You Know What Will Ruin My Kids?

It’s definitely after midnight when I hear her crying. again.

This isn’t one of those times she’ll just drift off back to sleep.  It’s the third (fourth?) time she’s awoken crying.  I’ve been up and down all night – just falling asleep only to be awoken again.

She’s got to be sick…I don’t feel a fever…what’s going ON!?

I sit by her bed, exhausted, foggy, trying to get her back to sleep, trying to figure out if she’s had a nightmare or if she’s about to puke in my hair.  Perhaps she’s getting a cold….?

I’m so tired.  I’m pleading, “Please,  Z, Mama is tired and she wants to go to bed.  Can you go back to sleep now?  Please?”

I will not let the Should Mama ruin my kids (3)

And then The Guilt starts (It’s 1am, do you know where your guilt is?)

You know, says the voice in my head...

You should stop telling her about how tired you are – it’s teaching her to put others needs ahead of her own.

If you were doing this right you’d come up with a story right now to help her fall asleep.  She would always remember how kind you were at night.  You should be like that.

For that matter, you don’t read picture books to her enough. You should read to her more.

For goodness sake! She fell asleep listening to the Harry Potter with her brothers.  I think maybe you’re ruining her toddlerhood.  I bet she’s crying right now because she’s having terrible Harry Potter nightmares.

And look at this room they share! 

You should have had them clean before bed – look at her, poor girl, she’s taking all her toys onto her bed because she has no clean tidy space.

Toddlers need order. They crave it.  You might be ruining her brain with this mess.

You should get rid of more toys.

You should be telling her a story.

You should get the boys on a better schedule.

You should have made them clean up before bed.

You should have brushed her teeth, not let her do it on her own.

You should teach them better money sense.

You should make them write thank you notes more quickly.

You should eat dinner at the table every night.

You should.

You should.

You should.

You……you know what?

You’re probably ruining your kids.

You should…

Oh my goodness!  I finally snap out of it.

I am squatting, uncomfortably, by my toddler at 1am.

And you know what Should Mama?  I haven’t lost it!  I haven’t snapped at her or used an aggravated voice or walked out in a huff to leave her alone;  I might not be perfect, but I am being patient and loving and back-rubbing and I am so TIRED.  Really, really danged tired.

I’m doing ok here, and I cannot keep trying to be this Should Mama that my insecurities thrust at me.

I sit in the dark rubbing my daughter’s back.  Her perfect little face is finally calm again as she falls asleep, soothed from her discomfort. Safe with her mama’s touch.

Me.  She needs me.  She doesn’t want that other mom who always keeps a clean living room and sings like Snow White.

She doesn’t waste time comparing me to the Should Mama.  She wants her mama here being patient in the dark.

She wants ME.

Getting rid of the shoulds

You know what will ruin my kids? It’s not any of those thing on the list of shoulds.

What will ruin my kid is if I let all of those “shoulds” bury the things that make me, me.

In the early hours of the morning I sit in the bedroom of my sleeping children and make a promise to myself.

My kids may not get someone who has schedules down to a science.  They may not get the mama who always has fun games for clean up time.  They may not get the birthday party perfect mama.

But they WILL GET ME.

And you know what?

I make really good pancakes.

I can make up a silly jingle for any situation.  I know how to do an under-dog push on the swing, make a bridge when I shuffle cards, and I can start a conversation with anyone. I can uplift a friend when they are down, and make a guest feel comfortable in my home. I find the positive side of a problem and I find gratitude in distressing times.

I will not let the Should Mama take that from my kids. I will not waste all of my time comparing myself to her and let her suck the joy out of my parenting.

Oh, I’ll keep learning, I’ll keep questioning. I will look a those ‘shoulds’, but I will not be held hostage by them, because I am somebody right now and my kids need me.

Right now my kids need me.

Banishing the Should Mama - Your Kids Need You

What “should” are you struggling with right now?  What parenting “should” do you have worked up in your mind as that which would make you a much better parent, a worthy and deserving parent?  Is it getting in the way of enjoying the things you ARE good at in parenting?  Could it even be stopping you from shining when your kids would love to see you shine?

That’s what they need.

Your kids need YOU.

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    • Michelle says

      I know I did. I am doing the best darned job that I can, and I don’t need to hear my inner critic anymore. Free at last. Onward.

  1. Elizabeth says

    This is SO timely for me. I had another night last night of the shoulds and the need tos and the guilt concerning my toddlers. I LOVE this and thank you for sharing.

  2. says

    That I shouldn’t let them watch so much tv even though I’m exhausted, 13 weeks pregnant and trying to still manage 3 meals a day when I haven’t had a kitchen because we are in the midst of redoing it. Kitchen cabinets got finished today, I finally got water back in the kitchen today but not the dishwasher. I am washing dishes in my tiny bathroom sink, and have been for a week.

    That I should have their homeschooling together more, after all the year has started, I should be able to get them to do work even though all I want to do is sleep.

    That I should be able to be more of a parent and have more energy for them even though I’m exhausted and Daddy works 2 hours away from home and won’t be home until tomorrow night.

    Yes its a relief to have someone say they just want me as imperfect as I am and I can only laugh and say thank God because I don’t see how I can be any more imperfect. It has been a rough night can you tell? I don’t feel like I’ve shined tonight. :(

    • says

      ((hugs)) ((hugs)) ((hugs)) Oh my goodness. I remember starting a kitchen remodel just after our second child was born. It was insanity. Then right after we had our third we opened a new business (I think we were like, “Hey, I know, let’s do ALL out transitions at once!) At any rate, sometimes it’s just nuts. Our kids remember things much differently than we do – so hopefully all that upheaval, or the weird homeschooling while exhausted time – hopefully they’ll remember the bright spots that aren’t even noticing. All my best to you!

    • Kelly S says

      I don’t have little ones or a kitchen being remodeled, but I do know my mom did the best she could as a single mom with 2 kids and I’m sure you’re doing wonderfully for all the things you have working against you right now. Big hugs and props to you. :)

  3. Darlene says

    Very Nice read. It brought tears to my eyes. I had a tough
    Day today with my 2 kids. I felt like a horrible mom. Reading this just helped
    To remind me that my kids just need me. Thank You

  4. Margaret says

    I so needed this today! I am a single parent and I’m always thinking of how thing should be. Thanks for making me stop shoulding all over myself! Lol

  5. says

    Oh goodness – I just had 3 nights of traveling alone with my 2 little ones who slept terribly, so we all ended up in the same bed – that way I could leap to action when the next night terror struck (my nearly 4yo had 5 of them last night). So I feel ya. And those shoulds. I have them about many things, but try my best to force them down, sweep them out – they’re not welcome in my mental or emotional space. They bring nothing but negativity – I don’t let my friends or family talk to me that way, I try hard not to let ME talk to me that way either!

