Who is Superwoman?
Superwoman – The Modern Day Working Mum
Who is Superwoman?
As a modern day working Mum I have been on a quest. I am the mother of two primary school aged children. A wife to a man who has his own company which presents it owns demands and for which I do the bookkeeping. I am a housekeeper – I cook, clean, organise, plan ahead and keep the household on course. I work. I have a career as a Senior Executive and manage a team of people in a very demanding environment. The hours at times are horrendous (people in my office joke that I work until ‘stupid-o’clock’ most nights). I am a friend, a daughter, a sister etc. I do try to fit in social time amongst everything I need to get done. I also do a number of hours working from home on websites and writing blogs!
On a number of occasions I have had people label me a modern day superwoman – managing a workload of conflicting requirements whilst remaining composed and (apparently) in control. This phrase has been widely accepted as describing todays woman that works, raises a family, keep a house and attends to all the other needs of those around her. It would appear that it references the working mum over the past 15 years.
So. My quest? Who the hell is Superwoman really and does she actually exist? Is this who todays working mum actually is?
My search started by trying to understand who the original Superwoman actually was. Superwoman as an identity first appeared pre 1947 in a superman comic when Lois Lane dreamed that she gained super powers from a blood transfusion from Superman. So her super powers were the powers of her male counterpart, transferred. Not any powers in her own right or even from any substance (ie kryptonite) that she may have come in contact with.
Wikipedia gave me a fascinating history of superwoman as a comic book legend with super powers. Most of them were Amazons and had amazing powers of super strength and fight. Unfortunately it appears that in a lot of instances Superwoman would in fact lose her powers without them being regained – did this ever happen to Superman? Batman? Spiderman? Or any other male super heroes?
I also ascertained that sometimes Superwoman was a character that was not revered by those around her and was either considered a frigid (female dog) or a sexual deviant having an affair with a not so nice individual – would the modern day ‘Superwoman’ even have the time to think about the latter?
My next step was to consider the role of women over the ages. Although at times I feel that we have not necessarily progressed too far from the caveman days I did not particularly want to give that too much consideration. At least I am not getting dragged around by matted hair with some Neanderthal beating his chest to show his masculinity. The modern man has progressed somewhat, but it is probably women who developed so much further. So the next step for me was a reflection on one of the most amazing women in my life. My Mum.
When I look back on my childhood and the life my mother had it seems, on reflection, to be an easier life that I am now experiencing as a working Mum. Is this because my memories stem from those of a child with a much simpler view of the world? Or is there some degree of truth to this thinking and thus confirming that the modern day superwoman is not just some made up identity.
My mum raised 3 children. I am the youngest. When I was born my brother and sister were both under 5 years old. In itself, the raising of 3 children (initially all under the age of 5) is demanding. Consider the times. Washing machines were not automatic – you had to wash the clothes in the agitator, transfer them through a roller to squeeze the water out, transfer them back into the washer (now with clean water) to rinse them, put them back through the ringer and then hang them out on the line to dry. My Mum did not have a clothes dryer. She was the dishwasher. There was no reheating food in a microwave. There were no mobile phones. Shops were not open on the weekend. There were no computers. I am sure that you get the picture!
When we were all of school age my mother returned to work. My father had started his own business and work very long hours. My mother needed to supplement the income in the early years whilst my fathers business got up and running.
During this time my mother pretty much took care of everything. Our house was always immaculate – and still very much a welcoming home. Our clothes were handmade by our mother as were our cardigans and jumpers. Every Sunday my mother would bake – 3 separate items for us to have in our lunch box for school. Meals were cooked fresh every night – takeaway food was an occasional treat.
Roll forward to the 21st century and what is so different? What is the role of todays working mum? Nowadays we can outsource a myriad of tasks from our daily lives. Ironing, cleaning, childcare, cooking, etc. So why is it that we feel like we have less time and more demands on our lives than ever before? Why then has this ‘modern day Superwoman’ emerged and is this who we really want to be?
