Heather B. Iseminger
As a little girl I remember watching the TV screen with child-like awe. Wonder Woman was my hero. She was powerful, she wore golden, bullet-deflecting bracelets, she never failed to defeat the enemy, and could change clothes in an instant. What little girl wouldn’t want to be her? I mean, who wouldn’t want to save the world in an hour? As I raced around my technicolor living room, I was Wonder Woman. The Underoos proved it. Sounds like a glorious life, right?
We live in a day and age where the Super Woman mentality invades the female mind. In my early 20’s I embraced this ideal of, “I can do it all.” I will have a wonderful career. I will marry Prince Charming. I will have perfect children. I will have a clean house, and meals will never be prepackaged. I will be “volunteer of the month” for my child’s classroom. I will teach youth Sunday school. I will successfully juggle ballet lessons, basketball practice, carpool schedules, and play dates daily. I will stay fit and Prince Charming will always believe I am sexy. Why? Because I can do it all. I am Super Woman. I can save the world.
So why, more often than not, do I feel like a failure?
If you are a woman in today’s culture, you may sometimes feel the same way. Regardless of the season we are in, the pressures to live up to the Super Woman mindset are immense. The message flies at us from every angle. Escaping the message appears impossible no matter how hard we might try to hide.
Several months ago, the reality of the Super Woman attitude glared at me from the mirror. I was a full-time teacher and also a curriculum writer. With two full-time jobs, on top of the already demanding occupation of wife and mother, I was drowning. Just as the curriculum-writing job ended, and some oxygen entered in my lungs, I changed teaching positions and schools to better meet the needs of our son. Crazy timing, right? However, I was Super Woman and had it all under control. What I didn’t realize was God had a plan. He had a lesson. I was about to go swimming in the deep end of the pool.
The next several months were spent barely keeping my head above water. We all know the feeling. Just as I would come up for air, something else would weigh me down. Every spare moment was spent working. I spent less than three waking hours with my children each day, and I was too exhausted to even think about the idea of quality time. As soon as the kids were in bed, I was working again. I would get home from work, stare at the freezer, and pray a healthy, well-balanced dinner would magically appear. My weekends were spent planning lessons for the next week. Who had time for walks in the neighborhood or trips to the park? Fortunately, my Prince Charming really is a prince, but he was sadly neglected as well. Do not believe for one moment I was enjoying my life – I wasn’t. I was not the teacher I wanted to be. I was not the wife I was supposed to be. I certainly was not the mother I needed to be. Feelings of failure set in. I was drowning—in desperate need of my life preserver.
Early one morning, my sweet Jesus threw me the line, and I hung on with white-tight knuckles. I have seldom heard the audible voice of our Lord. But on this morning I heard these words: “Super Woman cannot save the world because if she does, her family fails.” Simple, yet profound. I asked myself, “Had I been trying to save the world?” Maybe not, but I had been trying to do it all. And I had done none of it well. Now what? How do these words translate into my life? How do I rid myself of the Super Woman image that is burned into my core?
Simply put – I replace it. Super Woman is not who the creator of the universe wants for me to be. I was never built to save the world, nor do I need to. Jesus Christ has already done that and defeated the enemy. God only wants me to be, well me. I realize now every action, every decision, every yes, and every no, must be tempered with the question, “Is this part of God’s plan for me or is it my Super Woman mentality guilting me again?”
My first step in this journey to shed the Underoos was to no longer work my evenings and weekends away. What did not get done at work stayed at work. The most beautiful realization, though it should not be, is that my work gets done and done well. God has honored my decision and has miraculously made sure I have enough time in my workday to finish all that must be completed. It only took my simple choice to be obedient to Him.
The next step is more painful and more difficult. It will be a long process. I am learning to say “no.” I am learning to buy cupcakes instead of make them. I am learning that my students are my ministry and I may not be able to currently serve in my church. I am learning a frozen pizza in the middle of the week will not do irreparable harm to my children. I am learning to stop picking up dirty socks and tiny plastic farm animals when my son reaches up his pudgy hand and says, “Pway?” I am learning to stop in the middle of washing dishes and paint my daughter’s nails Pretty Hot Pink because she has heard, “I will later,” more than she ever should. I am learning I am not Super Woman, and my family is better because of it.
Tomorrow is a school holiday. There are student journals to grade. My floors need to be mopped. Coupons need to be cut. The dog needs a bath. Super Woman could get all of that done. As for me, I think I might head to the park with Prince Charming and the two most beautiful children I know. Maybe life really is a fairy tale after all.
Heather can be reached at [email protected].