    On another note, Ella (my near-4yo) had some lovely insight the other day as she told me how “kind” I am. “Momma, you’re so kind. Even when you’re frustrated you’re so kind. Even when I’m having troubles and you get angry you’re kind…” So even in those moments when I loose it, when I’m not my best (because I am human), when I’m wishing for a do-over, my little ones still love me, look up to me, think I’m “kind.” So I must be doing something right. And so are you :) xo, Andrea

    • says

      Thanks Andrea – I like your point about how you don’t let others talk to you like that, so why let yourself do so? And What a sweet moment for you from Ella <3 Thanks again. ~Alissa

  6. Amber says

    Yes thank you. I ALWAYS have shoulds, they are incessant. My biggest is working full-time, but my Mother worked full-time and I turned out just fine. A great reminder it’s ok to be human.

  7. Shelby says

    WOW! I cannot tell you how many times I have felt like this. Thank you for sharing. We (mothers) need to share our insecurities and struggles because we all have them and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one!! Thank you for your honesty and for putting yourself out there.

  8. says

    Good on you! I need to make sure I allow myself time away from my work and my after work work (freelance work can really eat into your time) and just relax with my daughter. you’re so right, that’s all they need – just you, warts and all!

  9. Sarah says

    Oh, goodness. I’m adjusting to the switch (just in the last six months) from being a stay at home mom to being a sole-custody, working, single mom. Last night, I was trying to cram everything that I used to fit into an entire day into the hours between a hard day’s work and bedtime. When I laid down next to my little boy at his bedtime, I was covered in a heavy layers of “shoulds” and “wish it weres” unto the point of tears. I don’t know if I’m hurting him long-term, but I do know I’m doing the best I can. I just pray he remembers the good more than the bad when he looks back.

  10. Amy says

    Oh, I needed this. Tears streamed down my face as I read your beautiful words. That Should Mama is a mean one and has been after me all morning. Giving myself grace and telling that Should Mama to shut it. :)

  11. says

    Needed to read this. Glad I’m not alone in the should thinking, and for the encouragement to just be my best me.

  12. says

    Thank you for so beautifully articulating the chasm between the “should” or “ought” parent and the parent I need to be here and now. When we release ourselves from thoughts of the future or regrets of the past, we free ourselves to be fully present, which is what our children not only deserve, but truly need. Again, thank you!

    • says

      “…we free ourselves to be fully present, which is what our children not only deserve, but truly need.” Well put Josh, thank you! I think also, while we may have a hard time sometimes looking at ourselves and “deserving” We too deserve this time of being present. We deserve the joy that can bring to our parenting.

  13. says

    What an amazing reminder. I had a night like that last night. While waiting to move into our new home, it’s three of us in one room and I really needed to read this for my sanity and for my relationship with my son. Thank you for your honesty!

  14. says

    I’m struggling with a jillion “shoulds”. Many sound like yours, and many are even more painful…having to do with wondering if I’ve failed to support or nurture one of my twins, who is having so many problems that I’ve lost all focus. I should snap out of it. And now I add “I should sing those little any-task songs I used to make up when they were babies!” to the list. Thanks a lot. 😉 I think I’m depressed. I shouldn’t be. I should be sitting with them right now while they eat chips. I shouldn’t feed them chips.

  15. says

    Beautiful post, Alissa. The should monster that gets me is “I should be cooking my kids “real dinners” more often.” The stupid thing is my kids don’t care. I actually get less complaints when I prepare a no-cook meal like tonight’s was a selection of apple slices, smoothie, popcorn, rice Chex, and yogurt. And this is not a once in awhile meal for us. We have popcorn for dinner usually once a week. A perfectly healthy meal, but I was still beating myself up about it. But still I read the FB posts with friends sharing homecooked from scratch dinners and our dinner took me 20 minutes to put together. You are so right. My kids are just happy to be eating a meal they enjoy with our family. It doesn’t matter to them that it was an easy meal.

  16. says

    Thanks for this! I am sitting here with all kinds of emotions as my oldest child is at his first school dance. It’s easy to look at the years that have flown by and think of all the “what-ifs”. Instead I am going to go sit down with my other 2 kids who are waiting for me to watch a movie with them. I only have this moment to be the best that I can be. :)

    • says

      Thank you for your beautiful reminder here Kat. It’s powerful to hear from moms with kids a few years older than mine! I hope he had a good time at the dance! <3

  17. Jen says

    Good for you breaking through to the truth, I feel this way, but it’s always so good to be reminded!!Especially this time of year when we see all the kids going back to school, and we see their perfect clothes, organization, etc etc, I remind myself these times to, my kids are well taken care of, I do my best, and it is what it is , we make the best of what we got and try to always be happy.

  18. Latosha says

    You have NO IDEA how much I needed this right now! Thank you! I was just sitting here on the verge of tearing myself to shreds before I read this.

  19. says

    My Should Mama rears its head at bedtime, or approx. 2am if awoken. I recall one episode where we’d had a lovely day, my daughter was about 2, we’d been swimming. In the middle of the night I sat next as she fell to sleep, feeling as though I had committed the worst crime ever as I felt her head and realised her hair was still damp underneath – I’d tied it up too soon after washing. Literally I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of failure. Shouldn’t I have checked? What was I thinking? Personally I think it stems from a realisation that we are vulnerable (which we all are) and a desire to protect our children to the upmost – but it manifests itself in these practical ways – because these are things we ‘should’ be able to control.
    There’s an advert running at the moment in the UK which I like the strapline to (not an ad-fan usually but occasionally they are a good piece of art/entertainment). It shows mother’s with their babies – struggling with these issues. And the strapline is ‘You’re Doing Great’.
    I’ve started saying that (outloud) to myself when ‘Should Mama’ taps on my shoulder.

  20. Amy says

    I’m stuck in the middle of a constant tug-of-war between Should Mama and her ugly twin sister Shouldn’t Have Mama. I have this marvelous dream of motherhood (in it I look a lot like Donna Reed…): I will be patient and loving and kind; I will be fun and joyful and a delight; I will make cherished memories and a golden happy childhood for my three boys and never EVER shout or nag or complain or just plain LOSE IT! Well, the inevitable happens- despite my best intentions, sometimes I shout, nag, complain and lose it and then the Shouldn’t Have guilt sets in. I end up wallowing in all the mistakes I’ve ever made as a mom and replaying on an endless loop how I’ve probably ruined my children for the rest of their lives. But you’re absolutely right. From now on I’m going to tell Should Mama and Shouldn’t Have Mama to buzz off, and I’m going to let Perfectly Imperfect Mama shine: she reads stories with silly voices, she knows just what to do for every boo-boo and upset tummy, she can crochet a blankie, make the best chocolate chip cookies ever, say the alphabet backwards, create the pyramids out of sugar cubes, is ALWAYS ready for a hug, makes her kids laugh til they hiccup, and reminds them that she will kiss them in public for the rest of their lives so get used to it. I think that gal trumps the Should Sisters any day!! Thanks for reminding us that our children don’t want perfect. They want US.

