In honor of Father’s Day and the Wonder Woman movie, I am writing about my ultimate parental superhero: Elastigirl.
Elastigirl doesn’t have the glamour or renown of Wonder Woman. That’s because she is too busy packing lunches, finding babysitters, and saving the world to work on her make-up and her publicity. In other words, she is a Working Mother.
Elastigirl is the alter ego of Helen Parr, the mom in The Incredibles movies. We watched the first Incredibles movie when my boys were young. One image from that movie is burned into my brain: the life raft. Elastigirl turns herself into a life raft to convey her children to safety.
The symbol works so well because it’s versatile. Carrying and protecting is more literal in the early years of motherhood—pregnancy, infancy, and toddlerhood. As children get older, the carrying becomes figurative. The context could be science fairs or orchestra concerts, lost possessions or missing assignments, hospital visits or trouble with authorities. In those scenes, we stretch so much we feel like we might burst, with anger, fear, or frustration. In the good times, we are a different version of the raft, still supportive and all in, with body and soul. And during the smoothest sailing, we are still stretching, nearly bursting with pride.