And then one day I woke up and I felt as if the concrete coat of shoulds had taken over my body. I was suffocating from a world that had been shoulding on me for years and I had only one person to blame . . . myself. Although some of those shoulds were reasonable many of them weren’t, so why was I listening? Why couldn’t I ignore them and do what seemed right for my family and myself? Where was that feisty girl who wanted to be an author when she grew up, who rode her bike no handed, and wrote a letter to president Nixon to tell him that he wasn’t a very good president (prior to our knowledge that he was a crook)? Where was the outspoken feminist who went head to head with the dishwasher repairman over gender roles and who should do the dishes (that was a risky move in that I LOVE my dishwasher)? It turns out that Ms. No handed bike riding, future author, outspoken feminist, political junky, was carrying 1,000 pounds of concrete shoulds with her everywhere she went. It’s not so easy to be a pain in the butt when you have that on your back!
So I started to peel the concrete layers off of me bit by bit. I took out my bicycle (I’m 50 now so I keep both hands on the handlebars), I write a snarky blog, and I went back to a career that makes me jump out of bed with joy every single day. I looked around and noticed that I wasn’t the only one wearing the concrete coat of shoulds; lots of women are sporting the look this season. Their eyes look wary and exhausted, shoulders hunched over, and personalities that seem brittle from over functioning and lack of humor. The author Anna Quindlen wrote this about us martyr mamas, “There’s the problem with turning motherhood into martyrdom. There’s no way to do it and have a good time.” That Anna is a wise one and clearly not wearing the concrete coat of shoulds.
So women out there, this is my call to arms for you. Take off that concrete coat of shoulds, drop the mama martyr act and start having some fun. What do YOU want to do with your life? What makes YOU tick? No shoulds, no guilt, no keeping up with the Jones family, just you and your family figuring out how to make it work for all of you. Quit shoulding on yourself and letting others do the same. Own your life, model it for your children, and start living.