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The Pressure to Pretend We're Not Under Pressure


Sep 19 2013
Do-it-all women are supposed to make it look easy, but it’s not.

We keep talking about whether women can have it all, but in an age where plenty of women maintain flourishing careers and happy, growing families, there's another question that comes up: Can we have it all and still maintain a flawless persona of perfection?

That is, can we not only strike the much-sought-after work-life balance, but do so with effortless flair?

We've all seen it—probably from the distance of the Internet or movies or a friend of a friend. For stay-at-home moms, she could be the woman who teaches her children sign language, always has a seasonal décor project up at the house, and runs 20 miles a week… all without a complaint or bags under her eyes. For working moms, she's the stylish, happily married breadwinner executive, like a put-together version of Jessica Parker's character in I Don't Know How She Does It. She leaves the rest of us asking that same question.

Single or married, kids or no kids, all women at some point look to another and think: How can she do so much more than me and make it look so easy?

In a recent article for Glamour, Barnard College president Debora Spar encouraged women to have more realistic expectations for themselves, in light of the added pressure to get everything done with a smile on their face.

She wrote:

The most maddening thing about these new expectations? We're not supposed to care about them. In the Wonder Woman world, perfection is meant to come easily. Look at late-night phenom Chelsea Handler swearing, "I don't like to be that aggressive or ambitious," or svelte Blake Lively proclaiming, "I'd rather have a little bit of cellulite and go do a food trip and try every ice-cream place in the South." These women have extraordinary lives, but their nonchalance is the final flourish.

Meanwhile, women who admit they've worked hard and wanted something face backlash—just remember the reaction to Anne Hathaway's "It came true!" Oscar speech. We like to believe women today are too cool, confident, and fully evolved to worry about this new crush of pressures and expectations."

Spar goes on to offer women a strategy for dealing with these imposing expectations. While it is helpful advice, as Christian women, we have a better answer than saying, "just relax" or "stop trying to be perfect." We know that simple directives won't really help us banish the guilt in the end. Instead, we have to be okay with not getting to everything our to-do lists because Christians know that only God has a perfect record when it comes to "having it all" and "doing it all."

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