Letting go of being superwoman!

Keeping_positive1 Member Posts: 538
edited October 2021 in General discussion
I have been hesitating writing this for a while, but here goes! 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, of course I was stunned by being delivered the news by the doctor at Breast Screen, and a nurse was present also in the room. 

I was told I had a "spot" of cancer and that it was in my lymph nodes also, and that I would need surgery, chemo and herceptin, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. When the doctor left the room the nurse picked up the pieces of my shock, and as I whimpered I said, I will do all the treatment I need, and I will work around all my appointments and treatment. The nurse admired my reply, and said to me I will be get through as she could tell by my attitude I will be alright!

 I did get through all the treatment, but as it turned out I didn't keep working through all my treatment, and that is OK also. 

Do we really need to prove to others that we can "do it all and have it all?" 

I sometimes wonder if many of us women juggling many roles hasn't ultimately impacted negatively on our health? 

Or are many of us sacrificing family life for a career which impacts negatively on our health and family life?

Where is the work/family/ home life balance?

What are others thoughts?



  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    edited October 2021
    Yes, I do think we have a need to prove we can do it and have it all, at least I did. I didn’t like having that need as I don’t like proving anything to anyone, but it was so ingrained in me that I didn’t know how to switch it off. I just felt so guilty every time I wasn’t trying to do something productive and beneficial. That guilt kept me going. Until I burnt out so badly that I almost had a nervous breakdown. Then I had incessant panic attacks, and then I got breast ca. I am now very happily not working and loving it. For the first time ever, I don’t feel guilty about it. I’ve finally learnt to put myself first. I’m still productive, just in different ways. And I’m raising my daughter, instead of child care centres and schools while I’m away from the house long hours due to work. She’s much happier and so am I. I have blossomed again into a human, as opposed to the shell I once felt I was, and I am putting myself first as opposed to some ungrateful company. I’m not against working, that’s not the message I’m sending. I’m against being pushed to all limits and not having necessary work/life balance. And I think it’s wrong for women to have to work full time hours while also raising children. I’m not old fashioned by any means, and I’m actually quite a feminist, but it’s just common sense that if a woman decides to have children, that her career needs to come second if she’s the main one caring for them. That’s the natural way of things. And men need to stop acting like women staying home so nothing all day. And society needs to stop making stay-at-home mums feel useless just because they don’t contribute to society in a monetary way, because they contribute in a much more important way, and have one of the hardest and non paid jobs. Health shouldn’t be sacrificed for anything.  
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,255
    Everyone’s different. My work was an important part of me (in the arts) and of the world I enjoyed. I had one child and a supportive partner and while childcare was important in making everything work, so was being a family together. I was 67 when diagnosed, so ‘child’ was quite grown up and following her own career. Working through treatment was logical. I was remarkably well, most of the time, and it kept things on an even keel. I worked (once every three weeks) for about three months with a counsellor, about adjusting to life with some probably long lasting side effects. The side effects, it turned out, weren’t much of an issue, my reluctance to face ageing and death were. Why wouldn’t I ?? I enjoyed my life!!! But it’s been one of the best ‘travels’ yet. I continued to work (new job, new challenge) till I was 75, did more global travelling too but worked more on me - gym, philosophy, singing. My family is closer and bigger (two grandsons). COVID has affected my retirement plans but on the upside,  more time for study. The lessons learned through counselling were timely and far reaching. Putting yourself first comes in different packages, the hard part is finding the right one for you. When you do, everyone is a winner. 
  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,241
    Man, you nailed that one, @FLClover ! xx. I agree
  • Cath62
    Cath62 Member Posts: 1,168
    Really written well @FLClover. My only comment though is women are 50% of  society so women need to let go of doing everything for society too. If women set boundaries then others have no choice but to do their own thing. 
  • Halla
    Halla Member Posts: 185
    This is a really interesting topic. I have my own business, I’m an architect, and I have worked very very hard throughout treatment and the pandemic. I have employees and clients that I have legal contracts with, so I really didn’t feel it was an option to just shut down and stop if I wanted my business to survive - and frankly after 10 years of hard slog I was/am finally getting it on track financially and experiencing success and do not want to throw that away. I do really love what I do , but I also am in pain with aching neck jaw shoulders and headaches and I don’t have time and energy left over for much exercising - which I know is bad!! The Femara probably isn’t helping. I don’t have kids so all my attention goes into my work.  I am a bit worried that I am putting myself at risk of recurrence although my drs say there is no proven link between cancer and stress. Luckily my dogs make me walk them every day, and they start barking at me if I work too long on the computer! Cuddle time on the couch Mum!

    Next week I’m taking 6 days with a girlfriend to stay at a hotel, go for long walks, use the hotel gym, have rosin baths and try not to check my phone every 5 seconds! Cannot wait. It’s been postponed twice already with the lockdowns.

