That was my mentality four years ago when I was stuck in a rut of not really loving motherhood. Essentially I was living my own life, but wanting to live something different. I wanted to look like the perfect family, and felt that I SHOULD be able to do it. I wanted to have those perfect social media moments of romping through the fields laughing and gracefully lifting my kids towards the beautiful sunset as I felt the love of it all in my heart. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. Instead, my reality consisted of a mound of toys surrounding me, 3 kids under the age of 5, one of whom screamed more often than not, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a pile of messy underwear from failed potty training attempts. Looking at my reality and comparing it to what I thought it SHOULD be robbed me of enjoying an entire year of tender moments with my kids. All because of one word: SHOULD.According to Google Dictionary the word “should” suggests an “obligation, a duty, or a criticism.” That definition basically defined me four years ago; a mom filled with obligation, duty, and (self) criticism. What a horrible and miserable way to live! Instead of enjoying the moments I had, I felt I SHOULD change them, make them look better and more fun. Thankfully that all started to change when I realized that the life I had was already beautiful, it was fun, and it was everything I ever wanted. I didn’t “love every minute of my time as a mother,” but I allowed myself to let go of the idea that I SHOULD. I didn’t enjoy the zombie months of sleep deprivation with a newborn who woke me up multiple times each night. I stopped trying to create moments so I could “treasure each and every moment” because really, that’s not possible! I stopped caring if my kids were looking perfect every day because what mattered more was that they were happy; and beyond that, I let go of the obligation of feeling that they SHOULD be anything other than themselves.
As moms we are often the victims of others expectations. It’s not uncommon to hear things like: you SHOULD breastfeed, your baby SHOULD be sleeping through the night by 3 months, you SHOULDN’T ever let your baby sleep with you, you SHOULD get the flu shot, but SHOULDN’T vaccinate. Although they may be well intentioned, all of these represent an opinion. If that opinion doesn’t align with your view as a mom, trying to live up to it will only lead to more stress and feelings of guilt or obligation. It’s not worth it! The only thing moms SHOULD be doing is letting go of that word and the negative feelings that come with it.
Instead trade that word for “what do I really want,” “what aligns with my personal beliefs and expectations,” and “what aligns with my child’s personality?” Those questions will bring more natural and positive options into a mom’s life and will create a sense of joy as she lives what is true for her and her child.
That was my process, and now the way I judge what we do and don’t do in our family. I can now enjoy it knowing that what happens in our home is a product of who we are and what we believe. We aren’t a culmination of other’s obligations or opinions. We are paving our own path, one that works for us, and one we really enjoy.
Now when I look at pictures like these, my heart swells with love. Not because we are who we SHOULD be, but rather, we are who we are and we love each other anyways. I love the silly moments we have, I love the quirky tendencies we now embrace, and I love that every day isn’t picture perfect because through those moments we learn to rely on and love each other even more. Now when I hear people say “love every minute of it” I laugh because I don’t, and that’s ok because I let go of the feeling that I SHOULD.