Sifa Mtango-Zadarnowska tackles the  myth of superwoman and gives her view of the extra pressure faced by professional women in the diaspora balancing a career, family and our modern day stresses.

As an African woman living in a developed country, I often find myself torn by the desire to lead a life of military-style organisation as exemplified by my mother when I was growing up, and juggling the endless commitments that plague my weekly schedule. I know I’m not alone.

When one has to manage an intense day on the job punctuated by lunch meetings and networking coffees, and somehow fitting in social obligations in the name of the “work-life balance”, it’s a miracle that we find energy within us to slap together a meal at the end of the day – whether for ourselves or for an entire family.

So how do some women do it? And if some of us are struggling, how can we recreate the Superwoman act that our mothers pulled off so flawlessly? I’m yet to find the answer to the latter, however, here are some tips that help me get through the week without being torn to shreds.

Prioritise: Try to keep things simple for yourself. If you are one of those insane people who are not complete without a daily workout, or you turn into Monster Mum if you are only halfway through your weekly “to do” list by Thursday, then something’s got to give. That daily workout has to fit in with the rest of your schedule, and if it really is non-negotiable, then maybe you need to get up a little earlier, or pass on the after-work drinks with colleagues to make sure it happens. Cut the “to do” list in half. Be realistic – if that report is not due for another week, you are allowed to call it a day before midnight.

Say No: Mothers seem to be quite good at prioritising others in their lives. Many have the responsibility to ensure the kids are fed, clothed, educated and socially stimulated. But sometimes the Wednesday ballet class can be missed so that mum gets all the shopping done for Saturday’s birthday party. This also means saying “no” to demands on your time and energy. In a magical world you could be in two places at once and get it all done. But in this one, make sure you identify where your resources are best spent and stop apologising for only being human.

Use support systems: If you have kids, you might need to car-pool. If you are single, it’s a good idea to get to know the elderly couple across the hall, just in case you run out of milk one morning and can’t be asked to get out of your pyjamas.

One thing I find particularly common amongst the Superwomen I know is that they think or feel that they need to do it all on their own. Ask for help, I say. Your girlfriends, colleagues or neighbours are all well placed to bail you out from time to time, because let’s face it, if they’re in a bind one day, they’d like to think that you would do the same.

“You” time: It’s becoming a cliché, but it’s still important. Call it self-preservation, or even self-indulgence – either way, it’s not a crime. If you can’t be good to yourself, you are unlikely to be of great use to anyone else. Admit it, how good does it feel when you get that long-delayed pedicure or you have your 45 minutes at the lap pool? When you step back into your real life and its demands, you tend to find that the earth has not stopped rotating in your absence.

Finding that balance between work, play and rest is a challenge for today’s professional, stay-at-home parent or hybrid of the two. Most of us wish we had the luxury our parents enjoyed, knowing that their kids were in good hands and that someone else had dinner sorted when they got home at night.

The reality is that if you work a 45-hour week at your day job, in order to meet other demands on your time you need to readjust your expectations of what you can pull off whist maintaining your sanity. Some weeks work will call the shots, there’ll be days where the kids will drain everything in you, and times when a girlfriend needs you to give up the gym so that you can match her drink for drink after another break-up. The trick is in the balance, and finding the ways to achieve yours. It’s seldom a project to achieve it ‘solo’.

*Selah* – stop and think about it!


About The Author

Sifa Mtango

Sifa is a Tanzanian nomad, who today calls Sydney, Australia home. A practising solicitor, Sifa has represented clients from various industries conducting legal disputes in New South Wales and the Federal Courts. Outside her day job, Sifa is passionate about international legal and social issues and as a student, she published articles on human rights topics. Today she continues to engage with community and professional groups on issues of significant social relevance, particularly concerning the African diaspora. As a mother of two, Sifa’s greatest joys are her family and friends. She enjoys music, theatre and reading – making time to indulge in these activities as often as the “real world” permits.

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