    • Ali says

      Oh yes, you said it perfect, I don’t really have the should mama that much, just the shouldn’t have mama , for sure. Every night playing out things in my head, how I will be calm, not yell etc etc. but my little guy (being that age of 3.75) just pushes my buttons and hits the nerve, then boom. I yell, which is the #1 thing i hate and i know its not even effective, and i dont like my 18 month old seeing me react that way either, but i just cant help it. Sometimes he is so loud that i yell to snap him out of his tantrum :( Then the shouldn’t have mumma is going for it on me. But yes. your all right- lets think of the amazing things we do and the fact that we are all trying is also another amazing thing we can be proud of. Thats the best we can do. (even writing this though, that shouldnt have mama is still lurking :(

  21. Jenny G. says

    This post is perfect, perfect, perfect. Thanks for the reminder that we ARE enough!

  22. says

    I love this so much! I should myself every hour of the day. I need to stop. My boys love me just as I am. Thank you for writing this!

  23. Kelly S says

    This should be required reading for those of us who haven’t had our babies yet but still aren’t sure if we have what it takes if we do. Good to know that with all the “shiny happy perfect moms” there are those who question themselves and admit that they do it; for some reason, it’s comforting. I think it’s human to question yourself, and compassionate to admit it.. because it lets others know they aren’t alone.

  24. Maribel says

    Thank you so much! Your words brought tears to my eyes as I just had this conversation with myself lately so many times, they should mama has been ruining a lot of things for me. Beautifully said, thank you. You made me feel like I am not alone and somehow a big weight was lifted of my shoulders….

  25. says

    Love this! I am in a tough spot because I am staying at my parents. It’s tough when they ask questions… Why are you doing this… Etc… It’s hard enough to silence the should mama, without having someone else questioning you. I had to tell myself that the choice I made (when questioned) was because it was the choice that helped me not lose my cool and helped me be the most loving towards my son. It wasn’t a choice (from the outside) that my parents could understand and they sigh loudly and seem frustrated and annoyed at some of my choices. They even expressed concern with what my choice could mean down the road and I said that I chose LOVE…. My choice was the best one for our mother and son relationship in the short term and the long term, but man it’s tough living under other people’s scrutiny at your decisions both big and small.

  26. Africa S lopezdeAlonso says

    This is so lovely, Thank you for sharing and remind me the thing we should be doing.

  27. Heather says

    Dear Lord I needed this today! Thank you for the little pick me ups every time your email is in my inbox. Parenting is so difficult sometimes, that doubt that you have done the right thing, the guilt that you may have screwed everything up and just trying to be the best in every area, every. single. day. Lol! I remember a time when I could focus on one single thing like my job and I was the best at it, man those times are long gone. How simpler times were then! I am lucky if I am even good at blinking some days! Strangely, that little sweet potato loves me anyway! Ladies…I believe Alissa has given us all a huge hug today! You all are awesome mamas, just working with what you have! Thanks Alissa!

  28. Joy says

    thank you so much for this! I came across your page by accident, but boy! am i glad that i did! i, too, am a should mama. this was perfect timing!

  29. says

    Thank you for this. I’m not having the best mama week and hate how I’ve shouted at my little by today. This post have reminded me of a few things I really need reminding of. ?

  30. says

    this is wonderful…we love our kids so much we want to be perfect for them but the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect just causes pain. thank you for an acknowledgement and encouragement to let the “should mama” go….

  31. says

    I know it isn’t good but there isn’t a day that I don’t have second thoughts about my parenting choices…working, not working, nanny, homework, challenging activities, etc. I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon :)

  32. Patti says

    Thanks so much for this post. I have “mommy guilt” daily (heck, hourly) & almost never feel like I am doing enough. This is a good reminder that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

  33. Julia says

    This is so wonderful, it really hit home – thank you, Alissa!
    I am going to print out this post and pin it up inside the cupboard door for when I am at my lowest ebb (usually late at night when the kids have gone to bed and I am feeling bruised from whatever the day has brought).
    When I next confront the howling abyss between the perfect mother I always thought I would be and the reality, I am going to grab this long list (thank you everyone for your brilliant comments) and stop those negative feedback loops in their tracks!
    In many ways I am a brilliant mum, and I should stop focussing on the negative and instead write out a list of what I do well to counteract my inner-critic. In fact I’m tempted to make an effigy of Should-Mum and Shouldn’t Mum and burn them on November 5th, in place of Guy Fawkes, and let the Phoenix of Positivity arise…….any mums feel like joining me?

  34. Dorothy says

    This is a great read! Thank you for sharing. I am currently stuck on the feeling that my house should be immaculate and my child should be doing Pinterest activities every day. Ugh One day I will realize that my child is happy and that’s all that matters!

  35. stephanie says

    I just wanted to tell you that I absolutely love this! It was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much!

  36. Darla says

    My children are grown with their own families now. I wish someone would have shown me this all those many years ago. Reading this almost plants feelings of guilt over things I missed AND some of those hit pretty close to home. I have 2 grandchildren in high school and a 6 year and 2 year old. I’ll share this and thank you!

  37. says

    Thank you for this wonderful blog!
    It is perfect for my website and it’s going on my FB page right now!
    I’m a full time caregiver and a Mom!
    My kids have grown up being young caregivers and we’ve muddled through as best we could.
    The ‘should’ moma has been in my ear more times than I care to remember and I’ve been forced to ignore her and keep on muddling through….. but you know what? My daughter is 13 yrs old now but she has daily Mummy cuddles (hugs) and she tells me she always feels better after them! So your blog is absolutely spot on! :)

  38. says

    Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing! The “should mommy” definitely resides within me. Now that she has been outed hopefully she will be around less often.

  39. Jenava says

    I had a therapist after a severe bout of Postpartum. After listening one day, she calmly said, “you need to stop should-ing all over yourself”. HA! Then she gave me the best advice which was to replace the word should with the word COULD! It’s a complete mental shift!

  40. says

    Oh, honey. You’ve got something with this post. I thought I was the only mom who pleaded with her children to go back to sleep, and then cried myself back to sleep having listened to the ‘shoulds.’ Thank you for articulating it.

  41. Anna says

    My “should mumma” moment atm is all about the tv….. but then im reminded that we dont live in sn ideal world and the isolation is murderous and mind numbing. I feel this greatly in our society having no real connection to community. The ancient within me craves the tribe we use to cherrish. So I use the tv way too much and I beat mysekf up.

