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I am not Super Woman

standard February 14, 2011 44 responses

Once, years ago, when I was still hellbent on proving to everyone at work that I could, and would, do everything and anything they asked of me, and do it with a smile, I hit my breaking point. My boss asked me to have something done by the end of that day and it was just the one thing too many.

I didn’t tell her it was too much. I didn’t ask her to help me prioritize. I just sat there and I started to cry.

It was such an unexpected reaction from me – little Miss Pollyanna who always sees the positive in every situation, who always finds a way to bounce back, who always plays devil’s advocate – that she and another coworker just stared, open mouthed.

“She’s… she’s not Superwoman. She’s human.” They whispered to each other while I just cried harder and harder.

They were amazed and delighted to discover that no, I couldn’t do it all and that I was in fact human. I was slightly miffed that they were taking such pleasure in watching me fall apart.

The story ended well. The three of us figured out how to divide up my task list and get everything done and in the process went from being co-workers to good friends.

I did not learn from the moment. I still strive to be Superwoman.

Well, in case anyone was wondering, despite every indication to the contrary, I am not Superwoman, and it’s exhausting to try.

My house is not clean. It’s not tidy. It’s not even pretending to be anything other than sanitary. And even that is a stretch some days.

My kids don’t get a bath every night. They don’t get read to every night. They don’t even get a proper bedtime routine most nights.

My husband doesn’t get the attention he deserves or needs.

My work never gets finished – be it work for me, work for my blog, career advancement, or work I get paid for. I know I could be doing more. I know I could be doing a better job. All I can muster is a good enough. And I even then I know it’s not enough.

My bills get paid late. My tuition deposits are handed in late. School projects don’t get done. Books get lost. Papers get misplaced. 

I’m failing, people.

I’m failing bitterly.

I can’t lose the weight that makes me feel unatractive. I can’t do the things that make my kids feel special. I can’t be the wife my husband needs me to be. I can’t be the person I want to be and it’s seriously killing me.

I spend my days catching up. I start the day tired, try to wake up in the shower. Eat breakfast while listening for sounds indicating that the kids are awake. I fold laundry while they eat, pack lunches while they get dressed, brush hair while checking email, put on make-up while begging them to gather their things and put on their shoes.

By the time we leave the house I’ve been up for two hours and have sat for five minutes. An hour later I’ve done two drop offs and have driven some 30 miles in multiple directions. I’ve answered existential and scientific questions. I’ve dispensed parenting wisdom and love. And then I find myself parked in front of Starbucks, ready to start my own day, three hours after opening my eyes, and I can never motivate myself to get out of the car.

What for?

I have plans. I have goals. I know where I want to go, who I want to be. But it feels like I need to swim upstream to get there and like I’m being constantly pulled under water on my way.

And then I feel guilty, because the stuff that pulls me under water is stuff that I wanted, that I worked for, that I love. And when I rail against it all, they look at me with big wide eyes and wonder what they did to make me not want them.

I do. I want them. And I want me. And there aren’t enough hours in the day for both. And it’s just so damn unfair.

But there really is no choice. They win. They have to. They need me now. One day they’ll be bigger and more independent. So I’ll keep getting up before dawn and I’ll keep working non stop to make sure everyone has breakfast, lunch, clean clothes, a somewhat liveable house, and that they all feel loved and heard.

Even if in return I get told that I’m fatter than daddy, that my sandwiches aren’t as good, that they’ll be better mommies than me when they grow up, that I don’t need a special Valentine’s Day to make me feel special.

They can’t see inside my heart. They think I’m Superwoman and Superwoman can take it all without breaking. I just have to prove them right.

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44 responses

  • I could have written this. Seriously, each and every word. Those Superwomen must be taking an insane amount of drugs. It’s not normal.

  • Well expressed as usual 🙂

    You aren’t alone sister! Something I’m learning (and it’s a daily struggle) is that your thoughts are the mental wardrobe you’re putting on, so *try* to be aware of the negative self-talk. Seriously, Super-Woman is her own worst enemy.