  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    I totally agree with that too @Cath62. Women definitely need to start setting boundaries and sticking to them 👌🏻
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,255

    Enjoy your time off - I live quite near you and our area had an extra lockdown so it’s been pretty difficult. I joined the local gym a couple of years after diagnosis. I had decided to work a four day week (not counting weekends!) and suddenly I had time for things I never had time for before. Paying ahead forced me to go for the first year or so, but I have really missed it during lockdowns. Will be back soon, I hope. Getting your head out of the daily pattern helps all sorts of things. Best wishes. 
  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    @Halla your situation is quite different. That’s why I said there are different factors to consider. You don’t have kids, so that itself makes a world of difference. You can devote yourself entirely to your business, which is your baby. And in that case that’s great. It’s yours and you love it. And tbh I wouldn’t give that up either! 
    I loved my job, but not the schools I worked for. They took advantage of both the teachers and students. They made me feel tired, overworked and very unappreciated. The students also felt angry, and would come to the teachers for answers as to why they were paying for services not delivered, which was the school’s fault. They didn’t want to open an extra class, for example, and have to pay a teacher to manage it.  And that’s what caused all my stress. I do strongly believe there’s a link between stress and illness, and I’ve heard or read lots of medical professionals confirm it. However, it’s not the stress itself, but how we handle and perceive it. Mine was bad stress and left me feeling fatigued and angry. Yours is good, as it motivates you and makes you feel accomplished. So I wouldn’t be worried about the fact you’ve been working hard through treatment. That has kept you going and inspired to get better. What does annoy me, is that you didn’t get help from the gvmt when you were going through treatment, at least a little. Or even now when you’re so sore and aching from all the treatment and meds. You shouldn’t have to give your business up, and you also shouldn’t have to suffer in pain. You should be provided with financial assistance or other forms of help to help you through this difficult time, so that you don’t have to give up your hard earned business and also have the chance to heal properly. This is where the gvmt is failing us, all (breast) ca survivors. 
    I hope you finally get your well deserved break, and in the meantime enjoy those doggie cuddles 🐶😊♥️♥️
  • Keeping_positive1
    Keeping_positive1 Member Posts: 538
    I loved my work, but I also did have to go to work out of necessity as I was a single parent.  Many sacrifices were made, including not spending as much time with my child/daughter and extended family due to work commitments.  I wasn't ever wanting to be superwoman, but I was thrown into it.  I feel there are a lot of women that may have similar sentiments, and that self care is put on the backburner.  '

    Why is there such a need for us women to seek counselling these days because of work related issues?  It is prevalent and the cycle goes on and on.  If we are suppose to be more fulfilled by juggling family commitments with workplace obligations, why is it that many women are still struggling and end up with ill health, or needing counsellors to sort themselves out, myself included.  Which by the way didn't work well for me as she told me that working give us our self worth!  Really?  I said what about those women that are too sick to work in the workplace, she didn't answer that.  So many of our woes are induced by expectations that society places on us.  

    I really feel for the younger women these days who have huge pressures on them to be "successful"  and often at the cost of giving up other dreams.  We need to raise psychologically healthy girls to become happy women whatever course they take in life.

    @Halla I take my hat off to you as you are probably living the dream of being your own boss, which really does also come with a lot of pressure, I totally understand that.  I had my child in my late 30's, but I did have many family commitments before that time also, many of us women do, we are often the carers of other family members.  Enjoy your break, you deserve it.
  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    @Keeping_positive1 I never wanted to be a superwoman either. I felt the need to be productive, but I didn’t want to be seen as a hero. And I hate asking for help, so as a single mum I needed to work twice as hard to make sure I never had to. I was quite distressed that I couldn’t even take a yearly holiday. So many people commented on how strong I was and how well I was doing, and I just wanted to cry and scream that it wasn’t my choice and I just wanted a break!!! It definitely wasn’t my conscious choice to work that hard and put myself last, but I just felt so stuck. I feel a lot of women are/were in the same situation, yet still can’t take a break even after they’re diagnosed. 
    And that’s a shocking comment by your psychologist!! I don’t think ‘work’, as in career, gives us our self worth. There are women who are home makers, so what are they supposed to feel like, losers??? 😠. Our self worth comes from many places, and work certainly isn’t the main one. Society definitely puts too much pressure on women, to be full time workers, child carers, other family member carers, home makers, all in 24hr?? Where does she come in? 🤔. To me, it’s either your career or your children, at least til they’re old enough. Otherwise, you’re stretching yourself too thin. And there should be no guilt in choosing whichever one a woman wants. Also, a woman shouldn’t be responsible for always having dinner, laundry etc ready despite working full time hours. But that would be in an ideal world, wouldn’t it? 🤨

  • June1952
    June1952 Member Posts: 1,781
    The more I live the more I feel that society has got it wrong !
    As an 'oldie', all the women I knew as a kid stayed home and did the 'motherly' duties where the majority of men (not my dad !) went out to work and made the income to support the family.
    Yes, life was far more simple but it was not governed by money.  We went without until there was sufficient cash to buy items.  I saw my first TV when I was in my late teens.
    Even now, I just have the old TVs, none of the big flat screens, as I cannot afford them, but we live simply and still don't feel as if we are missing out.
    No, the Govt does not contribute to the neighbour's child care, but the children have Mum at home if they are sick at school and she is there with a snack when they come home after their busy day of learning.
    If only more families would look to the happiness of the past and learn to enjoy more of the simple things.
    It is a world of 'equality' but is it really ?  Couples need to look at the dollar values compared to what is really missing.
    I agree, @FLClover, society is heading in the wrong direction - let's get back to the basics where the women are not the ones responsible for all the 'home duties'. Share the professional world and share the household duties.

  • Keeping_positive1
    Keeping_positive1 Member Posts: 538
    I agree @June1952 We took it for granted our mums were there to lick our wounds, didn't we?  Let's hope that in a two parent family that one parent can look after one or two children which is the usual number these days.

    I have retired now, but most working women I meet seem very exhausted, and have so much to do and co-ordinate, there must be a better alternative,  Being kind to ourselves doesn't mean scheduling in haircuts, manicures, pedicures, gym, yoga and date nights etc, into an already busy work/family life.  I wish I had the answer, but I agree @FLClover we are heading in the wrong direction.