Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

Can a woman who has help still admit she can’t ‘do it all’?

Women's Agenda founding editor Angela Priestley on what right does the beautiful and successful wife of a Prime Minister have to declare she's overwhelmed?

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Sophie Grégoire Trudeau wants help.

Yes she already has help — two nannies and an assistant, as one headline reads this week — but she wants more.

And she’s made the mistake of declaring as much.

The woman now known as Canada’s unofficial First Lady, married to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, told the French language newspaper Le Soleil she’s finding her new life overwhelming. She can’t keep up with the requests for her time and attention (around 50 to 60 invitations a week), especially for attending public events. Currently, she has no office and manages correspondence from her dining table. She particularly finds it difficult to decide which charities to support, especially after reading so many letters detailing different forms of suffering. “I’d love to be everywhere but I can’t,” she said. “I have three children and a husband who is prime minister. I need help. I need a team to help me serve the people.”

Well, how dare she.

Apparently no woman has the right to admit they’re overwhelmed and finding certain things difficult, especially if they have income and assistance at their disposal.

Members from the Canadian Opposition used the comments to declare Grégoire Trudeau was disconnected from reality and should think about which Canadian women really feel overwhelmed. The previous prime minister’s wife coped just fine with one assistant, why couldn’t she? A #PrayForSophie hashtag has emerged on social media, mocking and ridiculing her for daring to suggest she needs more help than the taxpayer staff already available. She’s been compared to Kim Kardashian.

Justin Trudeau’s become known as more than a politician, he’s now an international celebrity of sorts who’s won praise for declaring himself a feminist and even for being able to outline the basics ofquantum physics to journalists. After appointing a gender balanced female Cabinet — at a time when just a couple of women were represented in our own — many Australian women were left awestruck by the contrast in progressive party politics in a country not so different to our own. Meanwhile Sophie Trudeau wears her heart of her sleeve: she’s open about her shortcomings, speaks up about the challenges young girls face, likes to recall her own experiences, and has become a spokeswoman for women’s empowerment. She has all the traits that make her in demand, a great profile that gets attention. And she’s using it, it seems, to do a lot of good work.

So the Trudeaus have been busy, not just with running the country, but on other demands on their time and attention. There was a Vogue photo shoot, there’s been interviews and television appearances and lots of charity work. They also have a relatively young family, compared to other heads of state. And given Justin’s more ‘official’ duties, it seems much of the requests and responsibilities have fallen on Sophie, making her a ‘First Lady’ of sorts, although like in Australia, the PM’s spouse has no formal status. Meanwhile, many claim Grégoire Trudeau’s still a “stay at home mother” and should be able to cope just fine without the pressures of having to attend a real job. The problem is Grégoire Trudeau doesn’t have a paid job — she flies around the country giving speeches and promoting the work of charitable causes for free.

Granted, Grégoire Trudeau appears to be enjoying her new status and using it for good — especially with her work on tackling eating disorders. She would love to do more charity work and represent more not-for-profits but…

She can’t.

She has help and can seemingly get through the workload she has now. But take on more? No, not possible. Not unless she had more help, which she wasn’t actually requesting in this particular interview, but made the mistake of admitting she needed (the PM’s office is reportedly looking for a second staffer to assist her).

Sophie Trudeau’s broken the myth about “having it all” and people are unhappy. In such a myth, you simply pretend you’re coping absolutely fine with the many responsibilities you have. You never admit that you’re at capacity and couldn’t possibly do more activities. You certainly never suggest you feel “overwhelmed”, especially if you have help available.

And especially don’t be glamorous and admit you’re overwhelmed. It you’re busy and happen to manage looking beautiful at the same time, then you absolutely have no right to declare you can’t take on additional charity work. You have if all! Give, give, give more!

CBC News suggests Grégoire Trudeau’s been the victim of Tall Poppy Syndrome. Smart, beautiful, popular: Canadians can’t stand a ‘Tall Poppy’, the article suggests, and they just had to hack her down to size.

Australians too have an issue with ‘tall poppies’. Would we react the same way to a woman is such a position feeling overwhelmed?

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