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Monday, February 17, 2014

I Am Not Superwoman

Being "out there" on the web, sharing a lot about what I do, and how I live my life, as well as meal ideas and frugal strategies comes with its down sides.
One of them is this notion that people have of me, that I'm some sort of Superwoman. If I had a 10 dollars for every time I was called Superwoman (or Supermom, or some other variation)... Can't say I'd be rich exactly, but my financial situation would be vastly improved... I get called that at least a few times a week.
And I really, really don't like it.
You may wonder why. Do I have a hard time accepting compliments?
The answer is no.
It's really not that.
I don't mind accepting compliments that are true. (I used to have a hard time with that, but I've learned to accept compliments.)
It's just that I am not Superwoman, and compliments like that, which aren't true irritate me. A lot.

I was doing some introspection about why exactly it bothers me so much when people view me as a Superwoman...

There's a few reasons why it bothers me.


First off, lately, there's been lots of posts on the blogosphere, on Facebook, etc... about the concept of "Fakebooking". Fakebooking, essentially, is when people (often parents) post some amazing, glamorous, enviable things on Facebook (and blogs) to give off the impression that they have a perfect life, are perfect parents, and everything runs smoothly for them all the time. To pretend that the negative things in their life, and the less amazing sides of parenting, don't happen, and to, in general, give off an impression of how amazing they and their life and their kids are.
I know someone who does that. It irritates me. Its like she is trying to make people jealous of her, and at the same time, make people feel bad that their life isn't as perfect as hers.
I wondered- am I "Fakebooking"? Am I not being honest about my life, just writing the "wonderful and amazing" things and not about when things go less than perfect, when I don't manage to do what I should be doing? Is that why people think I'm some sort of Superwoman? Because I am essentially presenting a false front online, that doesn't accurately reflect my reality? That if people saw what my life is like on a day to day basis, they wouldn't think I was some Superwoman? Is this potential false front that I am presenting making other people feel badly about themselves because they aren't managing to do what Penny is doing?
I do try not to Fakebook. I do try to be honest about my flaws and weaknesses and not just talk about how amazing everything is all the time, but is it really coming across that way?

On the other hand, I think the reason why I have a hard time with people calling me Superwoman is because lately, I have been feeling that I haven't been able to live up to the expectations I have of myself, that I'm falling short in many ways, whether it comes to health, frugality, taking care of the house, or parenting. This pregnancy hasn't been so easy on me (I'm at the tail end and I've pretty much been nauseous to at least some degree 80% of the time, among other complaints), and often I take shortcuts that I probably shouldn't, at the expense of my finances, or health of my family, etc... If I actually was physically unable to do things, that would be one thing, but sometimes it's just that "I don't feel like it" but if I pushed myself I would be able to do it...
I vacillate between berating myself for not doing what I should be doing, and making excuses why I should be even more lazy than I sometimes have been lately...
But when I hear people calling me Superwoman, it starts giving me guilt trips, that I can't live up to what I should be doing, that maybe I should be a Superwoman or at the very least, closer to that than what I currently am doing. And then when I feel like I simply can't, I start getting somewhat depressed, focusing on my failings instead of my accomplishments...
When people call me Superwoman, it makes me sometimes set the bar too high for myself, and get disappointed when I fail to do what I feel I should be doing...


Lastly (and this being the most minor reason), I think the reason why being called Superwoman irritates me is because I sometimes people like to pretend I'm some sort of being with super human powers, and consequently write off what I do as being only because "I'm special" and am able to do things that other people are not, and use it as an excuse as why they shouldn't try harder, why their doing x, y, or z that they shouldn't is totally fine, and they shouldn't try to improve, because "they're not Superwoman like Penny is".
I don't have super human powers that other people aren't granted with. When I do something challenging/admirable when it comes to frugality/parenting/green living/healthy eating, its because I am working hard on myself, pushing myself to my limits at times. Not because I am some special person who can do things that no one else can.
Everyone can always do more, and dismissing what other people do as "irrelevant to them" because "they're not Superwoman" doesn't help anyone...

So, lets be real here.
The honest to goodness truth.
I enjoy cooking. Some of the time. The rest of the time, I don't have any mental energy to even think up what to serve for my family for meals. I've served my family rice cakes with ketchup for supper. More than once. More than twice.... Rice cakes with butter being a step up from that, happens even more often. Scrambled eggs and/or hot dogs, or tuna fish with instant mashed potatoes being my next lazy supper. I probably serve scrambled eggs or hot dogs or tuna fish or cottage cheese, with instant mashed potatoes... at least twice or three times a week. Breakfast, lately, more often than not, has been cereal with milk.

