“So…what else do you do?” She was perched on a bar stool at my kitchen bench, opposite me. “You know, apart from… this.”
She waved a well-manicured hand nonchalantly around the living room, taking in the scattered toys and half eaten banana resting on the floor.
I coughed, embarrassed, and mumbled something about starting my own business and doing the “school run”.
Thankfully, my new friend appeared bored by my anecdotes about laundry and the contents of my daughter’s nappies and quickly moved on to more worldly topics of conversation. I found myself mesmerised by her toes, perfectly polished from a recent pedicure.
Walking Talking Superwoman!
Where on earth did she find the time to get a pedicure? Was it an annual event or was this something she did regularly? This woman owns two businesses, I thought. She has three kids under six. At that point, I was struggling just to keep the mounting pile of laundry from growing legs and walking out the door. She was a walking, talking Superwoman.
She didn’t stay long. The conversation was stunted and I found myself with nothing interesting to say.
Not because I wasn’t relishing the opportunity to have an adult conversation – in fact, I had been excited at the prospect of having a visit by a person over the age of five – but more because I could barely string two sentences together. Words would stumble out of my mouth, stilted and forced as I fumbled to will my brain into functioning at a socially acceptable speed.
When she finally left I had laid on the couch, with my head under a cushion, feeling inadequate. Apparently rearing children is not enough. I had been measured and I had fallen short. She was one of them. A Superwoman.
We all know one.
Hell, I think I even used to be one. ‘They’ are the women whose lives were organised – productive even. Women whose days had clear beginnings and endings; whose lounge rooms had floor boards that you could actually see; whose laundry was stacked neatly in drawers and purchased from departments labelled “Manchester”. And amazingly, these women were also mothers.
There was a time when I could have considered myself one of them. A time when the toys had been neatly stacked in a box and my baby had slept like an angel through the night. I had juggled the work-home life with confidence, found time for the gym and had considered myself “balanced”. Then the teething set in. Followed closely by a baby with a head cold. And every virus under the sun, as most children get when they first start daycare.
That baby gradually grew into a toddler that was averse to sleeping through the night.
Somehow, days turned into weeks, strung together in a series of late night bed wetting sagas and 2 am night terrors. I had soldiered through those days in a blur – plastering a smile on my face every morning as I stumbled up the hall, like a zombie.
Yet I kept up the pretence of Superwoman.
Then one day I found myself seated at a boardroom table, staring at the suits around me with bleary eyes. It was my son’s third birthday and I had stayed up the night before, icing his birthday cake. He had requested a shark party, and so after working a ten hour day, rushing home and flying through the dinner/bath/ bed routine, I had set about to bake a cake. I had chosen a recipe with a raspberry ripple center to resemble something of blood and guts when cut. The icing was a bright, sea blue that I knew my son would love. Finally, somewhere around 3am, with shaking hand, I had finished the cake and stumbled off to bed, setting the alarm for just an hour and a half later.
Looking around the boardroom that day I had realised that it wasn’t working for me. This “work-life” ratio was more avalanche than delicate balance and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep myself from falling over the precipice.
On my way home from work that night, I decided to pop over with the serving dish Superwoman had left behind in her rush to escape. She looked absolutely horrified to find me on her doorstep.
Once inside, I could clearly see the reason why. Her house was absolutely trashed. Barrels of unfolded laundry left on the dining table were spilling over. Breakfast dishes (and possibly even last night’s dinner dishes) were piled high in the sink. There was some form of cereal spilt on the floor. One of her kids was running naked through the lounge room and bath water was slowing seeping its way down the hall.
Superwoman, panic-stricken, began madly scrubbing and running around, before I finally stopped her. I had never liked her as much as I had in that moment.
She wasn’t Superwoman, after all.
She was just like the rest of us. That was the day that I realised that pretending we’re the perfect woman does no one any good. That was also the day I hired a cleaner.
I cannot do it all myself. I am no longer Superwoman. And if I’m really honest with myself, I’m not sure that I ever was.
Which begs the question – are any of us actually Superwoman? Does she really exist? Or have we just become very good at pretending? I don’t know the answer. Maybe I never will. But days later, as my new cleaner swept and mopped, I could barely wipe the smile from my face.
Superwoman has officially left the building.