Super Women

This article was sent to me by a friend (thanks Julie) who new we all needed to here this. If there is a time you feel that everyone else has it all together, then  please take the time to enrich your spirit and read this:

The ‘Superwoman’ Myth

By Kristine Frederickson

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Published: Sunday, Jun. 29, 2008
Today I will write about a behavior that plagues portions of American society, and certainly has a foothold in the LDS Church. It is the practice of comparing ourselves to others, more pointedly the practice of comparing ourselves to the “superwomen” in our midst — who in reality do not and never have existed.

This practice leads us to create a mental paradigm where we believe we should constantly be doing and accomplishing more. It is often based on the false belief that a certain sister in the ward, or in your cul-de-sac, or on TV, or in the magazines, is doing it all. And if it appears to you that she is some kind of comic superhero, then that is the standard to which you must also adhere.

Welcome to depression, exhaustion and giving up.

The keyword in the phrase “comic superhero” is perhaps the word “comic.” It is tragically “comic” to imagine that there is one, and only one, rigid, elevated, standard of performance for all women in the world. One woman’s time in a 100-meter race might be 11.8 while another’s is 27.9. In a sprint between the two women, the one running 11.8 will be crowned the “winner,” or the superwoman, in that race. But in a race among women in the Special Olympics the woman who records a 27.9 might claim the prize. And in an Olympic trial the woman who recorded 11.8 would not even qualify to compete.

One person’s capacity is not another person’s capacity. There is only so much time in the day. Each of us is endowed with different talents, abilities and opportunities. Every woman in the world has been endowed by God with aptitudes and skills, and each of us will be judged — NOT on the performance of the woman next door or on the woman in the ward who sits on a glorified pedestal — but on how we performed in our own lives based on our own endowments.

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-41 has Martha bustling around the house — the “hostess with the mostest,” cleaning and cooking (probably exhausted and frazzled) so that she can present to the Savior Jesus Christ her gift of a lovely dinner in a clean, tidy home.

In today’s parlance this would mean an immaculate yard devoid of weeds, the lawn freshly mowed and trimmed, flowers abloom aplenty, a garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and walkways swept and hosed. Fresh baked bread cools on the kitchen countertop beside the wheat grinder, below the hand-stitched needlepoint, “There is beauty all around when there’s love at home.” The floors sparkle. The toilets shine. You can clearly see your reflection in the windows. The carpets are newly shampooed and spotless, as are the couches. Pillows grace each and every chair and settee and your children are lined up in Sunday best with bright, scrubbed faces and coiffed, manicured hair courtesy of mother who is a real whiz with the clippers. The garage could be mistaken for the living room, and the little woman of the home wears the dress designed and crafted by her own hand covered with her own hand-made tatted apron. Mother may be glassy-eyed from nonstop work, getting up early that morning for her 5-mile-run followed by a round of Pilates, no sleep and short-term memory loss (a consequence of too little sleep), but she graciously greets her guest.

After seating him, she rushes to set the table with the best silver and china and adorns the table with her freshly cut, tastefully arranged bouquet. But as she bustles about she notices Mary languishing at her guest’s feet, listening and relaxing.

Here we get to the crux of the problem: the sin of relaxing. And this for me is as important a lesson from the story as the other lessons we might take from it.

Implicit in the story is the need for women to spiritually rejuvenate, to carefully determine how to manage and use their time, to stop confusing busyness with worthiness, to take time to nurture themselves. The Savior’s telling comment when Martha complains is not to praise her over-the-top industriousness but to suggest, “Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.”

The good part is certainly to seek spiritual rejuvenation from the Savior. But might it not also be that, when compared to Martha’s beehive-minded productivity, Mary is, when all is said and done, relaxing or resisting often inane hustle and bustle.

Has it ever occurred to you that God might not want everyone to be in the spotlight or everyone to be crowned champion. Perhaps, just perhaps, he needs someone to trip and fall. Perhaps he needs someone to finish sixth. Might we argue that in many ways there is as much, perhaps more, to be learned from coming in last, than from crossing the finish line first? Might we suggest that seventh place is great?

I have become very good at being busy — boy, am I good at being busy. We look around at what everyone else is accomplishing and doing, and we decide we need to do “that,” — whatever “that” is — too. The other extreme is we give up altogether. Both attitudes need rethinking because often both are based on a sense of personal inadequacy. I have been guilty at times of each.

I have some suggestions that involve paradigm shifts. See those few weeds in your yard and try to think of them as lovely additions to your garden. Eat a grapefruit for breakfast and not an ice cream bar — save that for after lunch. Visit someone’s immaculate home and think, “how nice, for them.” Watch someone else’s child play a piano concerto and think lovingly of how clean your son’s ceiling was the last time you were in his room. Don’t make, I repeat, don’t make lasagna from scratch. Buy it at the grocery store, put it in the oven, and then spread a blanket on the grass and read a book.

Do we need to be engaged in good causes? Yes. Do we need to build the kingdom? Yes. Do we need to be superwomen? Only if we have an emotional or physical or spiritual death wish.

The Savior teaches us not to run faster or labor more than we have strength and means provided. Neat, tidy homes and gardens, home-cooked meals and exercise are all good. Striving to improve is good, but each of us is gifted with different talents and abilities.

Our commission is to improve over time, repent if we sin, be charitable, act in moderation, NURTURE OURSELVES, and perhaps remember that superwomen are more mythical than real and sometimes “less is more.”

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2 Responses to “Super Women”

  1. Kelli Purser Says:

    I love this article. I received it in my inbox from Heather this morning. It was a great way to start the day, reminding myself that there is no such thing as supermom! Thanks for posting it here!

  2. Emily you are awesome. We had so much fun tonight. Yes, you definitely are the fun house…. and not just for kids. Thanks for posting the article and thanks for chatting today.

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