The Supermom Debate: Can we have it all?

I was recently featured in local Hong Kong magazine, The List, as a “supermom.” Today, trying to keep on top of a business from some 10,000 kilometers and multiple time zones away, manage a household for the summer and stay “present” with my family — all at once — I couldn’t help but laugh. Super what?

I just got pulled off an evening conference call by my two-year-old tugging at me for a glass of milk. On my way to the kitchen I cringed at the sight of two-day-old laundry before being met by the dirty dishes piled up in the sink. It was 7:00pm and there was still a mountain of work for me to do. In that moment, I definitely felt lacking in super power qualities.

Supermom? There’s no such thing

Let’s start off with getting one thing clear: There is no such thing as a “supermom” or a “superwoman.” Because here’s what the term implies: You have happy, perfectly mannered kids; you manage to look glamorous, all the time, even with kids food on your blouse; you’ve lost all your baby weight and your butt looks fab in yoga pants; you have home-cooked meals on the table by 6:00pm; you never yell or explode; you are great at your job and have an incredible career; your house is spotless and you perfectly ‘balance’ your work and home life.

Impossible, right? The reality is that there is no such thing as a supermom because in the end something always gets sacrificed. This does not mean that we can’t dream big and strive to achieve greatness. It just means we don’t have to be perfect at everything, all the time, in all areas of our lives.

There is no such thing as a superwoman because in the end something always gets sacrificed

Or what? You risk falling apart — mentally, physically or emotionally. Your stress hormone levels skyrocket. In your quest to be the best mom, wife, employee or business owner, you forget to be the best person to the one person that really matters: you.

You can have it all — just not at the same time

As Arianna Huffington so aptly shares: “I believe that you can have it all — just not all at the same time.” It’s not about having super powers, but finding a super balance. One that is all your own. Where do you find it? In your values, your priorities and your goals. Because balance doesn’t mean juggling things perfectly, but prioritizing what matters in any given moment. For me, this meant putting work on the back burner that evening when my son wailed at me for milk (read: attention) and prioritizing my motherhood role. It meant that during my childbearing years I chose to wait on achieving higher career aspirations. I just couldn’t do them all at once, can you?

And when we return to the workforce as working women, as Huffington puts it below, we need to learn how to both lean in and lean out. “The way I put it is that we have to learn how to ‘lean in’ (overcoming our own fears, taking a stand and putting ourselves forward) but at the same time we have to learn how to ‘lean back’ (unplug, re-charge and return to our jobs, careers and our family renewed).”

And remember — if you’ve taken on too much it’s OK to ask for help. Even Sheryl Sandberg, founder of the Lean In movement and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead confesses that our ability to thrive at work depends on having help and support at home.

Identify the most important, not always the most urgent

Remember: Multitasking doesn’t work and it may create more damage than good. Instead of trying to do it all, all at once and all the time, focus on the things that are most important at any given moment and do the rest later. In his book, To Heal a Fractured World Rabbi Jonathan Sachs speaks of the important distinction between what is urgent and what is important. When we lack big picture perspective because we are so busy chasing urgent projects, we forget to prioritize the things that really matter.

If it’s hard for you to gain perspective on your big picture priorities right now, try getting out of your ordinary routine for a few days or spending some time outdoors and in your ‘zone’ contemplating your life. Meditate, write and speak to your loved ones.

Stay focused on your priorities and create a life that you brings you fulfillment and that you’ll look back on one day and be proud of achieving

I don’t profess to be in any position to give advice on finding a solution to the inner mayhem that we as women face, but one thing is certain: Our thoughts create our destiny. How we think about our life is largely the way it plays out.

Get clear and realistic about what you can accomplish; stay focused on your priorities and create a life of excellence that you brings you fulfillment; one that you’ll look back on one day and be proud of achieving. More than anything, this will make you seem like a true supermom in the eyes of your children.

Nealy Fischer of Mayya Movement