    • Janet says

      Anna, I can remember days I felt that way when I was at home full time with my two girls and receiving no help or support. In looking back I wish I had walked to the neighbors with a plate of cookies instead of wishing someone would bring me one. I wish I had gone to the library children’s reading hour. I might have met a mom with two children who also needed to make a friend. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of taking the first step. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

  42. Heather Commet says

    Amazing timing. I just walked out of my room where my lil girl is soundly sleeping. Yes, she is 7 and we snuggle every night (normally in my bed) till she falls asleep. Tonight she cried because I have to go back to work and the hours just happen to be night shift. So tonight was the last time for who knows how long that we will get to snuggle at bedtime. I cried, I felt the should’s coming on…. This was just what I needed to read. Thank you for sharing that we are not alone in this feeling and WHO CARES!? :)

  43. Donna says

    Thank you <3 I am haunted by the SHOULD Mumma, but you've helped put it in perspective :)
    Also, I thought I was the only one who sang jingles about lots of everday activities with my kid. So thanks again, now I know I'm not some lone weirdo. lol

  44. Sara says

    It’s so funny that we all give ourselves such a hard time believing that so many others have it all together being the should mummy we think we should be. I related so much to this and felt relieved someone else out there had the same thoughts I have. Then to see all the comments with the same relief…..I feel somewhat validated that I’m ok. Why we continue to give ourselves such a hard time I’m not sure. Maybe because we just want to be the best we can for those precious little angels. Thank you for this. x

  45. Lynn says

    I always have the”should mama” over making a choice between going to work or staying home when one of my babies (2 yrs boy and 8 mnth old girl) are sick. I have a salary office job and can never decide what “shoulds” I should be doing.

  46. Tracy D Walter says

    I went to a seminar one time and the speaker said, “Never SHOULD on yourself” Should being an synonym for (Sh*t). It always stuck… they also said that “doubt means no”. I wish I had learned that as a young adult.

  47. says

    Beautiful article! Being a working mom, you cannot help but have this awful feeling of being stuck between 2 “shoulds”.

  48. says

    Thank you. Last night I said to my friend that “parenting is a mine field”. We are constantly worrying about what our actions (or maybe lack of action) is doing to our kids. This post made me take a step back and see it for what it is. My son needs me. Nothing more. Thank you so much for sharing.

  49. Agata says

    Brought tears to my eyes. .. thank you for your lovely article and sharing this with us.

  50. Danielle Thiel says

    thank you! i cried reading this! more moms need to hear things like this! thank you!

  51. Kk says

    Sorry to be the one to bust up the mutual admiration fest going on here, but while your post is sweet, it speaks volumes about what is really wrong in a lot of the current popular thought on child rearing in America .
    To me, it seems what you describe herein is more about meeting your own emotnal needs than what is effective parenting.
    I advocate a lot more starch when I’m tired, and a kid is up AGAIN for no good reason. You’re the adult, take charge, run the show. It’s late, I’m tired, you should not be up. After I have ascertained that the child is not unwell, it’s back to bed, end of story. No huffing, or unpleasantries, just goodnight. If the child persists, I will communicate my disappointment and displeasure. Perhaps they’ll cry a bit. But a few tears won’t do any harm, and will probably serve to wear the wee one out.
    Set the bar high, clearly communicate the expectation, and the kid will probably exceed it more often than not. THAT is joyful parenting.

    • mdc says

      You so completely have missed the point that it makes me wonder how you ended up on this blog and what struck a chord to keep you reading. It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be the common feeling most of us experience that we so desperately want to do right by our kids that we end up paralyzed by it from time to time.

      • Kk says

        Your kid isn’t going to grow up strong and secure watching you paralyzed with second guessing yourself! If this is paralyzingly, what in heavens name will you do in a crisis?
        You love your kid, right? Then you do what is best. You BE the MOM. Have the courage of your convictions.
        I’ve been a mom for 27 years now. Quite successfully, I might add.
        Dont second guess yourself. Set limits, set expectTions, communicate clearly and from a position of authority. You’re in charge. Otherwise no one is. And that’s not very comforting to anyone, least of all a child.

        • says

          I am not here to argue this about the going to bed thing, but the main point of my article was empowering people to know that they are worthy and loved and needed, just as they are – without having the perfect answer every time. We are all more freed, and better able to set those limits and “be the mom” when we can accept that we don’t have to be perfect about it. And yes – @mdc – paralyzed by that wish to do right is certainly a feeling I’ve experienced.

          • Kk says

            That paralyzingly desperation you ladies speak of is so foolish it boggles my mind. I believe our children are a gift, and that we have a moral obligation to be the best parents possible. Desperation and paralyzingly self doubt are pretty sad and unhealthy platforms to operate from in any circumstance, least of all parenting. Rather than wallowing in a maudlin episode of exploration of this sorry state, snap out of it! LEAD your family with courage, in faith that your decisions Re the right ones because they are motivated by love, and nothing else. That’s not always a mamby pamby love either. Love can be curt, or firm, or even harsh at times. But this whole deer in the headlights should I, shouldn’t I, we’re all perfect just as we are thing is not gonna set anyone up for success in modern life. Why even entertain that should I, shouldn’t I loop? You know in your heart what is needed. Second guessing oneself is a really dangerous trap. Kid is real sick? Stay home. Kid is up for the umpteenth time tonight for no good reason? Back to bed, non negotiable. Kid not behaving? Lay down the law, and enforce it.
            Raising kids is not some new science. And a trip to dinner in a restaurant or church on any given day illustrates the epidemic proportion of how sadly many parents are failing. This particular blog post is a symptom of that. Just because somebody blogs, does NOT make it true, or even a good idea. This is a case in point.

          • says

            Kk – in some respects you and I are saying the same thing – stop shoulding on yourself and embrace being who you are and be a confident mom. In fact, I’m fairly sure if we met in person you would find my children to be extremely well behaved and myself to be confident and values driven in my parenting and life. I, however, would not ever claim to not have doubts and to not make mistakes. Like many of my readers I am a strong person who has lived and grown through challenges, grief and upheaval. I am also flawed – we all have our struggles. Learning about boundary and limit setting is my work to do in parenting – not everyone has children at the point in their life when they have it all worked out. At any rate – one of the boundaries I am setting is that I am stopping this conversation now. I really love talking with my readers, but my faith is grounded in treating everyone with dignity and respect and when a conversation takes on an accusatory/disrespectful slant it stops. Your comments will be moderated and not posted if they are going to add to the site in an inflammatory manner.

          • BunnyFufu says


            I just read through the comments, which I hadn’t before I wrote my blog and posted here that I like it. I really hope that you are not mistaking me for your commenter Kk. I do not think you are a bad parent or that your article is a symptom of bad parenting. Totally the opposite! I think what you wrote is great and obviously really helpful and insightful.

            I have totally felt doubt and have made/continue to make mistakes. I had just not felt that particular thing — that you expressed about fearing that you were teaching your kiddo to put others needs before her own. I definitely want my kids to have healthy self-esteem, but I think that they are total juggernauts of self-esteem. They are teenie-tiny powerhouses of will. My ‘shoulds’ are just different.

