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 come to conclude that maybe the phrase should go something like this: Behind every successful woman...are her very busy hands, juggling—motherhood, husband, family, career, household responsibilities... and the list goes on!

I met a friend of mine this past Shabbat and she told me what I am hearing from many women. "Chana, I find 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 and to helping them solve their emotional issues with friends at school.

"I find I just don't have any time for ME" "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 alike, liberated, modern thinkers and old-fashioned conservative types.

So what is it, as women, which make us behave this way—putting everyone's needs before our own?

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

I'm sure those are all a part of it, 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 and accept this simply as our role and responsibility.

I think women have an intuitive understanding, that assuming all these roles is the noblest way of defining me.

(Don't misunderstand. I am not trying to say that it's not important for women to find time for themselves—to do the things that they enjoy or that rejuvenates them. Nor am I trying to belittle women's valiant efforts or the difficulties that they overcome to balance all that they do.)

Women often allow themselves to be put into this position

But despite this all, I think, women often allow themselves to be put into this position where others needs take center stage 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 us as humans to accomplish the good (and the bad) in our lives?

Individual motivations vary and are as muti-faceted as our personalities. But there is an underlining denominator. Most of the acts that we do are motivated by how we want to be perceived by others—we want power, we want respect or recognition for how smart or capable we are, for our talents or diversity.

Sometimes, though, it's not the respect or recognition of others that we seek—but our own. In other words, I want to think of myself as a kind-hearted individual, or as a capable being using his or her talents for the betterment of mankind.

So when we get down to the real core of why I do most of what I do, the arrow inescapably points back at me.

Not a pretty scene. In fact, rather self-serving, if you think about it.

This is true even if we think we're doing something because "it's the right thing to do". Say I spent a half hour calling someone just to cheer her. Or maybe I was really exhausted and still pushed myself to 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 wonderful about being such a great person who didn't even have to boast about it. Wow, I must really be something special!

Once again, not a very pretty scene. In fact, even more self-serving than I had originally thought.

I doubt many women pat themselves on the back for getting dinner cooked

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, but not in a way that made you feel what a selfless individual you were, but rather that you were 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 get a smug "well, of course, because it's the RIGHT thing to do."

More often then not, she'll simply say, because it had to get done. Because he was crying. Because he needed me. Or, because 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, its not even about how I view myself.

It's not about my motivations, self-serving or otherwise. Because it's really not about me at all. 

In fact, it took me a long while to think this whole process through, because what woman even has the time or the need to analyze all these underlying motives?

There's far too much that needs to get done!