Being a woman in today’s society is full of challenges that our grandmother’s never had to think about. So many women today are jugglers by profession. We juggle school with part time work, we juggle our career goals with caring for a family, we juggle the pressures of external expectations with our own internal expectations, and we juggle social expectations of our role as a woman with our own ideas of what type of woman we want to be.
With women’s liberation came the added pressures of having to do it all. We fought for the right to vote, we fought to keep working outside the home after World War II, entering the workforce in droves through the 70’s and 80’s, and the development of birth control gave us the option to leave the home.
Today women work. Today women earn higher education degrees. Today, more women are earning degrees than men. With all these accomplishments, and striving to succeed, women are still expected to rear children, shop for the house, cook dinner and serve their family, manage family finances, and maintain a clean living environment. This is not equality for women, I think we missed the boat on this one.
In exchange for our independence and furthering our education, we have managed to create a situation where more women are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, and stressed. More often these days women have had enough and disappear, leaving their families. Recently, a woman reappeared after a decade of living in FL. But this is not a unique situation. A simple Google search of “woman abandons children” or “woman abandons family” reveals an endless list of articles describing women who have become so overwhelmed with responsibility that they ran away. Even more shocking are the women who drown their children during an insane episode because they are so overwhelmed all thoughts of rational disappear. These stories are shocking, horrific, and increasing in frequency.
Previously I had written an article on the importance of interdependent relationships, this ideology is a key principle in these stories. These women are in stressful situations and have matured only to the level of dependence or independence. When they are cornered and out of coping strategies they resort to fleeing. They decide the most important person in the world is themselves, and they focus on self preservation. Individuals who have matured to an interdependent level are able to see that although self care is vital, running away is not the best option. Nothing is so horrible that it is the end of the world. Their world may have changed, but it will always be what they make it. The relationships they maintain with others is a complex system where they can rely on others for support, venting, objective opinions/ideas, and relief from their situation.
Many women struggle to reach this level of maturation and are facing significant stressors without the means to emotionally/mentally/physically cope with the situations they are in. This makes me wonder about the root cause. As over achieving women, have we taken on more than our share in hopes of compensating for decades of inequality? Has this individualistic society we live in not prepared us to successfully cope and handle the novel stressors that we now face? Perhaps the fast paced lifestyle we live in is too fast, and regardless of how technology helps us manage our lives we are not all equipped to succeed in a quick high pressured life style?
In the past, we completed tasks in a linear fashion. We worked on one task at a time. We completed something before we started the next project. Today we are helping kids with homework, while we keep an eye on the food cooking, and manage our emails from our cell phone. We are always connected to everyone, our down time is nonexistent, and soccer mom is always running car pools around town. Emails and phone calls need to be returned quickly and immediately, people cringe at the idea of leaving their home without their cell phone, others sleep with it next to their beds waking in the night to check emails. We have increased our productivity to insane levels with no regard to quality self care. All in the name of being independent strong women. What we have managed to do is bite off more than we can chew, and develop elaborate juggling routines to keep all the balls in the air. Is this high productivity worth the decrease in quality of life? How often are we able to sit with our family and watch a movie together? How many families eat dinner together every night? Ill skip my opinion on how chronic stress and poor social support has negatively impacted our health, but simply stated it has affected us more than most people can ever imagine.
The role of women has dramatically changed in the past few decades at such a rapid rate that many women are still playing catch up and trying to figure out how to balance life and work. Life work balance extends further than just a career and house. It’s about managing your stress levels, understanding there are limits to what you can take on, and being comfortable saying no. Women are historically providers, and nurturers. I come across many women who continue to carry the weight of commitment and service to others and never develop the awareness or strength to ask for help or to tell someone NO. This common phenomenon is not natural law. We can change this. We can care for ourselves while providing for others. There is a way to balance our happiness with those around us. If you find balance in your life, all things are possible. Don’t give up, and don’t give in. Just look at how much we have accomplished!
Till then, continue “Discovering Your Own Way”…
– Dr. Brennan
Dr. Michele Brennan has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She specializes in anxiety and stress management through a holistic approach. Currently she is completing her residency and works as a life coach helping individuals reach their fullest potential.