Monday, May 20, 2013

Are you Super Woman?

SuperMom_Overloaded_2 Picture via

As I was preparing to write this post, I Googled the term “Super Woman.” There are lots of definitions but the gist is that a superwoman is “a woman who typically fulfills all the duties of several fulltime roles, such as wife, breadwinner, mother, student, etc with apparent superhuman efficiency.” After thinking about it for about a tenth of a second, I’ve concluded that I am not Super Woman.

That’s really a “no, duh” comment. I’m not Super Woman and have never wanted to be her. In fact, I (mostly) consider “super woman” attainment as almost a failure. Now before anyone gets all upset over that statement, let me clarify. Women my age (I’m 48) are part of the first generation of “post feminists.” We have reaped the benefits of our older sisters’ work in the 1960s and ‘70s and we began our careers in the 1980s with a bit more of a cultural shift towards women in the workplace. Many of us went to college, started careers and got married. Some of us decided to leave our careers after having children while others worked hard to balance motherhood and the workplace. Still others bypassed motherhood altogether to focus on career and marriage (or a significant relationship). I also personally know a few women who do not have children and whose “jobs” are to take care of their husbands and make a home. Feminism is really about choice and all of those scenarios are examples of fine choices. In order to be successful with all of those choices, it is important that our husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends/wives/partners support our choices 100%. And in my opinion, the “Super Woman” is a woman who really doesn’t have a choice because she is not truly supported by her partner.

post-it-notes

For me, “support” is really the key to living a fulfilling life. It means that my partner has my back, is willing to do whatever it takes to make things work and someone who respects me and what’s important to me as I do him. It also means letting go of ego and “the way things should be.” Here’s an example: when I was married to my first husband, I worked a lot of hours and traveled a lot for work. His complaint was often that all of our problems would be solved if I just made more money (I made almost as much as him at the time) and that I was “shirking” my responsibilities at home. I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. When I was at home, I did all the cooking, all the cleaning, all the grocery shopping, all the bill paying, all of the laundry and most of the errands. His “job” was to do the “outside” things: mow the lawn (we lived in a zero lot line home in California and had a postage stamp sized “lawn”), change the oil in the car and fix anything that broke every so often. I’m not exaggerating with this list and I think you can see the issue: my duties were things that had to either be done every day or every couple of days on top of working a 60 hour week job and his were things that could be done once a week, once a month or less. And he had no interest in changing that mix of responsibilities. So you can imagine my confusion when I was told I wasn’t doing enough (we had no children). 

One Friday, I returned home from a business trip. All over the house, he had placed orange post it notes with messages to me, probably fifteen to twenty notes in all. The note left on the refrigerator said. “There is no food in here for me to eat. Why haven’t you gone grocery shopping!” On the laundry room door, the note that was left said, “My clothes are dirty. You need to do the laundry.” Finally, I came to the note left on the mirror, above my sink in the bathroom. That note said, “Look at you. This is the face of a terrible wife.”  There were many, many things that lead to the breakup of that marriage but at that moment, I vowed that I would divorce my husband and I did. The lack of respect (which he fully admitted to) that I experienced prevented me from having a real choice in that marriage. I saved those post it notes for a long, long time to remind me how it felt to be so unsupported. Over the years, I’ve not only learned that I have choices but I’ve also learned how to actually make those choices, which is another thing entirely.


stress-1 Photo via

When my current husband and I decided to get married, I thought I had it all down. I had a successful and fulfilling career, lots of confidence, a great home and plenty of income. I owned a couple of properties, had investments, pets, important friendships and just overall lead a great life. My husband was a single father to a thirteen year old boy, whom he’d raised on his own since my stepson was six. Over the previous ten years, my husband had gone from being an executive at a well known home improvement company to working “rep” jobs with several different manufacturers, a necessity once he became a single parent. 

Right after we got married, the economy tanked and many of those higher paying rep jobs were few and far between.  At the same time, I had never been a “mom” and the only reference I had was my own “stay at home” mom who did it all (you can probably see the problem coming from a mile away). Early in the marriage, , I threw myself into the “Super Woman” role. I made a home for these two guys and tried to fulfill a “mom like” role for a boy who hadn’t lived with his Mom for over half of his life. I cooked, cleaned, worked, paid the bills, juggled the many versions of seasonal soccer games, school activities, planned summer activities, and attended baseball games. When my husband was laid off the first time and the bills became harder to pay, I menu planned, sold things on eBay to pay the bills, started a wedding cake business and just generally drove myself and everyone else crazy. Without discussing it with my husband, I managed to take over the very carefully crafted ecosystem that he and his son had put together in the prior seven years. I knew I wasn’t happy and neither were they.

Early on, I reached out to a therapist, knowing that I needed to get a handle on my stress level before it was too late. In the six months that I saw her, she helped me realize that I was actually responsible for all of the pressure that I felt and got me to remember that I had choices. So I went home and asked my husband for help. Little did I know, he never expected me to do the things that I had been doing (what???!!!). I had let my “assumptions” cloud my judgment. Together, we settled on a happy medium, which has evolved over time.

authentic-happiness-189x300 Picture via

Today, I am the primary breadwinner in the family. My husband is semi retired (he is sixteen years older than me) but also works part time in his insurance business. He does all of the cooking (he loves cooking and is great at it) and the grocery shopping, as well as taking care of the outside work on the lawn. He is also in charge of all of the research that goes into large purchases. I pay the bills and either coordinate the larger projects or decide that we need to hire them out (my husband is not handy with tools and that’s fine with both of us). Everyone does their own laundry.  I’m also in charge of fixing anything computer-related in the home. We work together on decisions that impact our family. In addition to this, we have a cleaning lady who comes in twice a week. One day she cleans the entire house, the second day (which is about midway through the week) she cleans the family room kitchen area and then completes a “project.” The projects are things that I can’t get to like organizing a closet, scrubbing a floor, re-organizing a room, de- cluttering our living space, etc. It has made a world of difference to my stress level and happiness, which is positive for the entire family.

With my stepson now in college and my husband semi-retired, I’m sure our individual household duties will be refined once more. That I am married to a man who sees the bigger picture and makes decisions for the betterment of our family is a gift in itself. He chooses to be a real partner and as a result, I am empowered to have a choice. We all have choices. My choice is to not be Super Woman. How about you?