If you’re a mother then you may often find yourself juggling tasks – raising children, managing a household, holding down a job, caring for elderly relatives and participating in family and community activities. Trying to fit everything into the daily schedule while remaining happy and healthy is demanding. It can cause a seemingly normal female, to try and become a superwoman.
While no one is expected to “leap tall buildings”, the desire to be a super-individual and effectively accomplish every task, can be tough to surrender. Hanging on to it, can often lead to self-inflicted pressure, a false sense of responsibility, and feelings of guilt or failure if every job isn’t successfully completed. It can also make saying “no” that much harder.
Being an “I can do everything” type of person, and taking on too much each day, can also be unhealthy. According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., stress can occur because “Mothers often put their family needs first and neglect their own.” Admirable though this may be, keeping on top of everything can lead to burn-out. That’s why “It’s okay”, Bufka 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.”
To get life into balance, maintain good health and beat the stress factor, Dr. Bufka offers these suggestions. “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.”
● Stop the world. It’s time to get off.
It’s helpful advice to take on board, especially if you’re inclined to say yes to everything that’s asked of you. I once tried being a superwoman, until burdened-down, tired and unhappy, I was forced to review my “to do” list. In writing down all, and I mean all, of my regular commitments, it was a shock to find there was no time left to draw breath. The list was cut.
● Regularly check your “to do” list. It doesn’t have to keep building up.
● A good rule is: if you add something to it, then drop something off.
● Overhaul your thinking and actions.
● Take a break from the treadmill of life.
● A poem by W.D. Longstaff, offers this advice. “Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive beneath His control.” This can mean slow the pace down, take time for quiet contemplation. When asked to do something, pause, think calmly, consider your schedule, check your motives, ask yourself if it’s right for you to accept yet another request.
● Learn to say no. It’s ok.
Good people, busy people, and those who believe they’re the “can’t say no” type, are often asked to do things for others. On such occasions, it’s useful to remember that it’s more than possible that your assistance may not be their only answer. It’s OK to decline.
One night at 11pm, my telephone rang. An acquaintance begged me to come immediately and back her car down her narrow driveway. As I was deciding whether to get out of bed and drive 45 minutes to her, the thought came to pause and think before answering. My own genuine needs had always been met and often in most unexpected and wonderful ways. So I told her I wouldn’t be coming while reassuring her that there would be a solution. Her need would be met. As she angrily banged the phone down, I felt a pang of guilt for saying no. Ten minutes later, she called to say the problem was solved. A neighbour had seen her porch light on, and kindly moved her car.
● Be kind to yourself.
● Resist saying yes to everyone.
● Don’t feel bad if you decide to say no.
● Keep a sense of balance.
● You’re worth looking after too.
Doing this may take practice, but the good news is that it can help you not to overcommit. Best of all, it can stop you trying to become superhuman. Instead, you’ll remain a normal, healthy, stress-free woman.
This article also appeared as “ Forget superwoman!: Don’t try to be a superwoman – it’s good for your health” on Motherpedia - an online community for Mums by Mums.