  • Oh my gosh, honey. I could’ve written this a couple years ago when I, too, had had enough. Can I help you, pretty please? Firstly, break up that morning routine. Kids don’t like their sandwiches? They make their OWN lunch the night before. Have THEM make their sandwiches and pack their lunchboxes, storing their stuff in the fridge to pull before leaving. No complaints from the peanut gallery after that! Second, have them pick their clothes/shoes out the night before, too. One less thing for you to get ready. Thirdly – take the time you saved doing that in the mornings to sit and breathe and meditate or do yoga – do something for YOU in the morning, first thing, so that you aren’t forgotten. That was my hugest turning point myself, the second I stopped ignoring myself and seeing myself as lesser person in the family equation is when EVERYTHING – the chores, the bills, the kids, the hubs, the work – all fell into place, because my needs were being met. Hard to feel motivated to do ANYTHING when you’re forgotten by yourself. You have to take that time, and make that time for you. I know you’re thinking I’m crazy, there’s not enough time, but I WAS THERE, I promise you, this is the solution. And I will help you – let’s Skype today about it, okay? I promise, I can help you.

  • You’re taking the first step in accepting that things just ain’t right. I admire you for that. Please take the next steps because a tired, overwhelmed mom can turn into a sickly mom.

  • I’ve been here too. Let go of the need to be Superwoman- seriously, that does no one any good. You are what you think about all day long. Think good thoughts. And listen to Lisa.

  • Jess,
    You need to follow the advice you gave me last week. Find time for yourself. Not time to write, work, or go to Starbucks, but time to bring back the yoga, to breathe, to find your center. All the driving and running around is so overwhelming. I know you’ll find the balance. I know it.

  • Wow! This could be me. I feel like a failure every single day.

  • P.S. I think that I just fell a little bit in love with you.

    P.P.S. I want to buy you a cape. You are Superwoman!

  • Hugs. I think every mother thinks like this.

    My kids are never bathed everynight and I can’t remember the last time I actually cleaned the tub. Now that they can read – they read to themselves.


  • Life can be really tough sometimes. “Superwoman” is a myth. Real women have imperfections — that’s what makes them beautiful, unique and interesting!

  • House isn’t even remotely sanitary up here–but the rally cap IS typically on by about 2 p.m.. This is a great post and emphasizes the insanity that we not only manage, we occasionally embrace. Lisa is absolutely right, though, we cannot continue to see ourselves as “lesser” people in our families, work and school communities–the whole “she can do it, she won’t mind, she will help” boundary disaster has to stop. I read yesterday that an average American worker spends 30% of her day “task switching” undoubtedly because someone else has derailed her from her current project. As I read the article, I realized I had only spent that very 10 minutes on the article I was trying to write…the other 98% of the day had been helping others with their projects. We do have to seek some sort of sane balance. thank you again for the post–it is always good to know we are not alone.

  • It is so hard to be everything to everybody. If Superwoman exsisted I would help you kick her ass!

  • Sounds like my life right about now. Sometimes trying to make sense of everything can be so overwhelming. But you have given voice to what so many of us are feeling at this very moment. And for that I say thank you and I hear ya!

  • I have SO BEEN where you are in this post! I myself have had struggles with weight loss… I just recently FINALLY lost 12 pounds after 9 months {just had a baby last March}. I am one of those ppl who tries to be supermom and I have learned {and continue to learn over and over and over} that I am NOT…and that’s OK 🙂 With all that we are called to be as women, and with so much pressure from others {who btw– don’t have it all together themselves} it is hard to focus on who WE are what we CAN do.

  • I feel like you were speaking words from my head…..and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Hang in there! You will find your way through.

  • Dude. Aren’t we all just trying to survive the day?! I’ll tell you what my therapist tells me all the time: Be gentle on yourself. You are amazing. Do your best. Prioritize. Say no to things.

    Thanks for being so candid. You’re not the only one going through this! xoxo

  • Considering I had a mini meltdown about this this week I can relate. It’s always a struggle, but sometimes it’s hard to remember why. When I feel like this it usually comes out, and my hubby kicks me out of the house for a few hours, maybe you need that, some uninterrupted you time this weekend.

