The SuperWoman Complex
At the end of 2013, I find myself challenging the ‘superwoman complex’ again. A year ago on Mother’s Day, I wrote a blog post for The SkinLess Project on being a supermom, and contended that every mother had a bit of supermom in her. I still maintain that belief, however what I’ve come to realize is that wanting to be a superwoman, or wanting to have it all is overrated. What is the ‘it’ we’re chasing anyway?
Feminist women (I include myself in this demographic) often paint a picture that yes you too can have a well-paying, intellectually-stimulating job, maintain a solid home-life, get all 5 kids to school on time, never miss parent-teacher conferences, read the book for book club, run 5 days a week at 5am and be an amazing partner to your spouse. This becomes the feat of the superwoman, for those who seek it. Yet not every woman wants that life, nor needs to aspire to this level of ‘multitasking’. At this juncture in my life, I’ve decided that I don’t want it all; not anymore. The journey is seductive but once you ‘have it all’, what you have lost is yourself along the way. What good are you to yourself if you have given away the best parts of you along the way? Everyone sacrifices something to gain another. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of culture, strained marriage, little travel, little gains in career, lack of social life, the list goes on. We give something when seeking something greater. I believe that the ‘it’ in ‘having it all’ is subjective but we find ourselves crumbling from fear of failure because we have let society dictate what it means to ‘have it all’.
Much has been written to this topic with issues such as, should women want to have it all? Is there a perfect career path for women? Should women apologize for not having children and being married to their career? Yes you can have it all, and the renowned “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, by Anne-Marie Slaughter coupled with Sheryl Sandberg’s inspirational book Lean In challenge women to put themselves out there and create their own narratives. But what I really want to hear loud and clear is for someone to say: Stop trying to be everywhere at once, and ask yourself what you need to be doing right now. LIVE IN THE PRESENT! What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if there weren’t ‘rules’ or scripts, or preconceived notions on how a woman was to raise her family and maintain a career. More importantly, who cares what anyone else thinks? Society creates sections for women to inhabit, and some lend themselves to be mutually exclusive. You move up the career ladder, take a break to have a baby, raise the baby, jump back into the career world but you’ve been replaced. And where do you resume? Where you left off, or where your peers are right now?
Ultimately, a woman needs to make career and life moves that are meaningful to her individually. If that means taking a more challenging career path to enrich her soul, at the expense of being away from her children, so be it. If it means taking a lesser-paid, more flexible job to be home with the children, then so be it. If it means being a stay at home mom and not pursuing a career, then so be it. The point is each person decides what that version of having it all, aka being a superwoman, looks like, not society.
It’s not glamorous to ‘have it all’, to be everywhere all the time, to put on a facade that life is perfect and complete; it is not. It is exhausting to adhere to someone else’s standards of being somewhere else all the time and not living right here, in the present.