Mothers! Hang up your Capes

Billings coach and podcaster wants you to get real

In 2019, Onnie Michalsky left her six kids and husband in Billings and took a solo vacation to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea in Florida. She wandered along the beach, visited shops and ate at restaurants alone. She didn’t have to check in with anyone, worry about bedtime, or facilitate any compromises. She simply did what she wanted when she wanted, and when her vacation was over, she returned home feeling liberated and refreshed.

This is not a fairy tale for mothers. It really happened.  

“It was a huge exercise in self-discovery to step away from my role and not bend to everyone else’s likes and needs,” Onnie says.

Onnie is a licensed therapist and coach and the founder of Moms Without Capes, an online support community for super-moms who are interested in self-care and self-discovery. She also has a podcast for recovering super-moms. While not every mom can step away like she did, Onnie is a champion of restorative breaks.

Like many mothers she mentors, Onnie felt obligated to do everything for her children and keep the household running, all without help. Not that long ago, she was a super-mom, cape and all. Onnie’s entire identity was wrapped up in her role as a mother, and she was lost in it all.   

“I realized that my kids didn’t really know me. I was wearing this mask that couldn’t let them see me fail or struggle,” she says. “When I took off that mask, they got to see what I was interested in and what I liked.”

Onnie and her husband moved to Montana when Onnie was pregnant with their fifth child. They settled in Forsyth and began renovating a run-down motel. Onnie was home-schooling their children, cooking, cleaning and helping with the remodel.

“Everything revolved around my family,” she says.

When a friend invited her to a Zumba class, Onnie instinctively said no, but her friend wore her down and she finally gave it a try. She started going once a week. Onnie’s children were little, and it was hard to get away, but she felt alive and energized when she did. Her experience led her to become a fitness instructor, and she got excited and branched out in other ways.  

“It made me a better mom,” she says. “I was able to have space to myself and I gave myself permission to do things that were not tied to family.”

Onnie and her family relocated to Billings to be a part of a larger community, and she earned her counseling license in 2017. She wanted to help women who were struggling, and that’s how Moms Without Capes was born.

Onnie uses a backpack as a metaphor. Everyone has their own backpack full of the things they’re responsible for, she says, but mothers load up their backpacks with the responsibilities of their children and spouse. Their load gets heavier and heavier while the people around them enjoy ever lighter backpacks.  

“You deserve to be worthy and equal member of your family,” she says. “When you feel like you’re not, it leads to burn-out, depression and anxiety.”

Balancing the load can take time and effort. Onnie prescribes restorative self-care along with a good dose of self-discovery. She wants moms to find and pursue what brings them joy outside of their family.

“It’s a disservice to our kids when we don’t make ourselves a priority,” Onnie says. “We’re so focused on nurturing and growing our kids we forget our own growth.”

Onnie is also a Fair Play facilitator. It’s a tool for couples to help establish a division of labor in their household and systems for all the essential tasks. For many couples, the conversation is long overdue.

“It allows you to communicate about what it takes to operate a household,” Onnie says.

Frequently, women are conditioned to take on caregiving tasks solo and are conditioned to think that they are the only ones who can do them well. With a sense of duty, they brush off offers of help and, without help, struggle under the workload. It’s called maternal gatekeeping, Onnie says. They end up burnt-out and resentful.

If that happens, Onnie says, hang up the super-mom cape, take a break, and know you’re not alone.

“Moms are important, but being a mom is just one role that we play,” Onnie adds. “We are so much more. We are human and allowed to take a break, take a vacation, or take up a hobby.”

Myths of Motherhood

Onnie Debunks the Top 5

1.       Motherhood comes naturally

Culturally, women are given more opportunity to nurture caregiving skills, but caregiving is not hard-wired into anyone’s DNA. Mothers, who are expected to innately have the skills to care for children, can become frustrated and experience self-doubt when they struggle or fall short of perfection. This can lead to feelings of failure, shame and isolation. Mothers need supporters who recognize that caregiving is a difficult job for anyone.   

2.       Mothers can't feel gratitude and frustration at the same time

Mothers are on-call 24-7 and are not provided with an instruction manual. It’s a recipe for frustration. Yet, mothers who complain are often told they should be grateful, which invalidates their feelings and can keep them from reaching out for the support they need. Mothers need supporters who validate their feelings — all of them — with no caveats.

3.       Moms can and want to do it all

The truth is that no one can do it all, but one trap of motherhood is that mothers seem to think they can and that they should do it all. The more mothers do, the more they shut out opportunities for others to step in and help. Some mothers so fiercely identify with their role that help from a friend or family member might even feel like a threat to their identity. Super-moms need to be reminded to loosen their grip and discover who they are outside of their role as a mother.

4.       Only a bad mother would want to take a break from her children

Motherhood is the only high-stress job where a person is expected to work without a break 24-7 for years. It’s an unrealistic expectation and mothers are stuck thinking that if they want to take a break that means they are incapable, ungrateful, or don’t care about their children. The problem with this myth is that it doesn’t honor a woman’s identity outside of motherhood. Mothers need a break just like anyone in a high-stress profession. 

5.       A mother must meet her children’s needs first

This myth implies that a mother is somehow not an equal and worthy member of the family. Mothers deserve to have their needs met just like anyone else in the family. By prioritizing their children’s needs over their own all the time, mothers can lose sight of their own needs, interests and desires and lose their sense of self. It’s also a recipe for resentment and isolation. Mothers should be encouraged to explore, grow and develop as individuals so that they can be better mothers.


To connect with this group, visit or find Onnie on Facebook and Instagram @momswithoutcapes


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