    Love Lisa’s suggestions, now I just have to get caught up on the laundry. LOL

  • I think almost every woman you know could have written this post. I often reflect upon the fact that, like those former co-workers, I get a slight kick of of seeing someone’s messy house, their child having a tantrum, a blog post like this–it all assures me that I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re all doing a lot and struggling to keep up. And if you got a glimpse of my bedroom/office at the moment you’d know just what I was talking about. But I suspect you already do.


  • Nice to hear from you (and everyone else) that we all feel this way. Be more, do more, give more… WHAT?

    I agree w/ connie, be careful cuz your health could be at stake…

    I hear you on looking at my own brand of crazy and thinking.. wait I WANTED all of this, so what’s wrong with me??

  • Did Superman have some sort of tower of solitude or cone of silence or something? (Floundering miserably as a geek wife here…)

    My point is every Super Man or Woman deserves a break. I love you and you are doing a fantastic job. You are such a constant inspiration to me, but don’t think for a second that means you can’t be HUMAN.

    Also, I believe you witnessed my “ohmygawdimsotired” meltdown not so long ago 🙂 We all go through this and we all understand.

  • This was me a year ago….I really feel like living the online life PLUS the supermom life is extremely draining. The feeling of drowning and failing is really pervasive.

    For me, a long process of letting go of some pretty major stuff has been the key.

    And getting back to yoga. Come to some classes with me! I’m in your neighborhood practically. I love this new studio called Breathe in Los Gatos.

    But whatever you do, that the time and see what you can honestly cut out. Its not worth it. You CAN be happy. And yes, we will all have tough times. Otherwise we woudn’t appreciate the good times, right? But love yourself enough to give yourself some of that super stuff.

    Hugs and love 🙂

  • WOW, I wrote a very similar post just recently! My house is not clean, my kids don’t have a routine and I go crazy, feeling overwhelmed and lost.

    Then my counselor told me exactly what Lisa told you. Put YOU as a priority. She told me to take a shower every morning and in that shower remind myself that I am important and I am meeting my needs. When you start feeling like your needs aren’t being met, that is when you break. And oh, have i broke!! I have screamed and cried. And I keep trying to do it all, and strive for perfection that is not real.


    And THANK you THANK YOU for being so real and honest. This post means so much to me!

    Another very stressed out and underappreciated mom.

  • Like I said the other day, #Wonderwoman.

  • Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this! It’s good to know I’m not alone in my daily struggles as a wife and new Mom. I think we’re not as alone as we imagine we are. And by we…I mean most wives and mothers. You’re a wonderful wife and mother because you CARE about these things. That’s where Superwoman comes in. God bless you. 🙂

  • I have to tell you that compared to me you are super woman. You do way more than I do in a day and have far more expectations. I wish I could get done all the things you do….but I am a polar opposite….kudos to you for all that you do.

  • Layla

    sorry to break it you gals, but my kids get a bath every night…at 6:30 sharp (I set an alarm on my cell phone) They’re in bed by 8 and lights out at 9 (again I set another alarm on my cell phone) We eat dinner evry night together, as a family…usually between 5:30 and 6. They are awake by 7 a.m. and ready to leave by 7:45. They’ve been picking out their own clothes since they were 2. (they’re now 8 and 6). I don’t have piles of laundry, clean or dirty, laying around. The dishes are done as soon as they hit the sink. I vacuum 2, maybe 3 times a week. We buy 75% organic. We read ingredients before we buy. My kids know not to eat something before I read what’s in it and if I say no, it’s no, but I’m not around them 24/7 so somethings do slip by). They are happy, healthy, well adjusted and loved.

    P.S. I am definitely not Super Woman…I’m just Layla

  • OMG… I’m crying right now reading this— YOU. ARE. SO. RIGHT.

    Somehow we have talked ourselves into believing we can do it all. I want THIS life but it’s killing me making it happen.

    Will we look back years from now and forget all the storytimes we missed and the long nights in the office or at the computer when the kids wanted mommy’s attention and say, “Wow, it was hard but look at my family. It all turned out and my kids are okay. “

    I’ll keep hoping that despite a recent time when hubby was away for 7 weeks and my kids proceeded to tell me that he was their favorite.

    Yeap. I won’t break. If I can take that, I can take anything. Right???

  • I think there’s a difference here – it’s not that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing we CAN do it all, it’s that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing we HAVE to do it all. And we don’t.