Then there are times when I do feel like cooking. And I sometimes cook up a storm. But that's not because I'm necessarily working hard to do so. Its because I do get enjoyment from cooking. Its one of my hobbies to make delicious food, especially if I can do it prettily/cheaply/with what I have in the house already. And then I take pictures of those meals and post them on Facebook, and share the recipes on my blog. And I bet people think I'm making meals like that all the time. (I'm definitely NOT.)

And when I do cook and post the pictures and recipes, what I don't show is the incredible mess in my kitchen afterward, or my husband slaving away in the kitchen, cleaning up the huge mess, getting frustrated with how terribly I messed the place when he JUST spent hours cleaning it the night before, and now it once again looks like a bomb went off in it... all the while I'm sitting at the computer, basking in the compliments I'm getting on "what an amazing meal I made", while he's on his feet for hours cleaning up my messes...

And I don't often post about how, very frequently, in order to do all these "amazing things" in the kitchen, my kids get a little too ignored, that while they definitely most of the time are playing beautifully together, entertaining themselves, they sometimes are getting up to trouble, trashing their bedroom, my bedroom, etc... or are watching movies.
I don't post about my losing my temper with my kids, when I say or do parenting things that I regret...
And I don't post about when I am being super lazy and all I "accomplish" in a day is watching a few movies in a day and making dishes, because I simply don't feel like doing anything else....

And yes, there are days that go beautifully. And days that I am proud of myself. But you know what? That doesn't make me Superwoman. That makes me human, with my ups and downs. Just like everyone else.

The one thing is- I have my strengths. And I have my weaknesses. And I have certain things that come more easily to me, and certain things that come harder.
My strengths happen to be when it comes to thinking up money saving ideas (not even always carrying them through) and creating yummy foods in the kitchen. And I've been blessed with having 3 kids that are (most of the time) quite enjoyable for me to have around. On top of that, I also happen to be able to manage on less sleep than most people, so I have more hours of the day in which I am awake and able to do things. And I've been blessed with a husband who is a good sport, a good team player, and cleans up after my messes most of the time (even if he does often, understandably, get frustrated with me for him having to clean up my abnormally huge and frequent messes).
My weaknesses? Incredible laziness when it comes to things I don't want to do. (Like cleaning and most housework.) Being incredibly scatter brained, hard to stay focused, stay on schedule, follow a routine, etc...
So no, I'm not Superwoman.
The best I can say about myself is that I try to do the best with the tools and resources that I have. And that's all anyone can expect of themselves. To be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and try to use your strengths to your fullest potentials, and try to overcome your weaknesses. And when you don't succeed- which most people can't manage most of the time, you forgive yourself, and try again the next time.

14 comments:

  1. Perhaps I wouldn't call you a Superwoman - although I think every woman in our community is a superwoman. I will call you, however, Hero. Because you are real. And you face real challenges. And you make the rest of us feel good about facing our challenges. And in a different part of your life, you are a true-to-life hero standing on the front lines, carrying the banner that many of us were too chicken to pick up. You did it. You are a Hero. And you are human. G-d bless you to get through this pregnancy healthy, with healthy results at the end. And that you recover your energy quickly.

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  2. I'm glad you have an optimistic blog. People often get overly negative online, and all they do is complain how hard parenting is, how inconvenient their lives are. Any person who is a parent already knows how hard it is. You're not showing off, you're presenting your family in a positive light, which they all deserve! Your little ones can't control their online presence, so take comfort that you don't complain about them OR pretend like they are perfect human beings.

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  3. You are a very involved mother who does an enormous amount for her family. That's inherently Superwoman-ish, no?

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  4. A Reader From BeitarFebruary 17, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    I don't have the time now to ramble on and on (nor am I sure that anyone would want to read my ramblings).
    But a few points:
    A. You are PREGNANT. No other justification is necessary. I've gone through two pregnancies, and both times I felt like a beached whale. You know, a large, heavy mammal that can't move. I was amazed at how much better I felt after I gave birth (starting from about two weeks postpartum).
    B. The idea of people putting their private lives in public bothers me. People defining reality by what they see online bothers me. You have no obligation whatsoever to reveal anything about yourself, your thoughts, your life, and your family that you don't feel like revealing. You have to be honest to yourself, not to anonymous readers from China. IMO, as long as you aren't deliberately trying to make people feel envious or guilty or whatever, you're fine.
    C. As the first poster said, you're doing something big.
    D. May it be in an auspicious and successful hour. And he who understands shall understand.

