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Myth of the Superwoman

by on August 24, 2013

Today I read an article about the impossible standards women set for themselves on ‘having it all’ in life. Perfect job. Perfect house. Perfect children. Perfect body. Basically the Executive Stepford wives. You can read that article here:

http://www.glamour.com/inspired/2013/08/why-women-cant-have-it-all-according-to-barnard-college-president-debora-l-spar

It’s an interesting read and while I agree, the idea that you can be beautiful; a hard ass executive (or whatever title in your field of interest); have the perfect family and still have time to do whatever it is that you love, is a myth, there are more than just self promoting factors to consider.

Trying to do it all is a lofty goal but there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done. That’s not to say it won’t get done, but you either never sleep or have hired out a few of those things.

For me, the idea of having it all is a wonderful idea but I know that it will never be a reality for me. I care too much about my children to give up time with them to advance my career. Hell, I STILL haven’t finished college because with how fucked up my reproductive tract is we were told ‘now or never’ on getting pregnant and it STILL took us two years and a round of meds to make me actually ovulate. Then the girls came and I pushed it back. Then I went back to work and now I fear I may never finish.

I don’t have time to work out, and as such am fatter than I ever thought I’d be in my entire life. I could try and schedule time, but I only get to see my kids for an hour or so a day (after school/work and before bed) so I don’t want to cut into that. I am usually too tired to work out AFTER they go to bed and I am not anywhere near close enough to a morning person to wake up at 5 AM and go for a run.

I dye my own hair, but only when I feel like it. Truth be told, I’d love to rock some bright ass blue hair, but I’m pretty sure that would be grounds for dismissal or at the very least a stern talking to from my boss.

I shave and/or wax the errant hairs that appear more and more frequently on my face. (I swear I’m part yeti at this point, I was smooth as a river rock on all but my legs and pits before children, now I have a beard I call Jerry.)

I want a lot for my career, but I know living where I do there’s only so far I can go. It’s big fish in a small pond syndrome. I don’t want to be the top of the pond. I just want to learn a lot and be mid- to high level executive by the time I retire. I don’t need a fancy title or a million connections (because guess what, just because you have ‘power’ and ‘authority’ doesn’t mean you’re not an asshole). I want to be able to provide the best schooling I can for my kids. Period. Nothing else matters to me.

But in all that, accepting that I will never be the one that has it all, I have to say that I notice that it’s not just women putting the pressure on themselves to be the top of the top. Personally, in the last month alone I have felt the pressure from both home and work to be the best.

My boss wants 100% from me at work. No distractions. Nothing pulling my attention away from the task at hand. I get that, I really do, but I’m a working mother. The week Phoebe spent in the hospital was beyond my control. Having to take Edie in for her cast and then cast removal was something that was necessary. Edie getting strep this week and having to stay home was a requirement (and just plain considerate to the other parents) of her school.

Then there’s home. This week I have been alone. My husband is out of the state on business so it’s me and the ladies. Not the easiest set up for me. I’ve done it pretty well. Both children are still alive, the house hasn’t burned down. The dog hasn’t run away. And I’m pretty sure I wore pants to work today so I consider this week a win.

However, the life of wife and mother is a constant drain as well. At home, these strange people that live in my house and expect me to take care of them, seem to think I should give 100% here as well. I need to clean, do laundry, bathe them (well, the big hairy one bathes himself for the time being… thankfully), feed them, clothe them, play with them, read to them, do their hair, do their grooming, make their beds, pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, feed the dog, remember that we have a dog so I can buy her groceries as well, take them to the doctor, pick them up from school, take them to birthday parties, etc…

Then I have this strange obsession. Something I never thought I’d have because I was convinced I wasn’t creative for the majority of my formative years. I love to craft. I decorate cookies (like the royal icing, took me 12 hours to do these style). I sew. I quilt. I built and assemble. I paint. I glitter and modge podge with the best of them. I want to devote 100% of myself to that.

When you add it all up that’s 300%. Add in sleeping and daily maintenance activities for myself and I have already triple or quadruple booked my schedule.

So while I think it’s true that women are pushing themselves to have it all, do it all, be it all, I think that there are external factors as play as well.

We need a national Secretary of Humanity that will work with the Secretary of Education and whoever else to make sure that we are advancing as a society. If we keep on this trajectory of constantly need to do more but without the foundation established to work or fully understand of what ‘more’ really entails, we’re bound to crash and burn back into the dark ages.

Perhaps maybe not the dark ages, but I really feel that as a society we’re pushing in the wrong directions. And that not just for women. The time allotted for maternity leave is laughable and non-paid. The term ‘paternity leave’ just earns you a big dumb look when you bring it up. The hours people devote to their jobs are just insane and as a result family life and education is taking a big hit.

We’re rapidly dropping on the international education measurements. We expect more work and less quality human time with the people you love. Hell, most people can’t even tell you where their food comes from or how a cow is slaughtered (or tofu is harvested if you are a vegetarian).

In the end it’s the person making the choices that need to be responsible for what percent of the pie gets doled out where, but I think there are things that we can shift in the way we advance society as a whole to make it better for everyone. Women included.

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