Beware the "Shoulds"

Ican be my own worst enemy, especially when a new school year and sports season arrives. Many days and nights I have spent asking myself: How did this happen to me? How is it that I have signed up for every single thing related to my kids and their school and sports schedule? I stand in my kitchen, year after year, scratching my head wondering how I am going to make it all happen.

It wasn’t until my third child was going into second grade that some advice I was given many years earlier began to ring true for me. I had the opportunity to meet a film producer of a very well-known movie franchise. He and his wife went to IU and had come back to Indiana to speak at an event. Ever since he was a little boy, this man knew he wanted to produce movies. He went on to tell the story about how nobody took him seriously in the business, so he decided to put himself through law school in his 30’s. He was a family man by then and had to make a living while going to law school at night.

I asked him how he was able to keep such an extreme focus over the years and never lose sight of his dream. He looked me in the eye and said,” I became very good at doing one of the hardest things people have trouble doing – limiting their distractions.”

At the time, I remember thinking that this was a profound statement, although I managed to brush aside such sage advice.

Fast forward to the future. Different school year, different sports season, but same me. I continued to overextend myself and sign up for things that I felt like I should do. That is, until I gave myself a new rule. Anytime the word “should” crossed my mind, I would immediately pump the brakes and ask myself “Do I really want to commit to this or do I just feel like I should?

Once I stopped wasting energy on things I didn’t want to do, I finally had headspace for what I said I didn’t have time for that I really wanted to pursue in my life.

This isn’t easy to do. For moms, “should” can seem like a part of our DNA. The problem with the “should expectation” is that there are literally are no limits or boundaries to it. And very few people will discourage you from volunteering to do more.

I am fully aware that there are many things that we should agree to do that are for the right reasons. The “shoulds” I am referring to are optional – the stuff we busy our lives with before we give ourselves permission to do anything that benefits just us.

As a mom for nearly 15 years, I now realize that the list of requests and distractions will never end. It is up to me to think before I automatically say yes to something I feel like I should do. I’ve learned that saying no to one obligation leaves room to say yes to something you might be waiting to explore – and giving yourself that permission is definitely something you should do.

Mary Susan Buhner is a Life Coach for moms and author of “Mommy Magic: Tricks for Staying Sane in the Midst of Insanity.” Visit her Mommy Magic Fan Page on Facebook and her website at

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