            And I completely agree with you. It is really important for moms to hear that they are the parent their child needs. Parenting is like yoga. There is no perfect. It is a practice, that you get to continue growing with.

          • mdc says

            I’m just so curious about what brought Kk to this blog and made her read on. I can tell you that I found a pin on Pinterest and then started reading other posts. I related completely to everything Alissa wrote about, as well as every comment posted by another reading. Then I read Kk’s comment and it stood out like a sore thumb. Every post by Alissa, and every comment to her posts (except Kk’s) were positive, uplifting and enlightening about the common (at least common to everyone but Kk the expert) struggle we moms face each and every day as we work so hard to be the best and do the best for our children. Kk’s comment was in such opposition to that that I felt compelled to reply to her comment. Again, unfortunately most of us arent the expert at parenting that she apparently is. And just for clarification, I do not act paralyzed with my kids. That is a feeling I experience. Though I will also say that allowing our children to see our weak moments when we have them makes those same moments teaching moments. Humans cant be strong and confident 100% of the time. If we dont show our children when they are young that there will be times when you arent 100% strong and confident, that that is okay, and how to handle those times, then they will struggle severely when they inevitably experience those moments.

        • Smitty says

          I truly wish I could be the super mother that you are. As the newbie mom of a 14 month old who is teething (one who was a great sleeper up until recently I might add), I do this fretting more often than I like. I completely understand your logic of “we ARE the law”, but seriously? You’ve NEVER had a weak, uncertain moment? I may have only been mom for 14 months, but I will gladly relay your cutting remarks to my mother, who is the mother of a 29 and 27 year old, just how far superior you are to her.
          I, for one, found this blog piece encouraging, seeing that I’m not alone in the “what if I did this or that differently?” mentality, and I need to stop second guessing what I am doing as a parent.

  52. Robyn says

    Thank you for this. This was beautifully written & honest.
    Reading this has inspired me to stop worrying so much about everything I “should” be doing, & focus on what’s going on at the time. I need to learn to be more patient, & this was definitely something I needed to read.

  53. says

    I hear you, Mama! Thank you for sharing. I have 5 kids, all of them were great sleepers except for my youngest and only boy. He went almost a year without sleeping through the night and I thought I would never survive. I would go into his room angry, and tired, and frustrated, and sad….etc. What do you need? Why don’t I know? You are my fifth kid! One day a friend told me…”he just needs you more”. From that day on, each time I would go into his room I would say out loud to myself…”he just needs me more”. Then all I ever felt for him was love and love and love. I thought it would never end. It did. And now he sleeps in a dorm room too far away.

  54. says

    Wow! This is such a confirming post for me! My kids are always telling me that I’m great, but that Should Mama always finds a reason to minimize it, which actually makes them feel a little uncomfortable (they’ve told me they don’t like it). Well ya know…Should Mama his gonna have to take deal with Could Mama today! Thanks for this! It’s so easy to get sucked into the should and miss the things we did and put off the things we can, because we’re stuck in Should land.

  55. says

    Thank you for this.

    Thank you for the reminder that being there is enough, and that our kids simple need us to be there. They don’t care if we are perfect.

    Thank you so much.

  56. Napua says

    Oh my gosh. Thank you for relieving me of my constant shoulds! Phew, it isn’t just me.

  57. Rebecca says

    Reminds me of what a wise woman once told me: “Stop should-ing all over yourself.”

  58. Cristina Coro-Dickson says

    I just discovered your blog and cannot thank you enough for your courage to share the truth – for it is validating everything I feel and am struggling with at the moment. After a nasty “mama tantrum” this week, I realized that I have to shift my thinking somehow in order to TRY to stop yelling and spiraling down into the dark pit of parenting. I am finding much comfort in your posts and am printing a few out to keep on my fridge. Your words are most nourishing.

  59. katie s says

    Great post, really spoke to me as the overworked, stressed & usually feeling I “should” be a better mama to our 4 kids.

  60. Terrie says

    I love the personal motto: “Thou shalt not “should” on thyself!” Wonderfully written!

  61. Jess says

    Man-oh-man, I needed to read this this morning. I could kiss ya, for your words! Thank you thank you thank you!

  62. Katie says

    I LOVED this post. Ive been struggling with this SOOOO much lately! It’s slowly moving in the right direction (very slowly) but I’m glad I’m not the only should momma out there. <3

  63. says

    Should is a dangerous and violent word! Shoulds and shouldn’ts always cause trouble and do not represent any reality – they represent someone’s opinion, or an opinion we have allowed entrance into our psyche.
    Let’s not ‘should’ ourselves, or ‘should’ our children.

  64. Elizabeth Bruchon says

    How simple it would have been to lie down with her and both sleep peacefully! She is big enough that you couldn’t suffocate her, if that is a worry. She would gracefully learn to sleep in her own bed, but when not feeling well or when having nightmares, or just feeling out of sorts, the easiest solution and quickest, is sleeping with her because it is so comforting! I did it whenever needed, and have 4 totally independent adult children now.

  65. says

    Yes. So true.

    (And our houses sound so similar – I have a toddler girl stuck in a room full of big kids too, to make room for her baby brother’s crib in the next room). Peace to you!

  66. Danielle says

    Excellent post! Love it and in answer to your question I normally hear the should do more crafts, should do cute things from pinterest, should do more science experiments, etc. etc. etc.

  67. Sharon Howarth says

    Well done for deleting the post. I grew up with parents who thought telling me i was fat, ugly and stupid was funny. Since i left home, i have got a degree, a teaching qualification, a masters degree, a fab husband, two wonderful kids and own my home outright – yet still i have the lowest self esteem – i assume compliments on my appearance are sarcasm, my successful career in education was a fluke and i now work in retail on minimum wage because i don’t deserve a better job. People rarely consider the long term effects of their words. My kids never will suffer this – both my kids are told how fab they are every day.

  68. Nicole Ross Kazikiewicz says

    Well said! Thank you for writing this, I think its a message that needs to be read often and passed around.

  69. Missy Hyde Bystedt says

    Great post! The strength it takes to ask for help should only be answered with a suggestion to help make a positive change and a positive acknowledgement of the strength it took to ask!

  70. Jeannette Simko Longo says

    Social media has broken down appropriate social barriers. Can you imagine someone saying the same to your face? It happens, I know, but rarely. And women are being horribly cruel to each other. What is going on?

  71. Kate Fairley says

    That’s terrible. Please try to forget those words and start believing those who really care about you

  72. Selena Brennan says

    Sharon Howarth, I hope you also tell yourself how fab YOU are every day.

  73. Hallie Davis Doyle says

    My kids are older…it’s such a process not giving energy to the ” should mama”! Thanks so much for this!

  74. Eve Stone says

    Sharon Howarth, u sound like you are the most amazing person …… All you need to add to your many successes is belief – in yourself. X

  75. Blanca Duarte says

    Truly respect your openness to share. Expression of feelings and open communication is the road to full acceptance of one’s self. Powerful words. Thanks you!

