Girls can do anything …but what is the cost?

Girls can do anything

New Zealand Government’s Employment and Vocational Guidance Service launched this advertising Campaign in the mid 1980’s. This was to encourage girls to seek work in more traditionally male dominated industries which were generally better paid.

I grew up in a pretty traditional family where women and men had pretty set roles. Growing up I always thought that women got the raw deal and remember thinking that I would do things differently when I grew up. A quiet feminist was stirring within.

The gods must have been listening to my pleas for a better life for women. When I was around sixteen, an advertising campaign was launched by the New Zealand Government that said “Girls can do anything” which was to encourage girls into more male dominated industries. This was fantastic news.

In my teenage wisdom I decided I was going to drive tanks in the army. My parents were mortified! This spurred me to want to do it even more (nasty teenager I was). Needless to say I didn’t join the army, although friends of mine did, but there was not a tank driver among us. My life took many unanticipated twists and turns but the biggest was Motherhood.

Being a mother took a lot more out of me than I thought – it was a BIG JOB! I was overwhelmed with all that was expected of me. Being a good mother, participating in paid work, running a home, having a good relationship with my husband AND somehow having a life for myself. Phew!

This was not how I imagined motherhood would be. This is not how I remember my mother’s life looking. It was about this time that I started to question modern society’s expectations on women. My quiet feminist values began to be put to the test.

Modern Motherhood

The fact is modern motherhood looks a lot different to that of our mothers. While some things have  improved such as greater access to information, more conveniences and larger incomes there are also far greater expectations on mothers.

In the world of a modern mother many households need a second income so off to work mum goes (or for single mums she has even more pressure to provide financially). Stay at home mums feel guilty for not bringing in an income and working mothers feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children. Kids no longer free range play so activities and “play dates” are scheduled, how we discipline and speak to our children is under scrutiny by those around us and social media bombards us continuously with how our lives should be.

Attitudes and expectations around parenting have changed dramatically and we are now parenting in uncharted waters. We have no role models to look to as to how to parent in these changing times.  We look to each other, the media, experts and even the Government who all have differing opinions of what we should be doing. The pressure and the guilt, which mums are so good at, is intense.

So what’s the toll on mothers?

The reality is that a lot of people are struggling with the demands of modern living but in particular mothers. Behind the painted on smiles of many mothers who seem to be doing it all and having it all there is an exhausted woman who are desperately trying to do their best to keep up with the exceptions of modern motherhood.

The enduring portrayal that mothers should be selfless coupled with jam packed schedules, mothers are all too often grossly neglecting their own needs. It is not until their bodies can no longer cope and they reach adrenal burn out that they drag themselves through my clinic door.

So what is the cost of women doing everything? She is tired, unfulfilled, disconnected and exhausted. There are many diseases and conditions on the rise that can in the main be attributed to our modern lifestyles, autoimmune diseases, infertility, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and obesity just to name a few.

It’s time for Women to take back their power

While I think it is fair to say we have more than proved that girls can do anything we have failed miserably at taking care of ourselves. Women simply can’t do it all and remain healthy and vital. Doing everything drains our tanks and running on empty we are no good to anyone.

Here are 5 things you can do to fill up your tank and reduce the stress in your life:

  • Guilt is a wasted emotion. Unfortunately women are very good a feeling guilty. Guilt serves no one and simply drains you of energy and wastes your time. Any time you hear yourself saying “I should have …”, “I could have …” – Just STOP you are wasting your time and energy.
  • Work out what your values are and focus your energy on the things that mean something to you. Prioritise your to do list around those things that bring you closer to your values and learn to say NO to the things that do not. If healthy food is something you value but you don’t have time to cook then what other things can you give up in order to free up your time – would meal planning help, can someone in the house help, or are you spending too much time plugged into social media. Spending time on things you value is far less stressful than spending time on things you do not value.
  • Quality sleep – Sleep rejuvenates the body, rests the adrenals, rejuvenates the cells in your body and strengthens your immune system. Sacrificing sleep time to get more done is a false economy. Poor quality sleep will catch up on you draining you of energy.
  • Stop being a Martyr – Women tend to do more as they feel under appreciated. It’s OK to say NO. Say no to the things that you don’t really want to do, say no to the things that you only do to please others, say no to the things that cause you stress.  Just say No. You always have a choice.
  • Unplug yourself – Constantly checking your emails, text messages, Twitter or Facebook keeps you in a constant state of being switched on and distracted. Information overload causes you stress. Our brains need space to process, rest and just be.

If you are feeling like every day is a struggle and you just can’t see how you can get through another day like this. You need to stop and take a good look at your life. Only you can make the choice to make a change. Modern mothering does not have to be like this. It is up to you to pave a healthier way for the mothers ahead of us. Mothers are the role models for the next generation of mothers.

I will leave you with this thought

Make yourself a priority