Abandoning “Should”:: You Don’t Have to Do it All

Recently two of my favorite podcasters, Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers from Pantsuit Politics, were discussing the concept of “abandoning should”. The comment was made that in 2020, we all had way too much “should” in our lives – enough to last us the rest of our lives. {Global pandemics will do that, I guess!} Sarah went on to list off a number of things that are often swirling around in her head as things she “should” do and then posed the questions, “Who am I should-ing for? Why am I should-ing?.”

Abandoning "Should":: You Don't Have to Do it AllThat’s when the lightbulb went off in my brain. I am an enneagram type 2 {“The Helper”} and a self described people pleaser. There is constant background noise in the back of my head that I could easily describe as a “should soundtrack” of sorts:: I “should” spend more time doing XYZ, I “should” be calling/writing to check in on family members more often, I “should” focus on less screen time for my kids, I “should” do a better job of keeping up with things around the house, I “should” find cooler birthday gifts for my kids’ friends, etc. It’s madness! But hearing the concept of “abandoning should” almost felt like a mental permission slip to finally give myself a break and focus on what actually matters to me and my family.

There are obviously many times in life where we have to rise to the occasion and make sacrifices to get things done. That is just part of life. But as the podcaster pointed out, we often find more space to rise to the occasion and care for ourselves or other people more when we can let the “should” go.

Must Do vs Should Do

When I think of these terms, here’s how I categorize them::

  • Must Do:: Necessary obligations in life that are often characterized as official rules, and sometimes even laws. I “must” get a passport before my international trip. I “must” wear my seatbelt when I ride in a vehicle. I “must” feed my family daily {as maddening as that is, especially during COVID!}. Love them or hate them, it is hard to get around the “must dos” in our life.
  • Should Do:: Advice or suggestions for various situations, often categorized as personal or moral obligations. I “should” help protect the environment. I “should” eat a balanced diet. I “should” remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to H-E-B. To me, these are often things that we either feel pressured into doing or things that have no immediate consequence if we choose not to do them.

I think we can all agree that there is little head space for many of us to continue with all of the parenting “shoulds” swirling around constantly. Y’all, we have enough on our plates just keeping the basics {i.e. the “must do” items} under control in our lives right now. It feels like most of the past 16 months of this pandemic has been us waking up each day and simply putting one foot in front of the other to make it to the next.

I don’t know about you, but I agree that when I can compartmentalize the “must dos” from the “should dos” in my life and pay less attention to the latter, I experience far less mental stress and am generally happier with more headspace available to care for myself and others.


Abandoning "Should":: You Don't Have to Do it All

Believe it or not, we do not have to act on every “should” in our lives. In fact, having too many of these is dangerous and can spiral out of control very quickly in the era of constant media and intense societal pressure. The next time a decision or a scenario presents itself in your life, I encourage you to take a moment and really examine if that item is a “must do” or a “should do.” If it’s a “must do”, well…then get on with it. But if it’s not, first ask yourself these questions and then decide your course of action::

  • Who am I should-ing for here?
  • Does doing this matter to me right now or will it matter?
  • Why do I think I need to do this?
  • Am I set up for success if I take action?
  • Do I even want to do this?

Taking a healthier approach with managing the “must dos” and the “should dos” in our lives is not only something that supports our own mental health and wellbeing, but it’s also a lifelong skill to teach our kids as well.

The key is doing that quick mental assessment with cycling through the questions above and then moving on once you’ve made your decision. Keep in mind that simply switching from taking on too many “shoulds” in your life to agonizing over your decision to do so does you no good whatsoever and frees up zero headspace. So stand firm in whatever you decide and enjoy your newfound freedom with abandoning should and truly focusing on what matters to you and your family. You have our permission!

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Vicki has always had Texan blood pumping through her veins. Raised in Katy as the oldest of four girls and now a resident of Kingwood, she’s known for her undying and somewhat fanatical love of all things related to H-E-B, Amazon Prime, Taylor Swift, and Texas A&M, her alma mater {WHOOP!}. She has a passion for supporting other working moms in the workplace, as well as military veterans. Married to Paul since 2011 {also an Aggie and a veteran}, she has three kids:: step-daughter Madeline {2003} and sons Hamilton {2014}, and Harrison {2019}. By day, Vicki is a full-time working mom who works in HR and by night she’s a closet “60 Minutes” & “Real Housewives” fan. Always first out on the dance floor for “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Vicki enjoys unwinding with friends over a glass of wine, a new craft brew and/or a H-E-B cheese ball.


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