The Crisis of the Strong Woman

Every single day I hear a fellow mommy friend of mine complain about how tired she is, and how she wishes she had a moment just to be by herself; to hear her own thoughts. How she has forgotten who she was pre-baby and wonders about what her life would be like if she never had children… This literally happens everyday; heck I utter some of those words myself from time to time. I am sure some of you reading this are saying, ‘you are an awful mother for thinking about anyone else but yourself’. Or, ‘Well tell you husband/SO to take the kid(s) and you can go have a nap’…. Yes, simple stuff but it isn’t always that easy. Nope, not all the time.

Pause. Wait. Before we go on.

This is not a man-bashing/daddy-bashing post, so before the men who may be reading this start to simmer; hold strain and read on. Be patient because this one isn’t about you guys.

Okay, back to the regularly scheduled programming…

It is hard to be female, the expectations that are placed on all of us, break us down every single day. Yes, every day. We do not reveal this because we are expected to be ‘strong’. We asked and fought for equality and the ‘right’ to vote, wear pants, work outside of the home etc…and we are not allowed to complain about it. We dare not complain because this is what it is to be a woman, right? The men don’t want to hear when we have a problem dealing with the double expectations of work life and family life, feminists don’t want to hear about our problems being stay at home mothers, and legislators don’t want to hear about us juggling both, and wanting the right to bodily autonomy.

We are supposed to be strong; we are supposed to be powerhouses.

When was the last time you saw your mother/wife/sister cry? If you have ever been privy to such an event, did it also shatter your entire view of her? Probably. You probably thought that this woman who has been the backbone of your family for ages is stronger than the Rock of Gibraltar, damn near nothing affects her, is now this weak sniveling mess. But, you would be wrong. Here is why.

We. Are. Human.

Read that again; out loud if you have to. We are human and we break. Some of us take and take until the pressure itself demolishes us and we can no longer function. This is when you see mothers in the emergency rooms when they have psychological breaks so profound they leave the family home and never return. This is life. But more often than not, the breaks are spent crying in the shower, or while on the toilet (at night when everyone is asleep of course, because God alone knows when we get to have one shower un-interrupted); the breaks are spent in the journey to the bottom of a wine bottle; the breaks are spent writing pages upon pages of prose in our journals; the breaks are spent venting to our mommy chat groups. We break; we bend, and we mend. Silently; quietly.

Why you may ask that we do it quietly? Because of that pesky myth of the strong woman. The myth that because we have a significant other our workload is actually now 50:50 and we should simply be grateful for their help. The myth that if you cannot fulfill ‘womanly duties’ (in whatever situation and aspect of our lives) that we have failed as a woman; we have failed as an adult. If we ever show weakness to anyone else, our throats must be cut and our lives sacrificed. So we trudge on, we smile and thank our husbands and significant others and colleagues because we do not want to risk being ostracized for a human moment.

We stay ‘strong’ and never show weakness because we must stay strong, …until the day we shatter and we lose our grip on reality…we lose our shit and walk out…we hurt ourselves, or others. We stay strong and keep up the myth that woman, even in their human-ness is capable of having it all, strapping on that cape and smiling through the dirt. But this constant burden of strength has caused a crisis in the everyday woman that she is unable to relinquish, or admit to.

The crisis is real, and until the conversation changes where women are allowed to express those moments, until expectations that the poopy butt would ‘obviously’ be wiped by us, even though there is an entire full adult human(s) in the same room are removed from us; until we stop using terms like ‘babysitting’ when it comes to fathers caring for their children; until we stop looking down on fathers who become stay at home dads as ‘weak and womanly’; until stay at home mothers and working mothers are no longer looked on with equal levels of disdain…the crisis will continue.

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