Last Updated on March 13, 2024

During our family’s first trip to Disney World, Jeff and I watched our three-year-old boy break free from us and race headlong to a Buzz Lightyear character who was signing autograph books. He rushed up and gave Buzz a huge hug, delight in his eyes, … and we had tears in ours as we watched our child’s innocent adoration of his superhero.

By age six, he had moved beyond Buzz and was now in love with Superman. Superman capes fluttered from his shoulders, Superman action figures littered the floor of our playroom, and he was so very disappointed when we told him he was too young to watch the movie Superman Returns. But he was old enough for something else. He manfully braced himself one day and asked us the question he must have known the answer to: “Is Superman real?”

I answered in the same way I answered our eight-year-old daughter the month before when she wanted the truth about Santa Claus: “Do you want to know the truth, honey?” In that case, after careful consideration, our daughter had said no — she wanted to hold on to Santa Claus a while longer. But when I put the question to our Superman-toting son, he nodded.

I smiled at him. “No, sweetheart, Superman isn’t real.”

He nodded again. “I thought so.” Pause. “Are any superheroes real?”

“Nope. It’s just pretend. But it’s sure fun to play pretend, isn’t it?”

“Yep!” And off he went in his red cape. He gracefully let go of the notion that the myth was real, reckoning that was just part of growing up.

The Superwoman Myth

Two years after that exchange, I find myself wondering: if our children are able to let go of myths and legends, then why won’t we? For far too many of us, deep inside, we think we are supposed to be Superwoman — specifically, Supermom — even though we know there is no such thing.

I regularly see articles, blogs, and books that construct or celebrate the myth that we can have it all, do it all, and be it all — all at the same time. (see one such discussion at The Atlantic, here.) We hold our mythical Superwoman superhero up as the ideal on radio and television — even in Christian media.

A few months ago, I was listening to one of the main Christian morning radio programs during my 20-minute trip to drop my kids off at school, listening as they asked for callers on the question of whether we can “have it all.” I was surprised and a bit saddened to hear every single caller exulting in the fact that of course we should expect to have it all, all at the same time: a demanding, full-time job, two kids, a great marriage, fulfilling activities, and friends. … In other words: we should expect to be Superwoman.

Now, I’m the first person to be thrilled that we live in an era that provides so many spectacular opportunities for women — if I had lived 100 years ago, I really doubt I would have had the chance to get a graduate degree, work on Wall Street, or be a best-selling author! But as our culture has “grown up” — we haven’t. Too many of us cling to the notion that we are supposed to have it all, do it all, and be it all, all at the same time; and then we feel guilty if we don’t meet that imaginary standard.

We live through headaches from too little sleep, ‘Mom guilt’ from not letting each of our children do that third sport this season, tension from snapping at our spouse for “not helping enough” (when he is probably facing his own immense stress and pressure from trying to meet a similarly impossible standard), and worry that we are “letting people down” because we only agreed to chair one committee at church this year.

And here’s why this is crazy: deep down inside, every one of us knows that the Superwoman ideal isn’t actually an ideal but a piece of fiction. If we ever bother to think about it, I believe we know that meeting this “standard” is as impossible as putting on that red cape and taking to the sky. The problem is that in the face of such a pervasive-seeming expectation and the insane pace of life that results, we don’t bother to think about it!

I know I certainly didn’t. When FamilyLife approached me about creating a video-driven Bible study that would help women think through these things, I realized how little of a biblical reference I actually had on this subject — a subject that literally impacted everything in my life! Creating that study — The Life Ready Woman: Thriving In a Do-It-All World — was one of the most personally impactful projects I’ve ever undertaken. And in the end, I pray it is encouraging and helpful to millions of other women, as well.

There is a God-given peace and relief that comes when we stop trying to use superpowers that don’t exist, and instead embrace the beautiful design and callings that do exist and that God fashioned uniquely into every one of us.

Why do you think we keep trying to meet the Superwoman standard and/or feel guilty if we don’t?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Great article Shaunti. I don't know too many women who aren't living the superwoman myth. I've identified it in myself but have yet to find the "cure" Auto-pilot is the only gear I know how to live!

    1. Wendy Kay McFarland says:

      Dear Marie and Shaunti,

      I want to share with you the 'truth' you are superwoman, but, it is not working for you because your focus and speed are set on the wrong channels. I have lived the life you are speaking of…Career (California Realtor), Mom (4) and Wife (US Naval SCPO). Yes I thought I had it all, the friends…the activities…the house with pool…the multiple sports activities with the kids…the Volunteer work to support Naval spouses connected to the Ship while at war. Yes, all that the world says is important…but the things of this world is not what is important!

