Behind every successful man, stands his wife – or so goes the proverbial saying. But what about behind every successful woman?

After consulting with numerous women, I’ve concluded that the phrase should go something like this: Behind every successful woman…are her very busy hands – juggling motherhood, husband, family, career and household responsibilities. And the list goes on!

I met a friend this past Shabbat and she reinforced what I am hearing from many women. “Chana, I just don’t have any time for me. There’s everyone that comes first: There’s the children – from youngest to oldest. They each have their own set of urgent and immediate concerns – from preparing their food, to the clothes they wear, to solving their emotional issues with friends at school.

“Then there’s my husband, who needs my advice or focus. He says I’m his best critic and seeks my assessment for his work.

“Not to mention my own work, with its time-consuming preparations. Or the occasional call to help with this or that community project.

“By the time my day is done, I am absolutely drained. I find that time for me is hardly ever a part of the equation.”

Sound familiar? I hear this complaint all the time from women in all walks of life – professionals and homemakers, liberated women, modern thinkers and conservative types.

So what is it, that makes us women behave this way?

Perhaps it is societal expectations that pressure us to be the “wonder woman,” who “has it all.”  Or perhaps it’s our proverbial guilt. Maybe it’s our inability to let go, or our tedious, hands on devotion to all areas of our lives.

I’m sure these play a part. But a voice inside of me says there is an underlying, soul-level reason that allows us to be pulled in so many different directions, accepting this simply as our role and responsibility.

I think women have an intuitive understanding that assuming these many roles is the noblest way of defining “me”.

(Don’t I am not implying that it’s not important for women to find time for themselves – to do the things they enjoy or that rejuvenate them. Nor am I trying to belittle women’s valiant efforts in balancing all that they do.)

But despite this, I think, women often allow themselves to be put into a position where others’ needs take center stage – even at their own expense – because they believe that this is the highest and most selfless way of living. As such, this doesn’t detract from the definition of “me,” but rather defines the highest form of it.

Let me explain.

What motivates a human being to accomplish the good (and the bad) in his life?

Individual motivations vary, but there is an underlying denominator. Most of our acts are motivated by how we want to be perceived.

We want power, or we want respect, affirmation or recognition for how smart or capable we are.

Sometimes, though, it’s not the respect or recognition of others that we seek – but our own. In other words, I might act kind because I want to think of myself as a kindhearted individual, using my talents for the betterment of mankind.

This is true even if we think we’re doing something because “it’s the right thing to do.”

Suppose I spent a half-hour calling someone just to cheer her. Or maybe I was really exhausted and still pushed myself to daven (pray) properly. No one knew about these things. In fact, I took pains to make sure not to boast about it.

But why did I want to do “the right thing?” Isn’t it because I wanted to feel good about myself for doing the right thing? And feel even more satisfied about not boasting about it?

On this level, our motivations are usually self-serving.

But suppose your day consisted of things – little and big – that you did; not because it made you feel particularly “right” or “good,” but simply because it had to get done. Suppose your day revolved around others, not in a way that made you feel you were a selfless individual, but rather simply taking care of your responsibilities, tending to what needed to be tended to.

I doubt many women pat themselves on the back for getting dinner cooked, or for spending a few quiet moments with a sad child.

Ask them why they were the one to wake up for a crying child in the middle of the night and you won’t hear that they are seeking the recognition or respect of their family. Nor will you hear a smug “Well, of course, because it’s the right thing to do.”

More often than not, she’ll simply say, that it had to get done or he was crying, or he needed me, or that I love my family.

Notice the shift in focus. It’s no longer about me. It’s no longer about how others view or perceive me. And most importantly, it’s not even about how I view myself.

In fact, I doubt many women even think about their underlying motives.

Which woman has the time? There’s far too much that needs to get done!

Chana Weisberg is the author of four books – the latest, Divine Whispers: Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul and is currently scheduling a worldwide book tour to promote Divine Whispers. To book a talk for your community, or for information on her books or speaking schedule, please contact: