The Superwoman Myth & The Problem With Perfection

Nov 16, 2015

Balancing work and family is an ongoing struggle. The movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sex in the City alum Sara Jessica Parker, takes on the myth fed to many professional women that we can have it all—a fantabulous career, healthy, well-behaved, clean kids, a sound marriage to a sexy, amazing man, a Mistolin-clean home, a cute dog and a gorgeous well-appointed brownstone on a tree lined street—all the while looking quite thin and fabulous in our Christian Louboutins.

Yes, it’s Hollywood, and while the movie, set for a fall release, seeks to debunk the myth, the fact is that many of us secretly harbor romantic notions that this Superwoman is real and attainable and that if we just incorporate military-style time management into our lives, this ideal work-life balance is in fact, achievable.

Spoiler alert: this Latina Superwoman only exists in Spanish novelas, cable television and films, or in some half-evolved male brain. It’s about time we kill her—for good.

Of course, all women, not just Latinas grew up listening to the Superwoman Myth, but this is another gray area where Latino culture hasn’t caught up with the reality. Affluent women, many of them white, got it and have been outsourcing a lot of their to-dos, in many cases, ironically, to Latinas and other immigrant women. But even when Latinas can afford to outsource, hire a cleaning lady or a nanny for example, some relatives may raise eyebrows and judge how we are balancing work and family.

Judgments happen from those we love most and, because we want their approval, we feel guilty for not living up to their expectations. (Hint: No one can make you feel anything, you have the power to reject the haters.)

What happens is that for many of us, being a mother and holding down the fort completes our definition of what a good mother and a good partner is and those two things are somehow directly linked to our self worth. Add to that a career and you have a combustible equation. My mother, who was born in the 1940s, defined success as keeping a clean home, healthy, well fed and adjusted kids, and a good husband. Work-life balance wasn’t an issue.

But here is one truth that many professional Latinas with amazing careers, and even more amazing kids and partners have accepted: We just cannot have it all, especially at the same time. To think that you can, is to rob yourself of sanity; to try to attain it all is to seek insanity.

Killing Superwoman—three easy tips you can start successfully balancing work and family today.

Something’s Got to Give
Get help. If you can afford it, hire someone to do as many chores as possible. When you can’t afford it, put the entire family on chore rotation. Laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, everyone chips in. Motto: “I am not my family’s sirvienta, travel agent, event planner, etc. Everyone rows to keep this boat afloat.”

Set Priorities
You can’t have it all at the same time, but you can have a few at the same time! How important is that meeting versus your daughter’s school trip to the zoo? Only you know from moment to moment, decision to decision what you can or cannot miss. Once you make the choice, fight off guilt! Remember what Jennifer Lopez said about guilt, “It’s a useless emotion.” Remember: Jobs are temporary, memories are forever.

Ignore the Judgments
This is challenging, but attainable. With practice, you will learn to tune out the haters. Everyone—even those you truly love—will always have something to say about the choices you make. If you remind yourself that even la santa, Mother Theresa, was criticized, then you’ll feel just a wee bit better about your choices. Focus on the intention, being present and the quality of relationships, starting with the one you have with yourself.

This article is based on the statements made by the gorgeous Sandra Guzmán, author of the critically acclaimed, The New Latina’s Bible: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family and La Vida. (Seal Press 2011)

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