Today’s woman multi-tasks. She’s a wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister, and work colleague. She juggles employment, study, home duties, children, care of elderly relatives, school, sport and community activities, to name a few. Trying to fit everything in can be demanding. It can cause a seemingly ordinary female, to turn into a kind of Superwoman, and sometimes this can be stressful.
That’s why each year, Mother’s Day celebrates the contribution women make to family life. Traditionally it’s a time when chocolates, flowers, cards, or gifts are given to a mother from appreciative offspring as an expression of gratitude. These loving gestures acknowledge the importance of mothering.
My earliest recollection of Mother’s Day was the morning I proudly carried the breakfast tray into my mother’s room for the first time. Serving my Mum breakfast in bed was my way of thanking her for the love and caring she was giving me. Of course, I didn’t understand then that it isn’t easy to be a wife, raise children, manage a household, contribute an income and at the same time remain happy and healthy.
Even with the help of numerous labour-saving devices, the list of things to do doesn’t get any shorter. In fact, these aids simply allow more and more activities to be added to the daily routine. Keeping on top of it all can be stressful and lead to depression and unhappiness. So what’s the answer?
According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D. “Mothers often put their family needs first and neglect their own. It’s okay”, she says, “to relax your standards – don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to have the ‘perfect’ house or be the ‘perfect’ mother. No one expects you to be Superwoman.”
That’s why Bufka suggests, that women, “Put things in perspective–make time for what’s really important. Prioritize and delegate responsibilities. Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a break. Delay or say no to less important tasks.”
That’s good advice. In fact it’s something I had to learn in my own life. Always busy and agreeing to take on everything that was asked of me, I tried to become “superwoman” and accomplish it all. Eventually I became unhappy, stressed out, and physically and mentally exhausted. I did the usual stress-reducing things like taking short walks, talking things out with my husband, and accepting help from others. Nothing seemed to work. So I decided to try meditation and prayer – to re-think what I was doing with my life.
The words of an old poem by Englishman W.D. Longstaff, came to thought. “Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive beneath His control.” I wrote down all the tasks I was engaged in, and was shocked to realize that there was barely time to slow down and breathe. Suddenly it dawned on me. I wasn’t superwoman, nor was I meant to be. Instead of adding to my ‘to do’ list, I needed to stop, think, and consider whether a request was something I should undertake.
This idea was put to the test when the phone rang at 11pm that same night. A woman who suffered with poor vision, asked me to back her car down her narrow driveway. Just as I was about to agree, get out of bed, and drive across town, I thought about my morning inspiration. I told her that I wouldn’t come over, but instead would pray with her for a solution. Fifteen minutes later, she called again. Out of the blue, the man next door who’d noticed her porch light on, offered to move her car.
I was delighted with the outcome. It had been hard to say no. Nevertheless, that night was a life-changer for me. It made me stop acting like superwoman, and prioritize my activities. Now if I add something to my ’to do’ list, I also drop something off. Before saying “yes” to something, I stop and think first. I’ve stopped feeling guilty if I decline. Most importantly, I make time each day to meditate, pray. As a result the stress has gone. I feel happy and healthy again.
Now each year when Mother’s Day arrives, I remember with gratitude the nurturing my mother gave me. Also the selfless caring that women around the world give their own children and others. Like me, they may wish sometimes that they were “superwoman” – able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yet with the help of a divine Mother-love we can all fulfill our tasks with happiness, poise and grace.