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The Superwoman Myth – and why it applies just as much to men as to women

“It seems that “having it all” – or, if you prefer, “doing it all” – is no longer a question of “can she?” or “can’t she?”. It is a fact of life”, says Rachel Hills in her weekend article in Sunday Life on The Superwoman Myth.  Hot on the heels of Sarah-Jessica Parker’s new movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, Rachel allowed me to weigh in on the debate: do women want it all? My response?

 


 
(It’s not) just a woman thing. “I run myself ragged from time to time, trying to maintain a career and spend the ‘right’ amount of time with my two-year-old son and a husband who’s also running his own business,” says leadership expert Jen Dalitz. “But it’s more a sign of our times than a sign of my gender.

I see men all around me doing the same thing and no one accuses them of ‘trying to have it all’.”  Indeed, exhaustion has become the national norm. Ask anyone how they’re doing – male or female, young or old – and the most likely response is “busy”. Partly, it’s a matter of economics. “People are working twice as hard so they’re not the person who gets retrenched,” Dalitz says.


I really do believe that men find the current pace of life – and our workplaces – just as challenging as women do.  And exhausting.  The comments posted on Hills’ article are telling of men and women alike who feel torn in every direction by increasing demands, data, details and debt… and for many men, a desire to be more involved in their kids’ upbringing than their own dads were.

And the challenges are not just about big houses with big mortgages; it’s the simple things too like skyrocketing electricity, fuel and food bills; longer commutes; downsizing workplaces and increasing workloads; and an outdated childcare system.

I frequently receive emails and comments on my blog – usually from women – reminding me that women have every right not to work.  As long as we are each in a position to make choose what’s right for us, I’m not about to weigh in on that debate. The key for me is ensuring every one of us can in fact make real choices.  (And as far as I see, we’re not there yet.)

My take is that whether you’re pursuing a career or not, life’s more complicated than it’s ever been.  For women and men.  I’m staying with my mum and dad for a few days at the moment and I’m reminded of dad’s mantra as we were growing up: life wasn’t meant to be easy!  What I know for sure is that it’s no easier for women who are caregivers than it is for men choosing the same path.  And it’s no easier for women who are working than it is for men.

Men and women both want policies and practices that make blending jobs, families and life more manageable.  This will help women and men, and importantly employers gain too – because in my experience, when employees find it easy to stay, they usually do. 

It’s not us and them, it’s us and us: we’re all in this together. 

Your thoughts?

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