Friday, November 27, 2009

Deconstructing Superwoman

Somewhere in between planning my dream wedding with Barbie and Ken, and actually jumping the broom myself, I bought into the image of a woman married-with-children as some sort of superhero. She was a cross between Super Woman and Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman, in my opinion had the better outfit.) For six years I’ve tried to wear the bullet proof brassiere, star-spangled briefs and fill her incredibly big and awe so sexy go-go boots. I had no idea I was experiencing a well known complex or syndrome among woman, but I was terribly miserable. I was a writer, for goodness sakes but felt guilty when I sat in front of the computer for any length of time. I gave to my family, and only when they had retired and were tucked in bed, would I allow myself to create. By then I was exhausted. The misconception was that I should be able to do it all: be a meek an humble career women that morphs into a baby-changing, house-maintaining diva that remains sexy to boot.

The Women’s Gender Study done by Iowa State and Kharkiv National University defines the Superwoman syndrome as a wish by a female to be excellent at all her roles to the detriment of herself. The study also warns about the psychological stresses associated with this kind of conditioning. Women are germane to the notion that our households won’t run unless we are in the thick of things and find comfort in defining ourselves by the roles we play in others’ lives. Not until I became a mom did I feel the need to wear the “S” on my chest, trying to be super at everything. I still take it personally and feel guilty when my house isn’t as clean as it could be, or if I haven’t given my husband and children every bit of my time that they crave. I multi task to the point of an ADHD diagnosis, taking on the entire load out of guilt and mastering much of nothing. My greatest sense of pride is being a wife and a mother, but sometimes it feels like my greatest failure.

If you are like me there is hope. Linda Ellis Eastman wrote a book called, The Super Woman Syndrome. It talks about saying no to others and saying yes to yourself for a change. Giving yourself time to recharge is also important so that you and your family don’t suffer. I’ve heard it said, ‘a happy mom is a happy home.’ It is important to build in options and resources like family, a moms group or sister circle that allow you to take time away . I learned quick that it is a mindset, being a good wife and mother does not mean being consumed by those roles. There are only 24 hours in a day and I have a right to carve a few of them out for myself. I realized I am not a superhero, nor do I wish to be anymore, and I have managed to pull my real identity out from under the rubble.

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