Stan Lee, co-creator of many of the famous Marvel superheroes, defines a super hero as
…a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t.
Using this definition of a superhero, I wanted to point out to all parents out there that in some ways, we truly are superheroes. I am aware that super heroes are fictional, but our abilities and capabilities are enhanced when we become parents, and we adapt and evolve in ways that we could not otherwise. From surviving debilitating sleep deprivation to finding hidden energy when we think we have hit our limit, to finding humor and laughter even after an extremely exhausting and frustrating day, we have a super strength and super will that most humans do not possess.
First, let’s look at stay at home moms and dads. This is a unique job that requires being on call and available twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. Breakfast and lunch are meals that are no longer blocked off for you, but rather, quick bites here and there as you wrangle, feed, clothe, settle disagreements, wipe up tears, do laundry, clean up messes, change diapers, and still find time to go on an outing/adventure, read, take naps, run errands, play taxi, and possibly squeeze in a workout, work or maybe relax for about twenty minutes if you’re lucky. Breaks are never guaranteed, and sleep, especially within the first twenty-four months or your child’s life is sporadic and also not guaranteed.
The first super power parents possess is the ability to function on far less hours of sleep for an extended period of time, than most humans will experience. According to the Silentnight survey,
Over 60% of parents with babies aged less than 24 months get no more than three-and-a-quarter hours sleep each night. …parents lose an average of six months’ sleep during the first 24 months of their child’s life.
I like to call this power Super Energy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 16 – 64 years of age should get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. The majority of parents, both working and stay at home, average only 1/3 the amount of sleep most people are supposed to get the first two years of their child’s life. This is on a consistent, daily basis, and is not done by choice, but rather, because of being needed. We are able to find energy to keep going, and hold it together so that we can be there for our children. We find that secret energy buried deep within our core and pull it out to make it Super Energy, even when we feel we’ve used it all up.
Let’s take a look at working moms and dads. Their days begin very early in the morning, preparing everything that will be needed for the day care, or the nanny. Next is feeding and clothing the children as they wake up, and then transporting them to daycare or waiting for the nanny to arrive. Drive to work, put in a long day with all the stresses of being at work. On the drive home, unwind and relax, trying their best to leave work at work, and arrive as a rejuvenated mom or dad. Get home and hug and kiss the kids and significant other, jump into playing, cooking dinner, talking about everyone’s day, and cleaning. Find some time to relax, unwind and get in some necessary alone time.
The second superhero power that all parents, both working and stay at home, have is Super Metamorphosis. The ability to change your character multiple times a day, from employee to mommy or daddy, teacher, nurse, explorer, the “bad guy”, play mate, story teller, comforter, defender, police officer, and so many more, is done most of the time without being seen we are so sneaky and powerful. We wear so many hats throughout the day, sometimes we don’t even realize how many times we had to morph.
Stan Lee also commented that,
The problem with telling superhero stories is that it naturally follows that you need a supervillain.
So, if we are to be superheroes, we have to stand against a supervillain. A supervillian many of us cringe at the thought of. It is a supervillian that could come out of the shadows with no prompting at all. It is a supervillian that will attack in public, at home, in the quietest or loudest of places. It is the most unpredictable supervillian, and its name is Tantrum. This supervillian emerges when it is hungry, tired, and sometimes just when it isn’t getting its way or what it wants. Its supervillian power is its ability to scream louder, kick and slap harder, and cause a scene worse than a banshee. We don’t always win the battles, but we do our best to be consistent and persistent so that we will win the war.
Superheroes and supervillians are fictional characters, and it is good to remember that when you are having a bad day or feel like you are failing as a parent. We have been placed into extraordinary circumstances under conditions most people won’t willingly enter into, and we should be proud when we put in maximum effort and do our best to ensure the well being of our children. We are not superheroes, and we will all have rough days, but know that you are not alone. On days when the supervillian has surfaced multiple times and you are frustrated and exhausted, just remember that tomorrow will be a new day and you will wake up and find the superhero in you again.
Lee, Stan. “Stan Lee on what is a superhero.” Web blog post. OUPblog. Oxford University Press, 17 November 2013. Web. 4 April 2016. http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/stan-lee-on-what-is-a-superhero/
Nordqvist, Christian. “New Parents Have 6 Months Sleep Deficit During First 24 Months Of Baby’s Life.” Web blog post. MNT. Medical News Today, 25 July 2010. Web. 4 April 2016. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/195821.php
“How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”. Web blog post. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, unknown. Web. 4 April 2016. https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need