Sinking Superwoman – learning that “OK” is good enough

Have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest film I Don’t Know How She Does It? I know how she does it because I do it. But, I’m no Superwoman.

It’s the team that I have around me that does it – my husband, our childcare provider and our kids all pitch in and make the career-family thing work. When I first started out doing the juggling act of career and family over 20 years ago, it certainly did feel like I did it. But the downside was I also felt like everything was solely my responsibility.

Like working mom Kate Reddy in the film (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) I used to feel that I singlehandedly had to hold it all together. How was I going to make the school meeting and meet the deadline at work? How was I going to get the promotion and still take full control at home. How was I going to have the time and energy to bake a cake for the cake sale having worked another 10-hour day. I’m sure you get the picture.

The funny thing was my husband never said that it was all up to me. I made this assumption. I put this unrealistic expectation on myself that I had to perfect home and perfect at work. The day I stopped trying to be Superwoman (for the benefit of my own health and therefore for the benefit of everyone around me) was the day I started enjoying my life as a mother, wife, and professional. I realised that unless I changed my mind-set I was headed straight for a meltdown.

What I also realised was that I was putting my personal life in one box and my working life in another without taking advantage of any transfer of skills between the two environments. I was gaining some fantastic management skills at work which I wasn’t using at home: delegation, prioritization, working in teams and managing teams just to name a few. I admit that when it comes to delegation, it’s sometimes hard to give up control, especially at home. Let’s face it. You do do things better than most people. No argument there. However, if you try to do most things all by yourself, you will burn out. Constantly striving for perfection in every aspect of your life leads to a miserable existence. Like Kate Redding’s husband Richard says in the film, “OK, is good enough”.

Did you ever think about what you’re like when you act like a control freak? I have. Do your kids like you? Does your childcare provider like you? Does your partner like you? Let others in. Let them help out. Make them feel appreciated as part of the team. Get them to own some of the problems and challenges. And yes they will do things differently, but don’t sweat the detail. We often criticize our partners for not helping out. And then when they do help out, but they don’t do things exactly like we do, we criticize them for that too! My husband’s approach and style to managing things at home is very different from mine, but no less valid (although I still think my way is better!) But the point is, I do let him get on with it and I try not to interfere. He’s a smart man. Why do I think I need to treat him like an idiot?

So by adopting this team approach, does this mean your life will be perfect? No, life is never perfect. Sorry to break this to you. By adopting the team approach, however, you can sustain a rewarding lifestyle that combines your career ambitions with a fulfilling family life. Do it now. Let go. Ah. Doesn’t that feel better?

Author: Christine Brown-Quinn. As a former managing director, wife and mother of 3, Christine Brown-Quinn shares her 20+ years experience in banking (as well as recent experience as an author and entrepreneur) and offers practical strategies on how to get the most out of your work & life. Christine’s recently published book Step Aside Super Woman… Career & Family is for Any Woman offers professional women time-tested advice on how to create work-life balance. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Superconference series.

This blog is Part I of a 5-Part Series: ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. Sign up for our monthly update to receive them directly into your mailbox – just enter your name in the top-right-hand box to sign up. 

Comments (3)

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  1. I know, just get your support forces in, and outsource, just like at work. A Business owner recently shared she has a cleaner 1,5 hours every day of the week. Surely it makes more sense she spends her time selling her fab new product, rather than loading the dishwasher. No guilt there! And which man would feel guilty for having a daily cleaner??

  2. What a relief! I’m not the only one then.

    I get very irrate when my husband comes home and complains the washing hasn’t been done (etc etc), but I remind him he is expecting me to be a Mum, full-time business woman and cleaner. No wonder I’m frazzled.

    I’m quickly learning to stop being so hard on myself and I think that’s a really important learning curve for working Mum’s!

    • This is just like me Sarah! On a recent evening, we had a glass of wine and I asked him about this. Turns out he really doesn’t expect me to do all that, it’s just me interpreting his remarks. He didn’t expect me to go and find his cuff links, he just wanted to grumble they were always gone.

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