  76. Rick Mohabir says

    When you become a parent you are given the most important job in the world. Kids don’t come with an owners manual. As parents we learn as we go we make mistakes we try to correct them and do better . Every child is different and no ONE single way works for every child.

  77. Shannon Elizabeth Mununggurr says

    You are definitely not alone!
    At that moment we are always striving to do our very best, yes we ALL make mistakes but we still strive to do our best. We mums are the only (please dads do not take offense) people on earth who know what is best for our children and no one knows them like us.
    Don’t beat yourself anymore you are a wonderful mother please believe n take care

  78. Redjess81 says

    This was fantastically written! I have the shoulds about being a wife too. My hubby and I were in counseling and that came up as one of my issues- too much pressure on myself to be what I thought I *should* be. I’ve started saying to myself- you can only so what you can do. Some days it’s a lot. Some days it’s less. But it’s my best for that day. Same with being a mom. You can only do what you can do that day. Thank you for articulating it so well!

  79. Lesley Losiewski says

    Thank you for the lovely post. Even though my daughters are 25 and 29, I still hear that nagging guilty should have “voice” in my head. Yes after so many year I look back and think I should done things differently…even though both girls are college grads and successful wives and mothers…..WHY???

  80. Elizabeth Kling says

    How did you know I needed to read this!?!! I’ve been up all night with a crying toddler and baby. Really needed to hear this right now. Thanks!

  81. Kayla Poitras says

    I needed this today… I was up for almost two hours with my oldest last night doing exactly this…..thank you!!!

  82. Rachael Hundy says

    Is there a reason why I can’t share it? I was up most of the night with a teething baby and a toddler having night terrors. I’m so tired yet wide awake :/

  83. Susan Carr says

    The past two nights have been difficult sleeping nights for my 6 year old! This was just what I needed this mornjng

  84. Lauren Quinn says

    I am so tired of being told how or when I should be doing things for my kids. Them letting that get in the way of who I am, the best mom I can be. I am human. I am not perfect but I am good enough!

  85. Creative With Kids says

    It should be shareable Rachael Hundy If the FB app is having troubles you can always grab the link from the site and just paste that into Facebook. I’m so sorry you’ve had such an eventful night. ((hugs))

  86. Pamela Hall says

    Great read. I find it interesting that she calls it an “under dog” push on the swings. Where I live we call it an “under duck!” :). Hope all the sleep deprived Mummies have good days today.

  87. Catherine Michele Ross says

    I so needed this. I think you wrote what my mind was saying! Thanks for sharing!

  88. Rachael Hundy says

    Went on app it worked thanks. I was just using the mobile Internet page. App is so slow. Thank you

  89. Jessica says

    I think it peculiar that you think teaching her “to put others’ needs ahead of her own” is something bad. Isn’t putting others before self honorable and charitable and loving? Mother Theresa, for example?

    • says

      As women we are constantly given the message that we must care for others. I am a mom to three, certainly a nurturer and carer, but what I find is that this message can tilt women into forgetting to care for themselves. I spent much of my 20’s thinking I was responsible for everyone elses happiness and well being, and always put myself last, and that was very detrimental to my health mentally and physically, especially in the early parts of mothering. I still struggle to remember how vital SELF care is. So, it may have come out confusing in the way it was written above, but what I meant by that is that I want my daughter to respect herself and nourish herself. When I don’t care for myself it is so much harder to care for others.
      Thanks for your comment Jessica.

  90. says

    I really have never found a parenting-site better than yours. Your empathy is so deep to touch my deepest mothering-soul. Thank you so much for your words. I think you are a great mother. YOU! :)

  91. Amandalyn says

    Thank yo so much for this inspiring & honestly thoughtful article. Couldn’t have found it at a better time! Your message resonates at a time in my life where I’ve never been busier & never felt pulled in so many directions.
    There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to help plan a family members wedding, care for my sick and lonesome grandmother, help my husband with his new job and homeschool my son “properly” (the way I “should” every day) and the list goes on… I was actually on Pinterest trying to get some inspiration for the candy buffet table I need to make signs for tonight and thinking: I “should” keep up with my close friends better, I “should” return phone calls more promptly, I “should” do something nice for the new neighbors, I “should” already have a gift for my dad’s Birthday…
    Before I could type anything into the search bar your article popped up in “Popular Pins”. The title of your article intrigued me as I was actually overwhelmed with the swirling “shoulds” as I was trying to focus on my last project for the night.
    I think it so important for Mom’s to know that Everyone has “those” days, we all struggle and no one is perfect! Thanks you for inspiring me tonight and helping me to remember to give myself a break. Going to go lay down with my little one now even though I “should” have put him to bed two hours ago. 😉

  92. Sadaf Zia says

    Loving it. Soooo true. There r no set rules for any mother. Every mama is perfect in her own way if she gives best of her time to her kids. “We should not compare our selves with ‘should mama’ N let her suck the fun out”

  93. mrsabernard says

    This is so true. I think we all get caught up in this. One thing I have found helpful when I’m in that mood is to stop and think about all the things that I have done and that I do for my kids, instead of focusing on what I “should” do. Like, if I start to feel that I should be reading to my kids more often, I think “yeah, but I DO read to them almost every night. Or, if I think “I should make them different lunches for school every day”, I think “well, they might not be fancy, but I DO make them home made lunches every day (even if it’s just balogna and cheese!).

  94. anonymous says

    I am a woman who has always been described as a hard worker and perfectionist. Unfortunately in the house I was raised there was a long list of shoulds. This, I strongly believe, nurtured my depression and eating disorder ( both of which I was diagnosed with at 15 ) As a new mom my list of shoulds started to become a mountain that put me and my needs in a deep, dark shadow. I was lucky enough to have community support that allowed me to see the falsities I tell myself everyday, falsities that I have made self truths. Finally with my kids at the age of 3 and 5 I am starting to set boundaries with myself, my children and with the people I allow into my life. I chose to not engage in Facebook, twitter etc, because I know this triggers a should cycle. I have cut ties with people who seem to think it is okay to judge me as a parent and who reinforce lists of shoulds. I use a gratitude journal every night, and I have also started keeping lists of what I have accomplished in the day, kinda like a reverse to do list, when I do something I write it on the list. Really makes me see what I get done in a day, it is truly astounding as Moms what we can do with a mere 24 hours.
    I think your point that what your child needs is you, is so true. You following your instincts and you taking care of yourself.
    Thanks for this post.

  95. bjohan says

    I don’t know what more to say other than I needed to see this today.  It was no accident that I stumble into this post.  It makes me just cry because these words allow me to hug myself and be ok with Me.  It also makes me cry to read it because my heart breaks for anyone to have those dark feelings…for me anyway, it always leads to a darker place.  I realise this isn’t an uncommon feeling for mothers, but it’s not something people often talk about.  Thank you

  96. andreajason20 says

    This post brought tears to my eyes, because I’ve said all the ‘should haves’ to myself as well, and you’ve written what many of us need to hear….. Thank you!