    I know I am guilty of saying, “If I don’t do it, no one else will,” and that is a big, fat lie. My husband is amazing and helps as much as I need, when I need it. It’s just that sometimes, I forget to let go of the reigns and ask for help.

    Being a good wife doesn’t mean taking on the world, and doing it all for your husband. It means working as a couple to get done what needs to get done in the moment, whether it’s chores, kids, or otherwise.

    I can get overwhelmed too with trying to make things appear perfect. I reign it back in by reminding myself that my kid is healthy and happy, I’m healthy and happy, and my husband is healthy and happy. Everything else is just background noise.

  • Anonymous

    I was supermom for 20 years. I worked, cleaned, housework, cooked, shopped, took the kids to dance, hockey, ran our business and went 7 days and nights per week. About a year ago I kept getting sick, mono, etc. I consolidated the activities, slowed down, when I lost my job I thanked god. Now I’m just mom and grandma now. I still cook, clean and mostly, love my kids. Enjuoy, life is too short and everyone wants us to be Super human. We are all just human. Good luck

  • Anonymous

    Well said. I would bet all of us are doing better than we realize. We are hardest on ourselves….

  • Anonymous

    :)This is the best post I have read anywhere lately. You have summed up how I and I am sure most of my fellow Mom’s feel at least half the time. Thank you for putting it out here, I no longer feel alone and I feel so much better about the chaos around me, lol. 4 kids sure can make a mess, lol.

  • It is amazing that you were able to perfectly verbalize what has been going on in my head for years.
    Why do we put these expectations on ourselves? Thank you for sharing your thoughts – I’m sure you’re an amazing person!

  • Jenna is right, it’s that we think we have to do it all.
    I know I’m still really young; we’ll celebrate our third anniversary this month, and our oldest just turned two. I still had to learn this hard fact of life, the hard way. Yes, this is the life that I wanted, and chose to have. I chose to share myself with my husband and children. To prevent myself from breaking (again) I not only need time for myself, I need to enjoy the time I have with my family. So I trade dishes for a bubble bath, vacuuming for a matchbox monster truck rally, and laundry for an evening with my husband.
    That was a convoluted way to say that some things are just not as important as we make them out to be. No one ever reaches old age and wishes that she’d washed more dishes.

  • This post is all kinds of awesome. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I love your honesty. And I hate it when people have to comment with advice. Advice sucks. Advice just makes us feel more guilty. Just keep being honest and ignore all the comments giving you their two bits. We win the battle just by simply choosing to get up each day and still be a mom.

  • My mom tells me stories of raising three kids… and all I can think about is how much my mom was involved, how much she cared, how much she loved us (always) and how she was The Superwoman. I am now raising my three kids and I hope that behind all the laundry, dishes, multitasking, failures and feelings that my kids will have similar feeling towards me, their mother.
    Even knowing all the struggles and meltdowns my mom endured, I still consider her my Superwoman.

  • Thank you for this post. I can relate!

  • Oh, Amen, Lady. And I actually just wrote my own post about this topic….which I’m going to link to your post cause they seem to go hand in hand.

    Thanks for writing about your experiences!

  • Such a great post. I also love Kristen’s line above that Super-Woman is her own worst enemy, not to mention rather uptight.

  • Here is what I’ve decided to do: I invented an alter-ego who is, in fact, SuperWoman. But I’m just redefining SuperWoman. My kitchen cabinets look like hell, but it’s because SuperWoman doesn’t have time to bother with them. She’s fighting evil villains. (Like the people at work.) Great post! I see why they picked it for a BlogHer Voice of the Year!

  • Tracey Dempsey

    Wow, its 2.49am in the UK, and I found this amazing poem, every line is me. Superwomem physio at work, worked so hard she got sciaticia, now the super physio cannot do what she use to do and makes me feel awful I can’t be the best I know I can be. My life is that poem, wprd for word. It was so like me it made me cry. I am not alone.

  • […] never do that. I pretend I’m Superwoman, remember? I get through the day. I do my thing, and I make it work. People think I’m strong, […]

  • […] first was a post entitled I Am Not Superwoman, which I wrote with tears dripping down my face, sitting at a very crowded Starbucks on a […]

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