, a male partner in a hetero relationship — it’s frequently the woman who takes the mental brunt of it all. We expect moms to be these natural nurturers right off the bat, the one who is on call 24/7. That she should be positively smitten and radiating with joy for merely having the opportunity to perform the mundane tasks of motherhood and taking care of every single responsibility her family has to offer. And while we are thankful, a woman was never meant to be a lone superhero. But dare I say it, society doesn’t care.

Being a mom doesn’t mean stretching ourselves thin in every way imaginable. It doesn’t mean we should lose ourselves in the process of parenthood, or that we even have to be perfect… despite living in a world that says we should come close to it. It doesn’t mean that a father’s role should be any lesser, but oftentimes… can I be honest? It. Really. Just. Is.


There are these unspoken expectations for women and mothers drawn from years of bias and sexism that need to end as soon as possible. If the house isn’t clean and company is due, it is a mother who will feel the judgment. After all, shouldn’t she be able to make her house a home? When the kids have two different shoes on at preschool, the hope is that their teacher can empathize with the sheer exhaustion settled deep in her bones, not look down on us like we are shit moms. And when a woman takes her screaming kids out into public, it’s her who should be able to “control them.”

Meanwhile, we’ve forgotten that a dad is fully fucking capable of picking up a damn broom. There is nothing that prevents him from getting the kids ready for school. He has hands that work well enough to buy groceries with all of the kids in tow, and he doesn’t need the pity for it that mothers are never freakin’ given.

The bar is lowered for men, but exceedingly high for the woman, and we are over it. When a father goes “above and beyond” for his family — meaning, when he does the bare-freakin’-minimum — he gets a pat on the back and is praised for his efforts. When in reality, he’s just being a father.

Others may fail to realize it, but women are still fighting for equality. And as long as it’s the social norm for fathers to stand on the sidelines while the mother does the dirty work, it will always be the mothers screaming into the void about these things that ought to be changed.

We wanted to be a mother, not lose ourselves in the process of becoming one, and we deserve more.

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