Computers, when they became a household item, were supposed to make our lives easier- and to some extent they have. Look around your house and think about that items are in fact “computerised’ (electronic) and provide automation to a previously labour intensive task. There are numerous examples. Even our cars these days are effectively controlled by a computer. Toys, cleaning and cooking appliances, communication devices, audio visual equipment etc has all become computerised. And to a large extent this has made our lives easier. So why would superwoman appear in real life form running the average household?
One thing that is definitely apparent is that the occupations that most working mums are now engaged in are careers – and often very demanding. All too often working a 38 hour week is a fantasy. 45 to 50 hours per week is probably an average. Often we are travelling further distances to get to our places of employment and battling traffic that has us stressed before we even arrive at our destination. Superwoman of course would probably be able to fly her way to work or would possibly have an invisible airplane like Wonder Woman (what a ridiculous concept!).
Computers did not actually make our jobs that much easier. In fact what they have done is opened up the opportunity to produce more complex work. Presentations, spread sheets, forms etc etc. The ability to produce more creates a demand and an expectation for more. Computers have made communicating easier but again this just gives the ability to communicate more, include more people, often on ridiculous and trivial matters, or on things that should really be handled in a face to face conversation. For all of the emails that I receive in my inbox every day at work, I am sure that 30 years ago no one in an office would have had that many conversations in day or even in a week! This barrage of communication can at times be somewhat overwhelming. But the modern day superwoman (working mum) apparently handles all of this will consummate ease.
The family. Another major facet of the modern day working mum’s life. When I reflected earlier on the life mother one thing that constantly came up in my mind was that she seemed to have more time available to her than I do. The introduction of demanding careers into our lives has certainly eaten away at the time we would (should) otherwise have available. My mother did not have to work past the standard hours and did not have to travel far to get to her place of employment. We are therefore left with less time available to us for ourselves and our families. But all of the tasks are still there and still have been done.
Children play a big part in where we spend our time. When I was growing up I participated in one extracurricular activity – gymnastics. This I would attend on one evening per week. The rest of my time was pretty my time and was spent playing with friends, reading, or just hanging out at home. When I look at the lives of my own children and their friends it is a very different picture. My children do a number of activities. My daughter does dancing several times a week, girls guides once a week. My son does karate twice a week, soccer or cricket twice a week (depending on the season). They both do swimming once a week, tennis once a week and tutoring once a week. All of this requires time on the part of my husband and myself – to organise and play chauffeur. This takes up a mountain of our time. I might add that my children do not actually do as many activities as many of their friends!
There are also the numerous birthday parties to attend (don’t even mention the time required to plan your own kids parties!), the play dates (my children’s socials lives are better than mine!) and attendance at the showcasing of the extracurricular activities throughout the year.
In between all of this there is cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. And the activity of planning all of this is HUGE!
So getting back to the Modern Day Superwoman. I kind of laugh (scoff) at this label. Apparently Superwoman got her powers from Superman – I don’t see that this happened with the modern day Superwoman. No offense to men (especially my own husband!) but they would not deal with the conflicting tasks that the modern day woman has to deal with. It is true. The majority of these tasks are handled by the Mum/Wife on a daily basis. It is enough sometimes to make your head spin around on your shoulders.
The label of modern day Superwoman also implies that there is something about these women that is not subject to failure or allowed to be subject to failure. We are after all human and subject to subject human failings. The point is that our point of failure takes far longer to reach than most modern day men and (luckily) many of us may never know that point. Placing the label of Modern Day Superwoman on someone suggests that they don’t need help and thereby gives the suggestion that help should perhaps not be asked for. You just have to cope.
But there is something pretty special about today’s Working Mum. I am not decided about whether or not I agree with the term Modern Day Superwoman. I guess she is pretty super. But I will for now just stick with the fact that my kids think that I am pretty awesome mum. My work colleagues are often in awe with how I cope with the demands of my life. In the words of my 6 year old son “You are the best mum I have ever had!” That’s enough for me!
Tell us. Who is the woman that you admire the most? Does superwoman actually exist?