      Jesus told us time and time again…Seek first the Kingdom! We only find true peace when we are putting our 'SELF' to death…careers that take us away from our reason for being created…our calling. God is so gracious to have turned on the light for me to see this before it is too late. Go back to is all there the answers to your peace.

      God created you to be a help – meet. He created you to help your husband, support your husband's callings given him by the Lord….not your own. You are on the front line of teaching and training the children how God has designed marriage as the mirror image of His relationship with the church (us.)

      I am so excited to see and experience now all the things I missed for so long because I was going mach 5 on auto pilot. Real peace comes from being encouraged by experiencing God in our daily lives…like the song of a canary or the tiny white feathery flowers in a meadow or the way your child finds to process information right before your eyes!

      I beg you as a sister in Christ and as women to research this further, find the wisdom in God's word. Outside the home on your own pursuits is 'superwoman' but what you are seeking and what God desires and created and commanded you to be is a 'HelpMeet'. In doing that you are bringing heaven to earth for all of us. For the grass withers and the flowers fade…but God's word endures forever!

      Peaceful and Happy at home! May God bless you richly.

      1. Hi Wendy —

        Thanks for your comments, and I truly appreciate your heart for husbands and children, and for our need as women to support every bit of what God is doing in their lives. That is wonderful, and is a huge part of my ministry. Where I simply disagree with you is your statement that "He created you to help your husband, support your husband's callings given him by the Lord… not your own." I simply don't see any scriptural foundation for the idea that God doesn't give women callings outside the home. Titus 2 tells us we must be SURE to attend to our home (I talk about that in the Life Ready Woman study), but I don't see anything in scripture that says women are limited to the home. Any time we volunteer in the women's ministry at church, or are the room mom in our kids' school for the school year, or make a commitment to sit down weekly with a friend whose marriage is in trouble, we are using our gifts, that the Lord has given us, outside the home! I want to encourage women in that, not say that they cannot do so. The key is that we must not let those very real callings interfere with the other vital callings God has given us, to our husband and children. That topic, and how we do that, is the subject of "The Life Ready Woman" book and bible study.

        I will be writing an article on this concern that you and another commenter raised, in the next few weeks. (Have to meet a book deadline first!) But I did want you to know that I see your heart on this, and share your deep concern that we as women be all that God wants us to be as a help-meet, even if you and I disagree on going further than that.

        Many blessings, sister,

  2. That was me, too, Marie! Until I started working on The Life Ready Woman book and bible study, i was stuck on auto-pilot… with the throttle full on! It made an immense difference once i realized there WAS a 'cure' that i could follow. And it was completely biblical, and relevant to everyone. i highly recommend that you check it out. 🙂 — Shaunti

    1. Cat Livingston says:

      YES! If you are doing what God called you to do, then yes, Superwoman is a reality. I have stayed home all my married life and the Lord has blessed abundantly. Sacrifice? No way! Blessed? Yaweh! Women don't understand that staying at home is such a blessing. The burnout comes when you are trying to be the man and the woman in the relationship.

  3. Cat Livingston says:

    I am so suprised that you include all the "stuff" you THINK is important in your life. Girlfriend, you CAN be a super mom and woman, but you have to let go of your selfish lifestyle and stay at home with your precious children and loving husband who need you there. Every woman can be a supermom and wife, she just has to know her place in life. You obviously don't get it! I am saddened that you think you have the authority to write a book, a blog or be connected to this ministry. Stay at home and you will never be disappointed. Let the Titus 2 women do the writing because they have had the family, have the wisdom, and has the time to devote to instructing younger women like yourself. Give up to receive!

  4. I feel the most pressure to "Do It All" at church. I am constantly being asked to be on committees, bake cakes, provide meals, join bible studies, work in the nursery, see shut-ins, mentor teens, join fundraisers, make crafts….the list goes on and on. Most of this even happens on Sunday the day of rest. When I say no to Sunday committments I am made to feel guilty for not contributing and being selfish. We need to practice what we preach and leave the potlucks and committee meetings off of the day of sabbath. Even youth group meeting will tear my family apart because it is one more thing I have to say no to my kids since it falls on Sunday.

  5. I was with a group of women over the weekend from Empty Nesters to moms of little one's and we did one of the Life Ready Woman sessions…every woman there was blessed by the truth presented! As we shared afterwards there was much affirmation of the truths taught…especially from the Titus 2 women in the group! One woman shared that Life Ready Woman is the study her large church will be using this fall! I am planning to host a study in my home as well! I pray many will be blessed by this study!