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Superwoman or Sanity? How to Find Balance

Keeping healthy is an on-going balancing act. We want to keep in good physical health, but there’s also mental health, spiritual health, as well as financial health. Of course we need to keep our marriage (or significant relationship) healthy, and we strive for healthy relationships with our children. We ought to have friendships and hobbies outside of the family in order to keep that part of ourselves healthy as well.

In talking with many of my friends who are trying to balance career, marriage, children, relationships, keeping fit or any combination of the above, most are falling short in one area or another.

In the 80’s the term superwoman was used to describe a Western woman who works hard to manage multiple roles of a career woman, a homemaker, a volunteer, etc. It was depicted by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, in her book The Superwoman Syndrome. [1]

The term derived a number of expressions, such as superwoman syndrome, superwoman squeeze (a pressure on a superwoman to perform well in her multiple roles),[2] and superwoman complex (an expectation of a superwoman that she can and should do everything).[3]

Although I haven’t heard these terms in many years, I think there is a “superwoman” lurking in the back of many women’s minds, prodding us, making us feel the need to try to do everything, and do it perfectly.

I’ve been a stay at home mom, a working mom, and a single parent at different stages in my life. As a working mother I can tell you there’s really no way to keep up that sort of pace without help. You’ve heard the expression “Something’s got to give”, well in order to keep all those balls in the air, the key, I believe, is finding balance, and getting some help. Finding someone you can bounce one or two of those balls off of once in a while.

Here are some tips I found useful when I got to a point when I just couldn’t do it all anymore.

Take care of you – First of all, be sure you are eating light but healthy meals, and drinking enough water. Nothing is worse than feeling ill due to eating the wrong foods or being dehydrated. Keep healthy snacks ready in the refrigerator so that if you don’t have time to prepare something for yourself, you can just grab something like string cheese, veggie sticks or a pre-made tuna or chicken salad.  

Prioritize and Delegate – Make a list of all the things that have to be done on a regular basis; then prioritize each task in the order of importance (A – must be done daily or on specific day/time; B – important, but not urgent; C – not important, not urgent).  You’d be surprised how much time we waste doing things that are not important and not urgent. Sometimes it’s just good to see this.

Next put a star next to any item that can be delegated to someone else. (Are the children old enough to start doing some chores? Is there a teenage neighbor looking to make some extra cash who might be able to take on a project or two? Can you share carpooling duties with another parent or two?) Write the person’s name next to the task you can delegate.

Communicate with your Spouse/Partner – If you have a partner, try to communicate with them so that they understand the extent of the household duties (show them the list), and ask for their help if this feels appropriate. Can you afford to hire a house cleaner to come in once or twice a month to take on the cleaning and keep things under control? You’d be surprised to find out how inexpensive this can be, and how much time it can save just having them come in a couple of times a month.

Take a break from the kids – Trade childcare for a few hours a week with another mom, this way you each have at least a half day of time by yourself to do things that you can’t do as easily with children – run errands, get your hair done, have a facial, read a book, or just recharge your batteries. It’s amazing how much you can do when you are not loading kids in and out of the car all day. On the days you have the other mom’s children at your home, do things like laundry and household chores that are easily manageable with kids around.

Alternative work schedule – If you are working outside of the house and this just feel like it’s getting to be too much, you might consider asking for an alternative work schedule. Some employers offer flex time, i.e., coming in earlier or staying later. While others offer a 9/80 work week, giving employees the option to work 80 hours in 9 days, having an extra day off every two weeks. Another is working four 10-hour days, and having an extra day off each week.  Depending on your financial needs, switching to a 20 or 30 hour work week has worked well for many people. Talk to your HR department and see what sort of plans they might offer.

Staying fit & Keeping up with Friends – One way that my friend Wendy and I keep active, and at the same time keep up to date with what’s going on in each other lives, is by going for a walk/jog three times a week. Oddly enough, we don’t live in the same town. What we do is call each other at 6:00 am and each head out of our respective houses with our ear piece in place.  We have a long conversation while walking a mile or two in our own neighborhoods.  Her husband and child are home sleeping and by the time she get’s back from our walk they are just waking up. We both feel it’s a great way to start the day, plus we have time to talk about whatever we want without feeling like we are taking time away from anyone else.

What ways have you found to keep up with all the responsibilities of running a household, working, raising children, keeping fit, and keeping your relationships healthy?

1.         “The superwoman syndrome”, by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, Morton H. Shaevitz, 1984
2.         “The Superwoman Squeeze”, Newsweek”, May 19, 1980, pp. 72–79
3.         “Superwoman Complex A Pain In The Ego”, by Judith Serrin, Boca Raton News, July 28, 1976


6 thoughts on “Superwoman or Sanity? How to Find Balance

  1. I don’t even have kids and I completely relate!! How do moms do it?! Great advice and love the 6 am walk/ talk what a great thing( well for a morning person!)

    • Thanks! The Walk/Talk things has been amazing – for both her and I – we used to go weeks without talking, and now we talk at least 3 times a week. We are really in touch with what’s going on in eachother lives again. The 6AM thing was hard the first few days, but now it’s not feeling as early. Plus where I live there are so many people out walking at that hour… it’s really fabulous.

  2. I have been there, done that. I am an attorney, own my own practice, litigate and manage others, have a child, am single, but I learned to develop a great system. I have replaced guilt with “self regard.” I do take time for myself and have wonderful babysitters that come late at night when my tyke is going to bed, so my dates are later in the evening. My son has his own office at my office and loves it. Fortunately he is a computer geek, and an artist so he is busy when he comes to my work! And I learned to not be a control freak with my legal work, I delegate, but do the final edits and touches.

    Great article…go Deborah!!!

    • WOW that does sound like you have a great system Cat! It’s really neat that your son has his own office at your office – I’m sure that makes him feel special on the days he goes to work with Mom. Thanks for your comment!

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