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  5. I wish I had gold stars to give out to ALL the moms out there, who try their best, and get through the day, (even on the days they watch the clock and count the hours to bedtime). raising children, or as I like to call them 'little people' and keeping house, is a challenge. some days seem like bigger victories than others, but in the scheme of things, if everyone is happy and healthy, with g-d's help, the day was a success. P.S. I would never accuse you of Fakebooking. you are very realistic and do not come across as trying to be what you aren't. (maybe people are jealous - don't let it get to you)

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  6. I totally get it. Some years ago, I had 5 kids, and ex who paid ZERO dollars in child support, 2 jobs, and I went to school full time. It used to give me such anxiety when people would say, "I don't know how you do it all!" I wanted to scream, "I can't do it all. My house is a mess, I have no quality time with me kids," etc. People have some preconceived idea of how everyone's life is different (better) than their own. Be happy. Make a healthy baby. Live in the now and enjoy it.

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  7. I'm very familiar with this concern! It's why I occasionally write a post about something I'm NOT good at, or I explain how I started doing something well by detailing how I used to do it badly. I want readers to feel like I am a normal person and therefore the things that I'm able to do are things they, too, would be able to do. One thing I like about doing multi-week menu posts is that as I review what we ate over 3 or 4 weeks, I see the balance of ambitious from-scratch cooking with restaurant meals and frozen ravioli; I'm usually happy with how much cooking we managed to do, but it also puts it right out there that we do cut some corners and make some compromises.

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  8. I definitely don't get the "fakebooking" image from you. In fact one of the frugal things I've been able to incorporate this semester came from you talking about how hard it was for you to pack your husband a lunch. Oy! Me too! But like you said - getting caught up with perfect just means it doesn't get done. And I spend $8, again, eating out (there's no fast food by my building on campus). So I just gave up and started packing chips and a sandwich. Perfectly within what I think I should be eating? Nope. But it doesn't make me feel bad and I can get a lot of lunches for my $8, even packing turkey sandwiches.

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  9. I have been reading your blog for quite a while, and really have learned alot. we all have hard days, easier days. but I love that you think out of the box. not doing what everyone else does, but doing whats good for you and your family, and are kind enough to share it with us.

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  10. Even Superwoman had her kryptonite. She isn't perfect either. She is strong, yes that is a given but so is every mother who gives a crap. She is noble and self sacrificing. Once again I have to say this is one of my favorite traits mothers have, the whole 'Save the world one nap at a time' mentality. Also there are many times when superwoman had to think outside of the box to over come an obsticale. I don't think there is a better name for a hard-working mother who does her best. I am sorry if you got offended by this, but I think taking a closer look at the woman you have been compared to, and not the title is something that is much more suitable a compliment. SO in that aspect, there are many many amazing mothers who have the likeness of superwoman, and you may be one of them. ;-)

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  11. Fakebook? Not at all. I enjoy reading your blog because you don't dazzle everything up & be over the top in what you do. Trust me, we have more in common than you think. ;) lol A few nights per week are oatmeal or pancake nights, sometimes I will serve small (try to keep it healthy) meals throughout the day because I just don't want to deal with the mess later. I homeschool my littles, so sometimes school doesn't start til after lunch, occasionally after dinner. Anyone who gives off the notion... literally, going out of their way to show their "supermom-ness", are usually having difficulty in the self-esteem dept or theyre bumping heads. It's not healthy to try and keep up this image (my mom did this growing up and it hurt us children in the process, she's an extreme case though). Anyways, I think doing what we can, when we can is wonderful in itself. Recognizing that we can't do everything all of the time and giving ourselves permission as mothers to love our sincerest, good intentions despite some fall backs or moments of short cuts are what makes us "super" in that respect.

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  12. Oh, honey, I'd hug you right now if I could! Pregnancy and all the demands of family life along with Cyber-life can be really unkind and unforgiving at times. I am glad you vented here. We continue to see how REAL you are, human, hurting at times, frustrated....You do seem to accomplish more than most people...SEEM being the key word :) None of us share exactly the same talents. Quite a few people don't care to cultivate the talents that they DO have. And others always seem to accuse and pout when even the tiniest light crosses their threshold of apathy. Please, Penny, you be YOU. Speaking for myself I wouldn't want to see you any other way! :)

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  13. I think maybe you are overthinking people's compliments as well. I often will use the term "Rockstar" when complimenting someone. Are they the next Jon Bon Jovi and incredibly talented at music? Not usually...what I am saying is, Wow! I really liked how you did that and/or gave me that idea! Thanks! Just wanted to add a different perspective to the mix.

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  14. I second most of the ideas here in the comments, especially that of you thinking outside the box. I think why some people may be picking up the impression that you are always completely strong and unshakable is because they are sensing your OPINIONS on the subjects you write about. I think you are a very strong-minded person with opinions that brook little argument. That's what makes you an expert in your field, but can also give people some preconceived ideas about how you live your life. That is their problem, not yours! Please keep doing what you do. The ideas you put forward, and the ways you bravely go against the notions instilled in us by those who want to have us depend on their "items" (and pay for them!) in order to be able to survive, are a dose of much needed sanity in this crazy world. Thank you for that!

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