There are a thousand versions on the internet of this very famous image — a woman with ten hands holding different things: a feeding bottle, a briefcase, a cooking pan, a mop, a diaper, etc. It signifies the power of the modern woman who juggles all the roles in her life with ease and panache. The superwoman who is held back by absolutely nothing: she has it ALL. Not to forget, of course, that she looks like a million dollars while doing all this — I don’t look like that after 10 hours of sleep and a day at the salon. Superwoman indeed!
I guess such a representation is supposed to make us women feel proud and powerful. Frankly, the image just leaves me feeling distinctly uncomfortable and inadequate. For that matter, any time anyone starts off giving an “ode to a woman,” she is a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, a teacher, a professional, and fifty other lofty roles that I struggle to keep count of, I feel like rolling my eyes and well, climbing into bed to sleep off the exhaustion of just hearing it.
The Endless Need to Do More
It seems that women’s progression is not about changing roles; it’s about adding them on. It’s no longer just home — it’s home plus work; not just mother — mother plus mentor; not just caregiver — caregiver plus financial contributor. Don’t get me wrong: I love the new roles. It’s the “plus plus” game that gets to me. It reminds me of hungry teens at a buffet, mindlessly loading their plates with food that they cannot possibly finish, ecstatic about the good deal they are getting, but, blissfully oblivious to the impending stomach ache that will greet them the next morning!
So when do we women realize that we need to stop loading our plates and avoid that stomach ache? While we can praise a woman’s abilities to the moon and back, the fact of the matter remains that evolution has not exactly kept up! I don’t see any females being born with 10 hands, and I don’t see the hours of the day increasing from 24 to 48 so that we can fulfill all the roles on our overloaded plates.
For that matter, have we asked ourselves whether this is really what we want. Do we want to maximize every second of every day to have that optimum life where we “manage” all that is expected of us (and what we expect of ourselves) just to have a peaceful guilt-free sleep at night?
There are two problems with living like that: first, we are not able to manage everything to the level that we want (and the sleep is quite guilt-ridden and far from peaceful). Second, we don’t always want to “be everything”; sometimes we just want to “be.” There are times when we don’t want to take care of the kids, or cook that weekend meal or work extra hours at our jobs to prove that we “have it all.”
Doing Everything Is Not the Solution
The solution is as simple as it gets: say “I can’t” or even “I don’t want to.”
That is the starting point of true empowerment. Sometimes it will mean that our loved ones will have to step up and sometimes it will mean that everything is not going to get done exactly as we imagined. Nonetheless, that’s not a crime; it’s normal. Every time the guilt comes creeping, we need not drive ourselves to exhaustion; we just need to remember that we have two hands and limited hours.
More importantly, enjoying moments of leisure is not an “avoidable luxury”; it is an “essential necessity” to keep ourselves and those around us happy. At the end of the day, happy not-so-perfect mom trumps tired grumpy perfection. (If you don’t believe me, ask your kids!)
It is much like the beauty debate; we are not the size two plastic that we see on our televisions — that’s not real. Just the same, we are not the ideal “superwoman” glorified across media. That’s neither real nor ideal! About time we hand over that imaginary cape and truly empower ourselves!
So ladies, make choices, and reduce the to-do list: delegate, get help, let the people dependent on you get a little independent and once in awhile, just let things be “not perfect” — because everything cannot be and because everything is not supposed to be!
Featured photo credit: consultealespecialista.com via consultealespecialista.com