Today, women are still pressured to be good homemakers while being self-sufficient. Women used to be portrayed in popular media as damsels in distress or as tamed individuals who, when married, move to the suburbs to become housewives. In contrast, women who are successful in their careers were expected to dress poorly and remain single.
Nowadays, they are expected to be successful in all aspects of life, whether it hurts them or not. The reasons why a shift in gender roles happened in the last few decades are unclear. However, the trend in women taking on more masculine roles begs the question: will she be a mother, a career woman, or both?
The Rise of Superwomen
In the 1970s, the term “Superwoman” was used to label women who can balance both their work and family life. According to an article from Boca Raton News in 1976, women started to feel guilty for being just housewives or just career women. Women experienced judgment on both fronts — you weren’t a good homemaker if you were a career woman, and you weren’t intelligent if you were a housewife.
The harmful idea that women can and should do everything is known as the “Superwoman Complex.” Disguised as a path towards equality, it ignores the notion that there should be a shared sense of responsibility in society outside of gender roles. It adds to the physical and psychological stress of being a successful woman in today’s world. On top of men and women providing for a two-income family, women are still expected to cook, clean, and help the kids with homework.
There is still a stigma around women sacrificing their family life over a career. For instance, their right to an abortion is marred by shame and judgment. There is a need for more abortion clinics that provide emotional support to women, empowering them to make choices for their own bodies. Women are also slighted for hiring help to clean their home or get a babysitter, even though it will provide the support needed to fulfill an encompassing role, such as that of a mother.
In response to all the criticism, most women strive to be the all-around perfect woman for their family and job. Any list of successful entrepreneurial women includes mothers to highlight or romanticize the idea of a working mother. Success during motherhood is sold as a success story despite all odds. It forgoes the idea that their superwoman nature is a result of the superwoman complex.
How can we do better?
When we recognize that there are varying levels of success and capabilities, regardless of gender, we might begin to understand better what to expect of one another. Superwomen are products of self-sacrifice, success at the expense of pleasing those around them. Acknowledging when someone needs help, and offering that help, creates a shared sense of responsibility in the relationships between men and women. This will keep either gender from overextending themselves to the point of exhaustion. It will reduce the need for self-sacrifice.
Next time, don’t wait for your wife, mom, sister, or aunt to ask for help. Offer them help instead. Offer to do the laundry, the dishes, or maybe even offer to cook dinner. Pay attention to what they do around the house and show them that you appreciate their hard work keeping the ship afloat.
Women shouldn’t have the pressure of being the sole homemaker. They shouldn’t even feel the pressure of being a homemaker, or being a mom, or having to be a career woman. Women should have the freedom to choose how to live their lives.
The superwoman complex prevents both gender roles from taking up equal responsibilities. These expectations of women, along with their physical appearances, create a demanding environment for them to live in. Even more so, the intervention by other entities on the ability of women to decide when to have and how to raise children gravely restricts their life decisions. It is important to redefine what a successful woman is, considering the psychological toll on women.
To answer the question earlier: will she be a mother, a career woman, or both? It should never be up to anyone else except her. Women should have the ability to make significant decisions for themselves. Men aren’t limited to these roles and rarely consider a similar question. Men are not judged or ostracized for being bachelors, nor are they bothered by family life when interviewed regarding their careers. So why do we treat women differently?
Meta title: The Pressure Women Feel to Be a Mom and a Career Woman
meta desc: Modern society expects women to balance both their careers and family life. But where did this idea come from, and why is it still relevant today? Learn more.