When was it that we all decided we need to be superwomen?
In an email exchange with a woman I was preparing to interview, we started talking about how we feel the need to be better all the time. She poignantly asked, “when was it that we all decided we need to be superwomen?” Indeed, we’ve all heard the myth, or the proclamation that women these days can “have it all.” Career, kids, partner, annual international holidays, time to bake for the school carnival, hobbies and time to hit the gym to maintain a svelte figure to fit in those skinny jeans. The myth is not only perpetuated, but it’s now expected.
We all feel pressured one way or another to do more, to be better. It maybe as small as making yourself a smoothie for breakfast instead of pouring yourself a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, or as big as getting a promotion. It can be a heavy weight on your shoulders —the pressure to have a family, have a career with benefits and secure future. The problem is that no one bothered to ask us how we feel about these things. Whether we even want to have it all. I, for one, do not want a “real” job, I do not want to have kids before I’m 30, and if you try to take my chocolate away I will hunt you down and hurt you. Under all this pressure, I think we lose our achievements and we lose ourselves.
Why do I feel pressured to meet every one of these expectations, even when they’re not my goals? The answer, I believe, is not as complicated as you may think. It’s simply repetition. In business meetings it was not unusual for me to be asked whether I had a partner and kids, something that no one ever asked my male coworkers. I was once called “brave” for wearing a shirt with horizontal stripes, because apparently it’s brave to not be constantly thinking about how others perceive my size. I have had numerous people tell me that I will change my mind about not wanting kids when I’m older (I’m 29, my mind is made up, #sorrynotsorry), and we’re told that inspirational women have a baby on their hip and are cooking dinner with one hand and have the phone in the other on a business call. I remember being frustrated that no matter how great one aspect of my life was, I was always unable to get another aspect up to that same level. Sound familiar? Well I’m here to tell you to relax. Be kind to yourself.
It’s important that we all take the time to think about what it is that we want, instead of what everyone else thinks we should want. Don’t want a career? Great! No kids, even better. No desire to run around the park until you’re perspiring from the soles of your feet? As long as you’re happy with your body, then nobody can challenge you on that. Ladies. It’s your decision! To the women who told me I was brave for wearing horizontal stripes, I was not trying to look thin, I just liked the shirt.
My working theory is that we never actively decided that we all wanted to be superwomen. It was decided for us. I imagine that the first female to say the words “modern women can have it all” had undertones of sarcasm so strong you could taste it. She was probably a female executive who was being asked about why she doesn’t have kids, or a single mother who sent her child to the bake sale with a store-bought cake in a Tupperware container because she simply ran out of time. Oh yes, “modern women can have it all,” she uttered under her breath as she put the third load of laundry in for the day and reminisced about a time when she found time for a full 8 hours sleep each night.
We as modern women need to stop trying to please everyone around us. We need to learn to take time to do the things that are important to us, and not sacrifice them for an extra class at the gym that we hate, or shopping for a new dress we cannot afford because someone commented that they’ve seen you wearing that same old dress three times now. Yes, I wear my clothes more than once. Shocker! We need to be able to say with confidence that we do not want kids + a career + a slimmer figure + a big house + a new car + whatever none-of-their-business area of your life that others are pushing you about. Just as we all have different eye colors and fingerprints, we all have different desires and lifestyles, and not one of us can be expected to “have it all.”