  97. Alissa Marquess says

    @anonymous I use a gratitude journal each night too and it definitely helps me see more positively.  Thanks for your reply and for inspiring us by telling your story. ~Alissa

  98. michigansilverback says

    Half a lifetime ago–the year was 1985–I lived with a family with a totally handicapped boy named Douglas.  He was 19 years old, weighed 40 pounds, He had cerebral palsy, scoliosis, speech aphasia, was utterly helpless, wore a diaper– and required 24 hour care. A 40 pound baby, in other words (except there was a brilliant individual locked inside who communicated only through eyes and cries).
    Anyway Doug’s family got ready for a vacation, leaving him with me for a week. His dad came to me and asked if I was up to a solid 7 days of Douggie duty. I told them I was but was a bit nervous. “I’ll be on the bridge of the Enterprise all by myself,” I joked.
    He gave me a phaser-glare look. “Welcome to fatherhood, son.”
    No greater truth.

  99. Maria Ioannou says

    Perfect, thank you for putting it into words: “My kids may not get someone who has schedules down to a science. They may not get the mama who always has fun games for clean up time. They may not get the birthday party perfect mama.
    But they WILL GET ME.
    And you know what?
    I make really good pancakes.”

  100. April Humphrey says

    I just told my daughter that being with her is the last thing I want to do right now. Not my best parenting moment ever…

  101. Creative With Kids says

    An honest parenting moment if nothing else, lol. Hugs – we all have our moments! April Humphrey

  102. Belinda Hall says

    Awesome message. Thank you, it is always so good to know you are not alone in your feelings. Let’s kick “would have”, “should have”, “could have” out the door for today !

  103. Jennifer Ellis says

    Been bf my little one for the last 2 hours and I’m so exhausted. Really needed this right now. Great article!

  104. Deborah Ann Carson says

    Turn around and in a moment they’re grown and gone! Time really does go that fast, enjoy every minute of being a mom, nothing is more important. You’ll look back soon and wish you could do it again but you can’t…

  105. Sarah Agnew says

    Geez, this makes me feel even more guilty about going back to work in 4 weeks, I love my kids but get so agitated and frustrated if I’m with then 24-7, I need the routine of work, then I cherish the time with them more!
    Worst mum goes to me!!!!
    Mum of a 3yld boy n 3-1/2 month girl

  106. Creative With Kids says

    Don’t let it make you feel guilty. You sound like a very good mom to me – totally reasonable to be refreshed by being apart while you’re at work. And you’re working and providing for your family, all good stuff.

  107. Anna says

    I apologise if it’s a too sensitive question, but why is it you that gets up three or four times during the night? Unless you are a single mum, why not share the load with your children’s father?
    The expectations of society for a woman to be there for her kids day and night is ludicrous. 10-12+ hour days, 7 days a week, for years without a break. … That’s burnout levels. That’s just plain unhealthy imho.

  108. Holly says

    @Anna A healthy family does not have to be based on precisely equal 50/50 distribution of each and every job. There are so many different variations of a successful family, and for you to take (from this entire article) one throwaway sentence and use it to form a judgement of “ludicrous” and “unhealthy” is, well, ludicrous.
    Maybe this child is only happy to be consoled by Mum at night. Maybe Dad is in another room soothing a different child. Maybe Dad gets up at 4am for work so Mum is happy to do the nights because she gets to wake up 3 hours later. Maybe Dad does the evening parenting and Mum does nights. Maybe Mum works more hours than Dad in the day and chooses to do nights to get that time with her child. Maybe Dad and Mum alternate nights. Maybe Dad suffers from health problems. Or maybe, just maybe, Mum takes on certain duties (eg. main night time responsibility) while Dad takes on different duties, and that is just what works for their family.

  109. Agnieszka W says

    I’ve been soooo tired for a such a long time… that I really needed to hear that. Thank you soo much 😀

  110. Briana Tomkinson says

    I have felt that too (though my feeling on that changed after I’d had some time on “break” from full-time parenting at work) and I have many friends who work FT who feel like some time away from their kids makes them better parents. Parenting can be gruelling, and some periods can feel especially hard and unrewarding. I don’t believe it is fair to judge as we all do our best to balance the needs of our children, families and ourselves. There is no one “best.”

  111. Leeann Morton says

    A great post. And I can’t even make pancakes! (My husband is much better) X

  112. Jasbir says

    Oh boy! I have been held hostage. It’s good to know being just me is good enough. Have started doing that. And for a start, the house is a mess but not my kids.

  113. Mamas in the Making says

    I have just discovered your blog, and so far this is my favourite. Thank you for writing it. Sharing it right now!

  114. momof4 says

    Every mother has to pick their battles.  For me, if the child is older and situation depending, there are times I just let them cry and they learn to console themselves.  I can’t and won’t be there for every situation in their life, and that’s just something they have to learn.  But I will be there when they need me most (a.k. I will go to them in the night if they are sick, had a nightmare, is still an infant, etc.  but not if they refuse to go to bed because they just don’t want to sleep).  After having four kids, I’ve just stopped caring about other people’s ideals and I’ve had to cut down on a few of my own.  My family is unique to us– and we do what works for us.  All in all, this article is refreshing.  We need more on the net that tells “us moms” that we are creating more successes by honestly trying than failing because of XYZ down the street.

  115. KasiaSos says

    My LO is not a toddler yet, she is 10 months and for the past 2.5 months I have been sleeping with her, I don’t know if it’s sleep regression or if she’s teething but whenever I try to put her in the crib she cries… I cannot leave her like that, I won’t so I lay down next to her on the mattress in her room and we fall asleep. I miss my own bed, I miss my husband:) but my baby needs me and I will be there for her for as long as she needs me to be there for her.

  116. kellykeith29 says

    @Holly  You’re right. There are so many reasons why mom gets up several times a night. Maybe she’s a single mom, maybe dad works night shift. And if it’s like my house, maybe dad just won’t do it, and I don’t want him to, he doesn’t have patience during the day, there is no way I want him getting up and being grouchy with them at night, one way or the other I’ll end up getting up with them. With our first he would get out of bed and bring me the baby in the night, that lasted the 3 weeks he was off work, then I was on my own. With our youngest he never once woke up with her, not even in the hospital and I was recovering from a c section. I was always the one up with her and if her fussing woke up her 3.5 year old brother I was up with him too. I manage, and I get the middle of the night snuggles that he doesn’t even want to know about.  I am happy to get up with them when it’s something they need, when they are just being silly and not wanting to sleep then I give a kiss and go back to bed. That said mine are now 5 and 9 so they understand why I go back to bed. My littlest needs me more than her brother, and she has the big comfy bed, so when she wakes more than once before 2am, I just climb in with her and go back to sleep, it means I get the sleep I need and she generally doesn’t wake back up before morning. And it isn’t making her do it more and more often like all my friends suggest it will, we do this maybe once every 2 or 3 weeks. Plus I just realized that perhaps the reason she was waking up was now that summer is over it gets colder in the house at night, and I hadn’t gotten out the heavier blanket, now that I have added that she doesn’t even get up with the alarm, I have to wake her. If marriage had to be 50/50 we wouldn’t be considered to be married. In our house it’s 99% mom with the kids 1% dad, and 80% dad with the food and 20% mom, and the rest of the catagories fall squarely on mom’s shoulders.

