Women, Why Do We Put So Much Pressure on Ourselves?

Emotional labor meets real labor

As you all know (hello, look around you), over the holidays, we relaunched APW. That is, we migrated ten years of historical data, rebuilt pages, checked bugs, and problems solved—general Level 8 stressful things. For those of you who haven’t relaunched a massive website, think of it as moving from one house to another: It feels really exciting when you see the new house and imagine what it will be like to live there. It feels like the tenth level of hell when you’re trying to pack and unpack 350 boxes, wondering why you have so much damn stuff in the first place.

Anyway, as you might have noticed, I had the word “holidays” up there. That means I was trying to move my whole virtual house, while still doing the emotional labor of Hanukkah and Christmas for two small children and our extend families. (I have many lovely feminist, task-sharing things to say about my husband, but managing of holidays and gifting is not on that list of virtues.) And really, that should have been enough. I made a plan to pack myself away to some sort of day spa over our team’s winter vacation, and then just tried to hunker down and get through it—with as little panicking as possible. I had, thank God, pre-gamed my holidays pretty decently, so while the stress was bad, it could have been way worse.

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But as I was sitting at my desk, going through endless to-do lists and doing battle with my anxiety condition, I noticed the other list of things constantly churning through my brain. Was I spending enough quality time with both of my children? Was I exercising enough? Was I eating healthily? (I started Weight Watchers last year, which is another generally positive story, but adding point counting to the mix was over the top.)

In my twenties, I watched a lot of What Not to Wear, and every guest on that show who was a mom would bemoan the fact that they never put themselves on the list, and I vowed never to be that person. And for better or worse, I am not that woman. In fact, I have myself on the list… all the fuck over the list. Right up there with caring for my kids, getting extended family nicely wrapped presents on time, getting teacher gifts, and making sure my employees feel appreciated, I have a tangle of a whole lot of me… too. I’m worrying that I’m eating right and my roots are touched up; I’m enjoying toddler ballet class and getting enough time with my friends; and I’m emotionally investing in calls with my business coach. I’m so all over my already extensive list that it’s possible there is no actual space for… sanity. Or just breathing for a second.

And I know I’m far from alone in this problem. Hell, I’m not even planning a wedding—though when I was, it added a whole other level of toxic to the whole project. And I also know that while the men in my life put pressure on themselves, they don’t seem to put anywhere near the same amount of pressure. In fact, they’re more than happy to put the kids to bed and sink into the couch, while I’m frantically ordering custom wrapping paper for the holidays. (Because that’s a thing I did. And I’d say I was sad about it except it was so super legit that I’m really not.)

And how can we not put pressure on ourselves? There is a whole world out there telling us to do more and be more (and making plenty of money off us while we do it). And that’s not even mentioning the new world of Instagram and Pinterest. And that world I understand, but it still gets me. I create content for Instagram and Pinterest, and I know that one effortless shot of my bedroom takes two hours and moving around half the stuff in the room to get. I’m friends with people with half a million followers on their beautifully curated Instagram feed, and I know they have anxiety conditions and piles of laundry on the floor just like the rest of us. With my job, I know that behind the camera is always total chaos.

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And yet, I don’t rest. I want my bedroom to look like the one I pinned on my Pinterest board, and my closets to look like the ones on The Home Edit. And frankly, they do, more or less, which is probably why I’m tired.

What’s the answer? I sure as hell don’t know, though I did enjoy a day spa experience over the holidays. Just a bandaid on the issue? Sure. But it was an enjoyable bandaid while it lasted. And I do know that the first step is talking about it.

So I’m throwing it to you, the smartest ladies on the internet. What pressures are you putting on yourselves? How do you try to bring it down a notch, and just be in the moment? What pressures have you just given up on, and flat out don’t care about? Because I, for one, could use some help.

Let’s Talk About The Pressure.

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