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.
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.