Our Girls Are In “Role Overload” — How Can We Turn the Tide?

Being a mother is the most important job in the world.

It used to be that mothers were predominantly in the home with the family as the focus, but the balance in women’s lives has tipped as we all take on more and more responsibility.

Perhaps now more than ever, we are seeing the negative effects of women having to do it all and have it all – and it’s starting when we are young girls.

Today’s generation of mothers is among the first to really see increased pressures that our mothers were only starting to experience.

In the 70s and 80s, when our generation was young, many mothers still stayed at home.  But now, most families require two incomes to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

And as modern mothers have taken on more responsibility, we’ve become more overwhelmed.  But we still try to do it all – home, work, family, and everything else.

There is little time for self-care.  There is always something that must be done.

Our children see us in this whirlwind of activity…rushing, running full-steam-ahead, and always trying to be “supermom.”

This is especially a problem for our young girls.  We are not always able to give our undivided attention to the pressures they may be facing.  They see our stress, and they take it on.

We’re supposed to be mothers, wives, excel at work, and still maintain beauty stereotypes.  The media tells us we’re still supposed to work out and dress well and wear makeup, on top of everything else.

For our girls, they are seeing all of this way too early, and the pressure to succeed – a false sense of “perfection” that is unattainable – is becoming increasingly dangerous for them.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the suicide rate for teenage girls doubled between 2007 and 2015 and is now higher than it has ever been.

Girls feel they have to excel in school so they can work toward having a successful career.

There’s almost no question anymore that a woman will have to work outside the home while raising a family.

Many girls also work a job while they’re in school because the cost of living has increased so shockingly.  They focus on their performance to get into a good school.  They focus on performance again to get a good job.

They still anticipate and expect to be wives and mothers someday, but the pressure to perform does not go away.

And then, there are all the media images and messages in the entertainment field.  “You must have the perfect hair, makeup, clothes, and figure to be noticed… or to be worthwhile.”

Social media has also increased this pressure, and today’s young girls don’t remember a time when there wasn’t constant communication online.  They’re supposed to maintain a certain persona so they can “live up” to the stereotype of the “ideal woman.”

Our girls – in fact, all our children — worry more now than ever before in history what others think of them.  And they feel that we have to please everyone.

That goes back to our more traditional roles – roles that we’re still trying to maintain along with career success – of being caregivers and comforters.

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Simmons is something of an expert on how societal and cultural changes in the last several decades is literally destroying our girls.

Anxiety, depression, suicide, eating disorders – so rare decades ago — are now skyrocketing in 15 to 20-year-old girls.

Simmons says we’re living in a time of “role overload and role conflict.”  How are girls supposed to balance it all?

And how are we as moms projecting our “performance perfection” on our daughters?  After all, we’re one of the first generations to have to balance so very much.

“I think no one can dispute the wholesale kind of collapse of girls’ wellness right now,” says Simmons.  “There is a deep mismatch in terms of what the culture is telling girls and their most vulnerable parts of their psychology,” as reported by CNN.

Simmons has authored several books on the subject of why modern girls are struggling so much.  She calls it an “imposter syndrome” that is impossible to live up to.

It’s destroying their confidence and compromising their health.

So what can we do about it?

We want to raise strong girls, but not girls who are so focused on unrealistic goals that they have no strength left.

We have to start by giving ourselves as mothers a break.  We have to stop juggling so much and take better care of ourselves.

In turn, by seeing us take care of ourselves – staying physically and emotionally healthy – our girls see the importance in that, and not in meeting unrealistic and impossible expectations.

Are they doing their very best and still bringing home a C instead of an A?  So be it if they are emotionally healthy.

Are they taking on too much to please us – following our lead because we are trying to please everyone?

Open communication and “checking” our own responses to stress and our tendencies to “role overload” is the first step.

Simmons also says that we all need to allow ourselves to “fail.”  We all must realize that perfection is not possible.

If we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves, we are most certainly modeling that behavior to our young girls who will continue the vicious cycle.

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This pressure for perfection “[is] not sustainable, and it’s not realistic. Where does that leave you as an adult? You have to be able to bounce back and react to things,” says Simmons.

Are we allowing ourselves to fail?  Are we showing our stress in front of our daughters?  Are we running around in a frenzy and falling apart while they’re watching?


It starts with us, one mother and daughter at a time, to turn the tide of “role overload.”

“There’s nothing more inspiring to me than watching someone discover she’s braver than she thought — and nothing that moves me more than helping someone realize she is not alone in her struggle,” says Simmons on her website.

It starts with showing our weaknesses – our humanity – so that our girls know it’s ok.

We may always have too many responsibilities, but we have to prioritize to maintain our health.

Women can still be strong and successful without “doing and having it all,” and it’s time for us as moms to learn that lesson as well so we can model it to our daughters.

Do you think there is way too much pressure on girls to “do and have it all?”  Where do you think the most pressure comes from, and what do you think we can do to restore balance?  Leave us your comments.