I saw a T-shirt the other day that said Supermom on it, and thought, Really? Who would be so self-satisfied as to buy and wear that? It reminded me of a phrase my sister had used once: barely-hangin’-on mom. That’s more like it. They should make a T-shirt that says that because isn’t that how most moms feel?

In truth, motherhood is not glamorous. Somehow this thing I wanted since I was old enough to cradle a doll is also the most demanding, emotionally draining, physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done. It’s not lost on me that that’s also what makes it amazing, humbling, sobering, heartwarming, wonderful, and enduring.

The very stuff that makes me feel like I’m barely hangin’ on is what makes me appear to have superpowers, and it’s why words like supermom exist. And while most moms wouldn’t aspire to be called that or assume that they’re deserving of it, I now see where it comes from.

The realities are these.

Number 1. There are no sick days included in the benefits package with this job. No matter how sick you are, you are likely to get out-sicked. At the very least, all the well people still need clean clothes and breakfast and help with their homework and a ride to soccer practice. Second-wind superpower.

Number 2. You can’t leave your work at work. Whether you work outside or inside the home, you’re always on the clock, even when you sleep. This is why it’s your name that’s called in the middle of the night. They know you’ll come. Super-hearing. Super-stamina.

Number 3. You often have to change your schedule without notice. A day planned for a workout, a shower, scrubbed toilets and tubs, a toddler read to, and grocery shopping may suddenly turn into a trip to the school to drop off lunch money and magic eraser action on the graffiti in the hallway and a call to the insurance company because why was that doctor visit not covered and a preschooler halfway down the street without pants on and you don’t even know it until the neighbor calls, and then where did the day go? Shift-on-the-fly superpower.

Number 4. Often, more than one person at a time will need something. I know I’m not the only mom who has been listening to a complaint from one child while another is crying or singing or doing some other loud thing and yet another is saying, “Mom, mom, mom, mommy, momma, mom…” as the husband calls from the other room, “Have you seen my…?” and the teenager is asking if a certain item of clothing can be laundered and ready to go in the next 30 minutes. Multi-tasking superpower.

There was one particular day when all these perceived superpowers felt super oppressive. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t handle it, and was about to say (and may have actually said), “Stop saying my name!”

Then something dawned on me. I admit, I was hiding in the laundry room when it did, but it still came: They ask all this of me because they think I CAN. I must be doing OK. Maybe I’m doing a little more than barely hangin’ on if they are this confident that I can fix whatever is wrong in their lives.