Growing up as a young girl, I saw women that I respected greatly do everything for everybody short of solve global warming. To this day I am in awe at the strength of some of these women to raise families, financially provide, and run households along with other responsibilities outside of the home. Some of these women performed these duties by themselves and sometimes they performed them by themselves even with a partner/spouse.
As I became a woman, and looking around at other women, even some of my peers who had become mothers themselves, I couldn’t help but notice that strength being taken advantage of. I couldn’t help but notice that many of these women (young and mature) were human versions of pack mules.
I know it sounds harsh but really where do these phrases come from?
Backbone of the community
She’s a (STRONG) Woman
Underneath the S on her chest is a defibrillator. Don't be her. She only exists on T.V.
Now a lot of women are strong because we have to be. Not necessarily because we want to be. If there’s nobody else around to help or maybe there is someone around, but they are unwilling to help…things still need to get done. And there lies the problem. Society, our communities, our churches, our friends, our families, our children, everyone has learned that they can literally unload everything on to the women in their lives and she will somehow take care of it because that’s just what we do.
The cost of being a pack mule is way too expensive. In fact, researchers from The Ohio State University and the Mayo Clinic used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that women are literally working themselves to death!
What Superwoman really looks like underneath her cape
The study found that women that worked 60 hours or more a week had tripled their chances of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma and even arthritis!
Another point made in the research on why women have such adverse health outcomes from working longer hours can be summed up from this pull quote from the article below:
Notice the researchers used the word "Saddled" in their quote. Women are literally being associated with verbs linked to horses and mules!
Women all around the world have been groomed by their cultures, communities and societies that they are supposed to juggle it all because they saw their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors do the same.
Well, if anyone had ever bothered to ask those women how they felt, I’m almost 99.99% sure they would have said they were tired, weak, and wanted some help. Like the woman in the video, our loved ones get so accustomed to women working that “second shift” at home, even after we’ve worked a full-time job that same day already.
Watch this Video from Ariel India, a laundry detergent company. The bigger message here is beyond laundry detergent.
Do you recognize yourself or the women in your life here?
So how does one lighten the load of life?
For starters, drop the Superwoman complex. You. Cannot. Do. Everything. You. Will. Break. Eventually.
If you are one of those women that thinks nobody can do (___________) (clean, grocery shop, run errands, direct the choir, lead the usher board meeting, cook, etc.) quite like you can…then you are on your way to a burn-out fast.
If you are afraid to ask for help because you don’t want to appear incompetent, unqualified…you are on your way to a burn-out fast.
If you have people in your life that have appointed you the community/family pack-mule and you’ve accepted that role…you are on your way to a burn-out fast.
It’s so hard for women to let go of these roles. Our natural default is “Everybody first. Me last.” There is no honor, extra points from God, or kudos for doing this. Suffering long or being long-suffering doesn’t make you a better woman, friend, mother, wife, girlfriend, employee, community member.
When You Release, You Will Gain
You teach people how to treat you. Let me say that again. You teach people how to treat you. On the contrary, you can un-teach and reteach people how to treat the new you.
Start delegating chores to your children and spouse/partner. You have to accept if they don’t sweep all of the crumbs off of the floor. If you go behind them and re-clean, you’re teaching them that they can half-ass do something because you will do it anyways. Communicate how you want it done and wait for them to improve next time. You have torelease and let go and channel your OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) off of those crumbs and onto something else more important...like yourself.
Be like the turtle. It's free from other people's burdens.
Un-teach. Re-teach Others
You have to teach your church/group/organization that they cannot have all of your time during the week. Once a week or once a month is sufficient. Your time belongs to you and whatever activities you want to do.
You have to teach your friends that you love them and are there for them, but the same 10+ year-old problems they unload on you are not yours to deal with anymore. Let them know you’ll pray for them and if there’s anything you can do (within actual reason), you’ll do it. If you cannot…be honest and tell them you can only offer prayers and support.
Your family members that drain you financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually are not your obligation just because you share blood. You can love them from afar and during timed visits. When those draining behaviors start up …”Oh sorry, I got to go. It was good seeing/talking to you though Aunt Helda. Bye-bye now”.
Self-care is self-respect. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You will become cynical, exhausted, resentful and physically sick, and nobody will know or care because you failed to open your mouth and demand your respect.
Release the need to always be in charge
Release the lie that asking for help makes you inadequate.
Instead make time to exercise, eat right, meditate, pray, go for walks, take spa visits, go to the movies with a friend or by yourself, join a gym, join a boot camp in the park, take a photography class, whatever it is you want to do that will promote your wellness…do it and do it often. Surround yourself with those friends/family that pour into you instead of depleting you ALL the time. Join groups of people you aspire to be like that are positive and forward thinking.
This is your duty as a human. A human. You’re not a pack-mule or a superhero.