I was halfway through a “Killing off Supermom” essay the other day, vaguely nodding along to such lines as “Supermom, as a subspecies, has outlived her usefulness,” when I started to wonder: What about Superdad?
My desk is teeming with books urging women to lighten up.
Avital Norman’s “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality” (Seal Press) and Rachel Macy Stafford’s “Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters” (Zondervan) arrived last week.
I piled them next to Jill Savage’s “No More Perfect Moms: Learn to Love Your Real Life” (Moody Publishers); Daisy Sutherland’s “Letting Go of Supermom: Dr. Mommy’s Get Real Approach to a Balanced Life” (Siloam); and “Good Enough Is The New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood” (Harlequin) by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple.
Dads don’t write books about letting go of perfection. What gives?
I called Tim Hoch, a Texas-based attorney and father of three whose self-published book, “50 Rules for Sons,” has developed a respectable following, thanks, in part, to his hilarious blog, timhoch.wordpress.com. And thanks, in part, to how fantastic the rules are. (He’s working on “50 Rules for Daughters” next.)
Rule 29: It isn’t always chess; sometimes it’s just checkers.
Rule 22: Don’t bring home stray kittens. Someone other than you is probably better equipped to take care of them.
“Why don’t men write about killing off Superdad?” I asked him.
“I don’t see pressure on men to be Superdad,” Hoch told me. “If there were, you would sure hear about it because men are great at acquiring some special title for what they should be doing anyway. ‘Hey, I’m Superdad! I did my own laundry!’ ”
Is the pressure truly nonexistent, I wondered. From your parents, from the culture, from each other?
Or do men just refuse to give it the time of day?
“Men tend to say, ‘This is the way I’m doing it’ ” regardless of how others feel, he said. “I think there’s just an assumption that our way is fine. I think it’s born of ego.
“Women aren’t allowed as much leeway,” Hoch continued. “My wife gets frustrated because I’ll do something once that she does every day and people go, ‘Oh, isn’t he great!’ ”
If I understand the campaign to rid the world of Supermom, though, women aren’t really hungry for more accolades. The quest for validation from a parenting culture that is both unforgiving and ever-changing is what got us in this pickle in the first place.
Modern parents are chastised for being overinvolved helicopters and underinvolved iPhone-aholics. We’re ridiculed for obsessing over preschools and trans fats, even as we’re held responsible for low test scores and high obesity rates. We’re doing a lot of it wrong, a lot of the time, according to an awful lot of people.
That’s a tough environment in which to achieve perfection, no matter how you define it.
Is the criticism aimed at moms more than dads? I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters. The point is, Hoch said, the criticism does none of us any good, and men are pretty good at tuning it out.
All parents, he said, should give it a shot.
“How would you live your life if you lived it without comparing yourself to anybody?” he says. “That would be pretty remarkable.”
Not that he’s immune to other people’s opinions – especially when they’re talking about his children.
“Honestly, I love it when people tell me I’ve got good kids,” he said. “When people tell me they’re polite and kind, I feel really good. I take a lot of pride in how I raise my kids – just not in comparison to how someone else raises theirs.”
Rule 50 in Hoch’s book is, “No matter what is in front of you, walk toward it with confidence.”
And leave the superhero cape in the toy box.