Remember being a kid on the playground with your friends and imagining what it would be like to have a superpower? Some kids claimed they would choose the power to fly. Others would wish for x-ray vision. And others still insisted that invincible strength would be the best power of all. Well, I recently realized that, as a mom, I have my own superpower.
Now before you go thinking I’m going to say that all moms are superheroes because of our ability to know where things are when no one else does, our ability to do five things at once, or our ability to move with lightning speed when we’re picking one child up across town from where another child needs to be picked up at the exact same time, I should warn you. While all of those things are true, that’s not where I’m headed with this. My superpower, as I realized, goes right back to the playground. My superpower is that I am invisible.
I haven’t always had this superpower. In the beginning, I was anything but invisible.
In fact, when I was pregnant, I was in the spotlight. I got stopped by sweet old ladies in the grocery store who wanted to know how I was feeling or how far along I was. I was the center of attention at baby showers. And even after giving birth, people still saw me. They would check in on my progress and acknowledge my role as a mother to an infant or a toddler. My kids were the ones who saw me the most. My sweet little infants would know the moment I walked into a room. My precious little toddlers couldn’t get enough of me.
But as time went on, I started to fade into the background.
These days, I wonder if anyone can see me at all. I will be on the phone only to have a child walk in the room and start dishing out requests for rides, money, or the location of their possessions as if I was an information kiosk at the mall. They don’t see the phone held to my ear or hear the sound of my voice mid-sentence. No one sees me go to the grocery store to stock the shelves with their favorite snacks – they only notice if they’re not there. As I make dinner night after night, I am nothing more than a transparent apparition at the stove as hands reach into the pan to taste the meal I am *literally* 10 minutes away from putting on the table. Clean, folded laundry appears in drawers as if by magic.
I am a silent chauffeur, doorman, butler, and maid. I am a mom.
To the outside world, I am often just a peripheral attachment to my child’s name. Another faceless body who goes by “[child’s name]’s mom.” I am a ghost in the shops as I wander around picking up things for everyone but myself. When I talk to the outside world, all too often, it is to discuss my kids or my partner. After all, what is there to say about someone you can’t see?
However, I realize that I am not the only one with this power. And so today, I want to call out to all of you invisible moms out there. And I want to say one simple thing:
I see you.
I see all that you do every day without recognition. I see the anxiety you carry like a piece of shrapnel under your skin. I see the tears you cry when no one is looking – which feels like all the time. I see the frustration you feel when no matter how many times you say something it seems like no one is listening. I recognize the weight of the worry you carry for everyone’s well being, often refusing to add your own to the scale for fear the whole thing might tip. I see you as you fall exhausted into bed after another day of saving the world without a soul knowing that it was in crisis in the first place.
I want you to know that on the days you want to scream because your partner didn’t notice the extra effort you made, your kids looked right through you as they demanded more than you had to give, and your boss couldn’t recognize you as anything other than another gear in the mechanism, I will hear you. On the days when you wander unseen through the world, convinced that you are struggling alone, I will see you. And when you cry silent tears, I will hold your hand and cry with you.
But most importantly, I want to remind you that it’s ok to be invisible right now. It’s ok to be the mom behind the curtain making the show the success that it is, even if you’ll never stand on stage to accept the award. For the power you have is far greater than you realize.
By being invisible, you have the chance to do all those things you imagined when you were a kid on the playground.
You can listen quietly in the corner, unseen, as your kids talk with their friends. You can hear the truth behind their childish chatter and know what is really going on. You can slide stealthily into rooms and right the wrongs before anyone else even knows a catastrophe lies on the horizon. You can gather information, control situations, and create the environment you want, as you want it.
Although you are invisible, mom, you are the foundation. The grandest home, the most beautiful building, the tallest skyscraper – they exist only because of the foundation upon which they sit. A foundation that cannot be seen, but one that is integral to their existence.
Of course, knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it easier in the moment. And so I want you to know that your powers don’t HAVE to go unnoticed. I want to encourage you to start seeing yourself. You don’t need to demand attention or insist on front page coverage to be important. All you need to do is accept your power and see it for what it is – super.
In that same vein, take a moment when you can to recognize the team of invisible superheroes around you. Send a friend a quick note to say, “I see you and admire all that you do.” Offer small words of encouragement when your friend’s face carries a smile that belies the hidden struggles. Give others a solid form and you’ll be amazed at how your own image takes on shape.
The time will come when our invisibility fades and we once again have a name that isn’t [child’s name]’s mom.”
One day, we’ll have something talk about other than our kids and partners. We may even miss those moments where we were a ghost in our own house because we can no longer hear the whisperings of a family without being noticed.
But until that day comes, we superheroes need to stick together. And even if the world can’t always see us, we can see one another. So let’s start today by acknowledging the greatness that we are creating on a daily basis. Let’s accept ourselves as the architects that imagine the world’s greatest structures, the mentors that inspire the cure for diseases, and the teachers that teach the next great leaders. These are not the people whose names everyone knows, but they are where it all begins.
And that, perhaps, is the greater superpower of all.
For more essays on parenting and family life, be sure to check out our entire Parent Life series.