By: Olivia Jenkins
I am a New Yorker. A New Yorker by association of course, my State ID says that my resident state is New Jersey. I spent the earlier part of my childhood in a Washington Heights apartment, a stone’s throw away from the lovely (in an earlier time) Hudson River. Like I said, I’m a New Yorker, a city girl. Fast paced environments are my home. I thrive in the bustle and bloom in the hustle. Part of this I attribute to the fact that I lived in the city for a while, but I’d also like to think that I get it from my mother, Superwoman. No, not the one in the latex costume.
Mother of five children, she has had a life full of busyness with her hands always working and mind always occupied with the next thing on her to-do list. As a newlywed, she moved from her home on the West Coast to the East Coast at age 22. She had started her modeling career at 19 and gained more experience in the industry in her new home in New York City. Even after having my two older siblings, she continued to model until she became pregnant with me at 32. Two more kids later and she had fully grown into her position as a stay-home mother and homeschooler, which lasted for 11 years. Now at 50 years old, she has entered into a new stage of her life, with three kids in college and a budding business as a health and wellness consultant.
I’ve always admired my mother for her ability to juggle several things at once. From my perspective, my mother is the ultimate definition of a “superwoman.” As I create my to-do lists and fill in days in my planner, there is often a voice in the back of my head chanting to me: “go superwoman, go superwoman.” I enjoy being busy and that is where my dilemma arises.
Why is it that I only consider myself to be a superwoman on the days that I have a full day of classes, two club meetings, a four hour work shift, and a yoga class? Does my “superwomaniac” quality suddenly go away when I spend all day in bed and get up only to eat a handful of stale granola? Is being superwoman something that is achieved or is it an inherent trait that every female possesses?
Disclaimer: I’m not sure that I have a fully developed answer to any of those questions yet, but I shall take you through my jumbled thought process.
While writing this, I realized that I wasn’t sure of what exactly being “superwoman” entails, besides the obvious part about having superhuman strength, being naturally photogenic, and looking good in a form fitting costume. The Webster definition of “superwoman” is as follows: an exceptional woman; especially: a woman who succeeds in having a career and raising a family. In 2017, I’ve found that this definition has been altered to include a woman who has an excellent social life, is able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and always manages to look presentable.
For me, I get a rush of adrenaline when I have a busy day to look forward to. Even my mother says that I sound happier when I am running from place to place. “Girl on the go” or GOTG is what she likes to call me and this title brings me a sense of fulfillment, a pride that stems from feeling productive.
Is this too much pressure to place on a woman? Maybe being superwoman isn’t worth the trouble if the end result is high stress levels and painful blisters on both feet. There is something dangerous about prescribing a heroic name to a woman who takes on more than she can handle. It inspires us to pile on responsibilities without pausing to think that this pile might be inhibiting us from a life of true success where there is peace of mind, heart, and soul. While it definitely boosts the ego to rattle off a list of 13 clubs, 4 charity organizations, an 18 credit semester, and a part-time job, there is often a person behind the shiny résumé who feels disoriented, overwhelmed, and just overall unhappy.
Yet, I wonder if being superwoman is simply a trait that comes along with being female. This trait comes in different forms. To one woman, she may feel like superwoman after successfully completing a 10k race. To another, she may feel like superwoman after mustering up the motivation to drag herself out of bed to shower. Does being superwoman have to be an all-or-nothing deal? I’d like to feel just as powerful on my off days as I do on the days where time seems to be dragging me along with it.
In the question of superwoman being an achievement or an inherent trait, I would argue that it is something that every woman is capable of. Labeling one woman as superwoman over another based upon the amount of writing in their planner perpetuates the unnecessary competition between women, leading us to believe that the busier woman is more desirable.
As women, we have a long list of superpowers that include, but are not limited to, surviving in a society where the man has always been put first and where gender inequality is still an issue we are forced to face, dealing with monthly menstruation cycles, surrendering our bodies to nine months of pain and discomfort in order to bring our children into the world. Being female in itself is a pretty powerful characteristic. So if you happen to also complete all of the tasks on your to-do list, then more power to you, but being superwoman isn’t conditional upon your level of productivity.
I can remember the days where my mother would lie in the bath and let the world continue to spin without her. Even as a young girl I understood that my mom is just human and she needs rest the same as anyone else. When I feel like I’ve lost my “superwoman powers” on the days when I lounge around all day, I remind myself of those bath days, those precious moments where taking my cape off doesn’t make me any less extraordinary.