As a parent there are moments of my day when a small inner-voice tells me what I should be doing differently. My inner-voice might demand that I start dinner when all I want to do is sit down and have a cup of tea, with my feet up. That same inner-voice might scold me for serving pizza without a vegetable ("who cares that the crust and sauce are homemade, we need a vegetable!"). Even tonight as I was putting my daughter to sleep with a Spring cold I ran through the "shoulds" which may have prevented her sniffles and sneezes. The shoulds in our life can be an incredible guidance tool but they also can be a barrier to our own happiness.
Each of us carry our own shoulds. They can be important tools used to create guidelines; helping our children understand boundaries, routines and schedules. They can also lead to undeserving anxiety and frustration. One of the biggest struggles I am still learning to overcome is battling the shoulds in my life. Sometimes they are internal, coming from within and a desire to be better. Often times I find that my should's are external voices, clips of other people's opinions about what my life should be. Some come from my friends and family, some from my daughter's teachers or friend's parents and others from complete strangers. From a very young age we are conditioned to hear from others what we should be doing. Or parents tell us we should be doing homework, cleaning our room or brushing our teeth. Our teachers tell us we should be doing homework, focusing on the future and doing extra credit. Our friends tell us what music we should be listening to, what clothes we should be wearing and what image we should portray.
Suddenly there comes a point in life, which for me was parenting, when I realized the exhaustion of the shoulds, of being and doing and giving simply because it was expected of me. There is something about becoming a parent that allowed me to see the larger picture of life, love, self-image and being. My daughter is the first person in this world to not should me. I think that our children are the purest form of who we are. They do not expect anything from us, we deliver to them what we can and they thank us for it by loving us no matter who we are. I try and use this incredible experience of parenting to see myself as my daughter sees me. Not caring if the house is perfectly clean or the laundry is done, not caring if she gets pizza without a vegetable or ice-cream as an afternoon snack. My daughter provides me with healthy shoulds: I should be happy, I should be kind, I should be forgiving and honest, I should laugh for no reason and cry when I am sad, I should eat ice-cream on a hot summer day. These shoulds are the first in my life that really make sense and that allow me to should myself into happiness rather than into a place of anxiety and fear.
Maya Angelou reminds us that being present and shedding the shoulds is best practice when she says: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." Rather than focusing on what we should be doing, I urge you to shed your shoulds, forgive yourself and allow who you are to be more than okay. Whether you are a woman, a man, a parent, a friend, a daughter, a son, a lover or above all, a human being, you are allowed to stumble, trip, fall and learn from all that life gives you. Shed all your shoulds but one, because you should be yourself.
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.