In today’s society, women find themselves pulled in several different directions which in many cases leave them feeling unfulfilled. The various roles that women are expected to play in life can sometimes overwhelm the mind. Many of us strive to be excellent in every sense of the word because we truly believe that we can have it all. Or at least, that is the perception that is loosely perpetuated by a few creating the illusion that such a life can be easily obtained. Everyday several women are in active pursuit of living up to the exceptionally high standard of being the best mother, wife, career woman, friend, mentor, leader, daughter, etc. and although it is possible many are discovering the challenges that come with “having it all”.
I would like to believe that no one wakes up striving to be mediocre. Such an existence would feel like an under achievement which propels so many of us to seek out the exceptional. For many decades, we were marginalized and minimalized which fuels our desire to be great in every capacity. Although admirable and commendable, this desire puts a high level of pressure on women to perform flawlessly in every acquired role. As a result, there is such a huge potential for women to feel task saturated with life’s responsibilities. Naturally, women have inherited some tough roles and there is opposition that come with that regardless of whether you choose a traditional or unorthodox path. The history of the female experience is still being written today and because of our history in this country and some of the outdated societal beliefs, many feel as though they have something to prove.
There are so many paths that women can take in the world and that is something to celebrate because it was not always the case. However, traditionally speaking, most women will become mothers and once that role is assumed there will be reasonable and unreasonable expectations levied without considering that person’s thoughts or goals as a whole. Becoming a mom does not necessary quiet the other ambitions that were present which is why some women seek out other experiences beyond motherhood.
There are people in society that feel that a women’s sole purpose is to reproduce and take care of her home and family (Forste & Fox, 2012). On the other end of that spectrum are the ones that believe their careers are of utmost importance (abc.net.au, 2019) and then you have the ones in the middle that are trying to achieve balance by “having it all”, meaning being a great wife, mom, homemaker, and career woman. Just saying it out loud sounds like a lot of responsibility and let me assure you, at times it can truly take an emotional toll on a woman. Imagine having to be great in every role all of the time. Not to mention, doing all of this all while being judged for various reasons. How could this not create a sense of mental overwhelm and periodically?
Being a great mom and wife requires dedication and selflessness. There will be many times when women will feel that their needs are secondary and will put either their children or husband’s need before their own. Under dated societal norms, this action was expected and applauded. For a woman to have done something different like put her career first would have been frowned upon. These are the challenges that women still face today but in a more subtle fashion. For instance, I am in the military and I am married with two children. I have had to deploy for months at a times which has required me to make personal sacrifices like leaving loved ones at home because of my duty to this country. By some people standards, actions like mine would make me a less than an ideal parent or spouse but an excellent Airman. However, there is not a day that goes by that I am not aiming to be the best version of myself. I feel like I have to be my best for myself, my husband, my children and all of that fuels my efforts to be the very best Airman that I can be for this country. However, because of the relationship that I have with my spouse, I have the support that I need should I need a moment to fall apart like humans do on occasion. Perfection is the exception and not the standard that would be unhuman like. Yet we as people willingly and unwilling subject ourselves the pressures of it all.
Pursuing a family and career simultaneously and being great at it is achievable but it is not easy. You will feel high levels of stress and the pressures of the world mounting upon you at times because you are striving for the exceptional. How could a person go through life caring about something so passionately and seeking out a successful outcome and not expect it to be arduous at times. As women, we not only contend with the expectations of others but we sometimes suffer through internal conflict between what we are required to do versus what we wish we could do which creates guilt over the priorities that we have established. Living up to societal and other people’s expectations and extremely high standards of what a perfect life looks like can create quiet anguish and turmoil which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. The key to having it all is balance which is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Visualize a pie chart and how each individual piece represents a specific element. A pie can be sliced in several different ways, large and small. However, the cumulative value of the slices cannot exceed 100%.
Our life can be viewed in the same way, each woman’s experience will be different creating a variety of styles in which the pie can be sliced based on each person’s priorities. All equally stress inducing but in order to reign in the calm, we must arrange our lives in a way that provides the greatest benefit of mind. Maybe the goal should not be to be perfect in everything all of the time but to be in perfect harmony with your mind. That way you can properly prioritize what needs the most attention at the time which will empower you to create balance as you are able to render a flexible solution given the situation or circumstance.
Being a woman is not an easy task but it is the only one that some of us will ever know. So let’s own the challenges that we face every day and meet them in awareness. As long as we talk about the real things that we experience and find positive spaces to identify and deal with our thoughts, we can keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay. In times of turmoil and mental discomfort, we grow to our fullest potential. So let’s not shy away from that. Instead, let us take pride in the fact that we can still accomplish greatness regardless of the path that we choose even though it is not easy. When the going gets tough, take a step back for a moment and breathe. Literally, stop and take a few minutes to meditate or listen to a positive affirmation to get yourself refocused and re-centered. Breath is the key to life and do not ever forget that. No matter what you are going through, be reminded that in order to experience anything, you first have to have breath in your body.
Forste, R., & Fox, K. (2012). Household Labor, Gender Roles, and Family Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 43(5), 613-631. Retrieved June 3, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23267837