Superpowers of a Mother

by | May 10, 2023 | Motherhood

Not very long ago, I had ten minutes to make dinner for JJ (my second born), take a shower, and get him to practice. So what did I do? I strategized. I tossed some chicken on the grill. I knew I had five minutes before it needed to be flipped, so I hopped in the shower and washed all the necessary body parts (you know the ones, ladies), toweled off, and threw on my overalls. I brushed the tangles from my hair while I browned the other side of the chicken. I yelled for JJ to get in the car, sliced up the chicken, threw it in a container, and hopped in the car after him.  

Done and done. Wonder Woman has nothing on the superpowers of a working mom. And it’s worth mentioning that I do not envy her costume. It’s like a strapless bathing suit and faux leather boots. I want to see a woman in yoga pants and a beat-up sweatshirt fighting evil. Now that’s a story I can get behind. She could even do it in blinged-out Golden Goose shoes. 

Ready for an experiment? Put a mental checkmark beside any of these statements that are true for you:

  • I have nursed a baby or pumped breastmilk on a Zoom meeting.
  • I have put on a full face of makeup with a child attached to me.
  • I have answered work emails in the car rider line.
  • I have taken a Zoom meeting in my car while waiting on a kid to come out of practice or club.
  • I have gone to the bathroom with a child on my lap.
  • I have put on makeup on the way to an event, function, or meeting.
  • I have cooked a meal and also
    1. Gotten some part of my person dressed or
    2. Had a crying child hanging off one of my limbs or
    3. All of the above

If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you are a superhero. You’ve got superpowers. You can accomplish multiple things at once—meaningful, important, must-do things. This is the intrinsic value of a working mom: she gets stuff done, no matter the cost. And not only does she get it done, but she gets it done well.

That’s only reinforced by McKinney’s “Strengthen the MomForce Survey” from April 2022, which says that 81 percent of moms say that being a mother has given them increased efficiency at work.

Moms, stop apologizing. You’re baddies!  

Here are just a few reasons why I want you to know your worth:  

  •  Moms have been scientifically shown to become smarter and more empathetic during pregnancy.
  • Parenting grows our emotional IQ, courage, efficiency/productivity, collaboration abilities, and compassion.
  • Women-led companies are more profitable.
  • The majority of employees want to work for women-led companies.  

Motherhood is essentially a master class for leadership, empathy, vision, and efficiency. Getting my kids out the door for school? That’s like being a hostage negotiator. Being in charge of another human is a monumental responsibility. It doesn’t ever stop. It’s an around-the-clock, forever-and-ever kind of commitment. It’s a commitment that changes you. Being a parent develops muscles (figurative and literal) that you didn’t even know you had.  

Yet, we doubt ourselves all the time, as mothers. Much of that tension is because we don’t have a realistic measure of what motherhood should look like in America. And, It doesn’t help that society continues to scrutinize us. But, listen to this bit of research.  

Adam Franssen is a biology professor at Longwood University. He teamed up with other researchers, like Craig Kinsley of the University of Richmond, to prove his theory that being a mother makes a woman smarter. His findings? “Mothers are better at problem solving, handling stress and at completing certain memory tasks.”

But it’s way more fascinating than that. Adam compares the brain of a pregnant woman to a car engine when it’s revving…hang with me, because this is a bit scientific, but it’s mind-blowing: 

“At the revving stage, a racecar’s engine is getting prepped for that race. It seems like there is a lot of evidence to suggest that is actually what’s happening in the mother’s brain during the period of pregnancy. There are changes happening to neurons. They are increasing in size or some neurons have been shown to not only grow but to potentially increase their capacity to produce protein in one part of the brain or perhaps increase their neuronal branches to make communications from one neuron to another neu- ron that it wasn’t talking with before—all in anticipation of the high workload of caring for a child”. 

There goes the argument that a mom’s superpowers are learned behaviors. But isn’t that incredible? It’s wild, right? Moms’ brains actually grow and increase in thinking capacity, even before our babies are born, because our bodies know the circus of newborn life…and toddler life…and tween life…and basically just how intense parenting is forever and ever and ever, amen. 

A mother’s brain maintains this heightened capacity throughout the remainder of her life. So when I said you’re now carrying superpowers, I meant it. You are an evolutionary wonder! 

And believe it or not, there’s more to us than our big, brilliant minds. Just a few of the scientific superpowers being a mom gives us are time management mastery, empathy (self-awareness, psychological safety), and problem-solving and innovation skills. 

There’s a saying usually attributed to Plato that “desperation is the mother of invention.” That truth drives a lot of the accomplishments of women at home and at work. We’re the end of the line. The goalie. The buck stops with us as the default. We know that, often, if we don’t do it, don’t fix it, don’t address it, don’t clean it—it won’t get done, right? I’m convinced that moms are the masters of innovation and invention. Not because we’re sitting around in a laboratory with our ideas and postulations, but because we’re desperate! 

In fact, over the years, women have invented some pretty cool gadgets. And every single one of them was born out of an acute need for a better way. You have to hear about some of these women18–it’s fascinating what we’re capable of. 

  • In 1893 Margaret Wilcox invented the car heater by creating a system to channel air over the engine and into the cab.
  • In 1899 Letitia Greer invented the one-handed syringe. Before her innovation, medical professionals were required to use two hands to give injections.
  • While translating some notes on the Analytical Engine for mathematics professor Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace tripled the length of the original text with her own notes. She is credited with writing the very first computer algorithm in 1843.
  • Mary Anderson got a patent for her windshield wiping device in 1903. When she tried to sell her idea to a manufacturer, she was turned down because they said windshield wipers held no practical value.
  • And in the glorious year 1872, Josephine Cochran created a dishwasher that cleaned dishes using water pressure. Josephine, God love you. A woman invented the circular saw. The first aquarium. The globe, the locomotive chimney, the life raft, the fire escape, the ironing board, the retractable dog leash, the coffee filter, the foot pedal trash can, central heating, the disposable diaper (no surprise there), bullet-proof fiber, the home security system, caller ID, space station batteries, naturally colored cotton, stem cell isolation, and the space rocket propulsion system. 

One of my favorite female innovators is a woman named El Dorado Jones. First of all, what an incredible name. El Dorado Jones’s nickname was Iron Woman. She invented the airplane muffler in 1917. But the coolest thing about El Dorado is that she owned her own metalworking factory in the early 1900s, where she only employed women over the age of forty. El Dorado, you are my people. You are the only Jones I’d like to keep up with! 

Women, and especially working moms, we not only bring a new perspective, but we come with a roll-up-our-sleeves, there’s-gotta-be-a-solution mindset. And if there isn’t an existing solution, we’ll invent one.  

Mamas, I know you’re juggling a million things, you’re probably wondering if you’re the woman for the job. And, you might not feel like you’re ever nailing it. But, I hope you are empowered by this incredible evidence that backs up your worth. You are superheroes with superpowers. And, YOU are a good mom.

Excerpt adapted from “You Don’t Have To Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Find a Better Way Forward” by Paula Faris.

Paula Faris is a mom of three and the founder of CARRY™ Media, which advocates for working moms through load-lessening content. Prior to founding CARRY™, she spent over two decades in broadcast journalism, anchoring Good Morning America weekends and co-hosting The View. Paula, her husband and their three children live in small town South Carolina.  

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