We are all Superwoman, Until Life Makes us Slow Down
When my husband told me I had to know my limits it was a red flag to a bull.
What the hell do you mean? I screamed, thousands of year’s worth of female suppression raging inside of me. Limits? LIMITS. I don’t have limits! My grandmother worked during the war. My mother marched in the hippy rallies of the 60s. I was brought up the same way as I have brought up my two daughters…to believe in the impossible. To believe that women were invincible. No limits.
There was no scenario, in my mind, where I had a limit.
I can do it, I said to myself one evening after a children’s party as I carried both my kids down some outdoor stairs. At least they won’t trip over, I thought, as I balanced one on each hip along with a handful of balloons, a heavy handbag over my shoulder and their shoes dangling off my numb fingers. It was late, it was dark, I was wearing wedged heels. I fell. I fell in a way that only mothers holding their children fall (yes, it happens). I protected them, all they suffered was a shock. I smashed my knee, which subsequently bled over everything and everyone, and twisted my ankle so badly I spent the following day on crutches.
Why can’t I do it? I asked myself three days after giving birth to my second child and insisting that my first child’s 2nd birthday party would still go ahead. Thirty adults and fifteen under twos descended on my home. I filled up people’s drinks, and passed the baby around and smiled a lot. I was also told to sit down a thousand times in case I hemorrhaged, but I kept on smiling and waddling around. The baby blues kicked in that night, along with the milk coming in to my rock hard boobs, and I cried and cried and cried.
Others have done it! I told myself two weeks before my wedding day when I decided that was the perfect time to start my new novel. It was my escape, I told myself. It would keep my mind off the stress. Not really, it just distracted me from the inevitable and tore me even further away from my husband-to-be.
I will do it, I declared to a client who had asked me to complete a project in less time than allocated. The kids had been ill for days, I hadn’t slept more than ten hours in three nights, I had meetings booked all week. So I stayed up until 3am, I then got up with the children at 6am. Turns out I made some mistakes in my project. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Just watch me do it, I cried when I was invited to a girls’ night out. Why would having my own business and two kids to look after stop me from having a wild time on a Wednesday night? I stayed out drinking until 5.30am, I got up an hour later. My husband had left for work with no idea as to what state I was in. I got my kids ready for school, I walked them there, I came back for a Skype meeting with a client and then I spent the following 48 hours trying to sober up and dying a slow painful death.
I have to do it, I reasoned when the perfect house came on to the market, even though it needed a lot of renovation work. It didn’t matter that my husband was away on business for three months, that I had a lot of work on, that our budget was limited or that we were flying abroad for three weeks over Christmas the day after we were meant to be moving house. Of course I could do it alone! I could pack up a four bedroom house, while juggling kids and work, and overseeing the building work in the new house. I did do it, but I also broke down crying in the supermarket after receiving an email from the electric company saying we were two months overdue on a bill we had forgotten about. We did go away for Christmas, but we came back to an empty half-finished new house and a garage full of boxes. And guess who was on their own unpacking them for a further month?
My problem is I LOVE life. I want to do it all, right now, on my own and prove…what exactly? That I’m not a stay at home mum with no ambition? Or a weak pathetic female that can’t deal with it alone? Or that I am better than her, them, you? Or just that I have ideas, a brain, experience and energy that I want to use. Perhaps all of the above and more.
I have an insatiable thirst that can’t be quenched. A driving need to squeeze out every last drop from life. To lie on my death bed smiling and thinking ‘yep, I ticked off everything on my lifelong To Do list.’ Or is it fear? Fear of missing out and of not having had a go at doing it myself the first time the idea popped in my head.
People have called me driven, successful, confident…a veritable power house. Others have questioned why I fill up my plates so much when I only have to keep them spinning. Well, to be frank, there is a degree of narcissism involved. I’ll hold my hands up. Every woman wants to be Superwoman and wants to feel like they are one step ahead. But at what cost? Only now am I telling you that doing these things have resulted in injuries, sleepless nights, monstrous headaches, (at times) ignored children, (mostly) an ignored husband, anxiety attacks and feelings of never feeling sated. Every night my mind flutters like a Rolodex full of ‘I musts, I have tos, I wills, I shoulds’ flick flick flicking me into a fitful sleep.
My husband was right, women like me may be impressive (on the outside) and unstoppable (on the inside) – but we aren’t without limits. Those limits exist, whether we want to recognize them or not they are there and life will make sure you know about it. Be kind to yourselves, ladies.
And my next challenge? Learning when to stop.