Dear Superwoman,

A gentle reminder to keep your mental health, physical health, hormone levels, stress level and everything else that comes along as a part of being a woman, in check.

It all started when my debut novel Shikhandini hit the bookstores after a long wait of nearly two years. My joy knew no bounds and thanks to social media the news spread around very quickly and for several days I was showered with best wishes and good lucks.

Following these wishes came the most common comment or rather an intimation – “Do it while you are still single. Once you are married there won’t be enough time for anything.” Most people who told me this were women. While they told this in good faith, the words kept coming back and haunting me.  I was only two months shy of becoming a married woman and I , by no means was going to let my debut novel be my only novel ever. Nah!

So I began research on why most women felt this way. After talking to dozens of married women – recently married, happily married, married in the last millennium and those with one or more children – I understood that these women chose to give up on their passion and career (Irrespective of the gender, for most of us, our career and passion are not inclined) because their priorities changed.

In some cases, women did manage to juggle everything -work, family, passion. But they truthfully admitted that by the end of it all they felt exhausted and drained. A very small percentage, however, managed to do it all without leaving themselves drained or compromising their health. What was their secret?

To all the women, both working and homemakers, who think they have to be it all, do it all, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s time to pull the reins and slow down. Take a deep breath and do the one thing that is most important for your wellbeing – prioritization.

You don’t have to do it all. You just need to do the important things. And it is up to you to decide what is important and what is not.

Maybe your mother managed to do it all and so did your grandmother. But you are not them. You were born in a different time, brought up in a different environment. You are different and there is no need to prove yourself better than or even as good as them. It is okay to say no. It is okay to ask for help. And above all, there is no need to compromise your health. Don’t let people tell you that you are not enough.

Prioritization is hard especially for the bigger things like taking care of your infant or an elderly parent. These are inevitable and you somehow manage to wind your life around it. But it is not these big things that are keeping most of us from pursuing our passion or even taking out an hour or two each day for ourselves. It is the smaller things – the never-ending saga of errands that you have to run, the To-do list that has no end or the little corner of your kitchen that you absolutely have to scrub till it shines like a mirror.

So let us talk about prioritising the smaller things. Ask yourself – What takes priority? Mopping the house floor every single day or completing the unfinished painting on the easel of your study that has been begging to be completed for months.  Finishing the laundry or completing the blog post that has been sitting in your drafts for weeks? What is going to make you happier?

If the perfectionist in you still wishes to do it all with the limited reserve of energy that we the 21st-century women are blessed with then its time to shoot the next arrow in the barrel – Delegation.

Do you really have to do it all by yourself or can you ask your husband and children to pitch in? In most cases, your family is more than happy to help you if you let them. (Read – let them do it their way without pointing out their mistakes or redoing it later when they are not around). It is also okay to hire a maid.

But why do women feel like they have to do it by themselves and prove that they do not need any help? Why the constant strive to be a perfect daughter-in-law, wife or mother?

Home-makers do so to dodge from the obnoxious comment that is often shot at them – “What do you do all day at home?” or the harsher version “You were at home and still could not manage to fix a good meal for us.” The working woman’s plight is no better. Thanks to our society, working women are often made to feel like they are jeopardizing their family’s well-being for their career. They are looked upon as selfish beings. Especially working mothers.

Every day I see a lot of women coming to office – tired and sleep-deprived. They work for 9 hours (or more), spend another 2 hours in commute and then go home and start their daily chores – cooking, cleaning and taking care of their children. In a way, they are all superheroes without capes and shiny armours. They seem to have trained themselves to survive on 6 or fewer hours of sleep, less than an hour of me-time and work for more than 16 hours at a stretch. These superwomen, especially the ones living in a joint family, hesitate to ask for help or to take simple decisions like hiring a cook or a maid. In all this, they forget that they are not really superhumans with supernatural powers. They show a deaf ear to the voice of their body and in the course of time lose the most precious thing of all – their mental and physical health.

Dear Superwoman, your family needs a loving, caring and above all a happy wife, mother and daughter-in-law. Not an exhausted, drained and frustrated being who can be it all, do it all while losing herself in the process.