  117. jpage.manuel says

    Amen to that! My should?…I should be more calm / less paranoid; more patient; more spontaneous. But I’ve had numerous heart to heart talks with my son and he insists he wants Mama just as she is. Is there anything else I could possibly need?  :-))

  118. says

    My son is 14 now and I remember nights like that. You’re going to make it through! The best part is, all of the things you did right shines in them as they get older plus you still have time to fix the things you messed up on:) Of course the “shoulds” never completely go away but seeing your child turn into an amazing human being quiets most of them.

  119. says

    OH, I am there now, too.  Sooooo tired and wishing my 14 mo old would sleep through the night!  The only “should” I am thinking at that point is “I SHOULD be doing sleep training to make her sleep 12 hours every night.”   And yet, another part of me says, she doesn’t need sleep training, she needs her mama.  Thanks for this article!  I needed it this morning.

  120. Tina says

    Thank you Alissa! I am crying right now reading this! I am so happy I am not alone! I am going to a therapist for my anxiety of going through the “I should” in every situation! Making myself miserable and stressed trying to be a perfect parent! Thank you! I should be paying you instead of the therapist. Alissa this article was a saving GRACE! You Rock Mama!


  121. SaimaNadeem says

    that is the most positive thing ive ever read about being a mother…im crying right now…yes doing chores is not important than ur kid comfort…im going to leave kitchen and gona kiss my toddler son although he is sleeping right now…thank u so much for such a heart touching post :) God bless u

  122. says

    I really love this article. I feel like mommy guilt is so overwhelming sometimes. I actually even started a blog called so I could write letters to my kids “apologizing” for this and that. It is slowly turning into a place where all moms can go and share some of
    their own mommy guilt without judgement and maybe realize they
    aren’t alone. Great article.

  123. mightymighty1 says

    You may want to look at some of the research on this. Complimenting kids doesn’t build their self esteem. Working hard and succeeding does. NurtureShock is a great book that covers this topic. Basically “You’re such a good girl” praises something your daughter can’t do/control. “I notice that you did your chores before I asked,” shows her that you see her and lets her take pride in her own accomplishments. Similarly, “It’s great the way you finished that yoga work out. It looked hard,” lets her know what “repeatable” behavior was good. Kids who are praised the wrong way become risk-averse and timid. I have to constantly catch myself describing innate qualities my kids have and instead focus on what they did/are doing. (This also applies to negative feedback. “You’re naughty” is destructive. “We don’t color on anything but paper. Here’s a MagicEraser so you can fix that back up,” shows your faith in their intelligence. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen is a great book on this topic.)

  124. ozce says

    this is the most usefull thing I have ever read ! everybody should see this ! I am a preschool teacher and all I hear from mothers is to blame theirselves, and looking, searching something wrong in what they do. 

    I am from Turkiye. if you give me permission, I would love to translate it in Turkish and send it to a non-profit educational website, by giving reference to your website, of course.

  125. guilty mama says

    Last night when my baby needs me, I let the things that should happen took me away. I totally ruin my baby.

  126. Christina Adams Chaffin says

    Heather Hassell read this. This is exactly where we both were the other day!

  127. AmotherinBxl says

    This picture of your daughter asleep with your hand in hers is wonderful. I perfectly recognize the situation and the feelings.

  128. Ali Allen says

    Catharine, one to read in your early days of motherhood and remember for the long term.

  129. Baiba Kaulina says

    thank you very very much for this! This is what I am doing lately – trying to tell what is and is not “me”. And also I feel guilty that I dont play as much as I SHOULD with my children as SAHM . I worry that when all thos rough&beautifull years will be over and in 6mos we will be back to our homeland and I will have to start work then I will regret. But actually now, those very days my little daughter shows interest in working and playing with me. My son looked confused when I turned to him as a baby, he also threw away all those books that I tried to show him occasionally. so I felt guilty but somehow smeared my guilt with all the thoughts about “idle parenting”” (where you let little person just explore him self and involve as less as possible, but it is not meant like you ignore him). So I read all those crafty blogs with Montessori and felt lazy and guilty that I dont do it with my son. But when I tried he just was always creative what else to do with all the materials. So we justt went more Valdorf and went to woods. I just love woods and my son too. So we left Madam Guilt at home and went “fishing” in big tree roots and searching for little gnomes and “‘drive” a big “fallen-tree-root-truck”.. as I right this comment I also do – what-i-am-good-mommy ;)! Thank you!

  130. Catharine Dias says

    Thank you so much Ali, this is a great article! So many ‘shoulds’ running through my mind, but this puts it all in perspective

  131. mrs_lanya says

    Thank you, I needed this today. I work full time and  feel I “should” be home more and I “should” play more. I should, should, should goes through my head all day. I feel like I am not enough for them sometimes. And then I looked in my gym bag that I bring to work and my 5 year old drew a picture for me and snuck it in there that says “I love you Mommy”.
    I shouldn’t do anything, just be me. Because in the end I am enough for them!
    Thanks again for a positive reminder!

  132. JenniferSardam says

    Thank you for writing this, and I am so thankful I found this to read tonight! I am so hard on myself, and I needed to read this. I am that mama up until however late it takes, rubbing my daughter’s little back, singing a lullaby. She is my heart walking around outside my body, to paraphrase one of my favorite quotes. But I do so much damage to myself because I never trust that I’m ever doing the right thing … nothing (at least in my opinion) is ever good enough. I’m a single mom living in a high-cost area (Washington, DC) on a government worker’s income. I blame myself for living in a small apartment and not a good-sized home, which would make her life better. I blame myself that she can’t have her own room yet, because I don’t have a huge yard to offer her, so that she can play in it. I blame myself because I can’t afford the better daycare with a full curriculum when she turns 2. I blame myself because I cannot afford to send her to classes like dance or gymnastics, because all my paycheck will cover are the essentials like diapers, food, shelter, electricity, internet (which I need for work), daycare, etc. I believe she deserves so much more, and when I think about these things, I get really sad. I cry about it a lot. And yet she’s oblivious to those concerns. She just wants her mama to hold her close. She wraps those tiny arms around me and mashes her little face against mine and gives me the biggest, most wonderful kisses. All the while that I’m living inside my head and worrying about what I can give her, I realize I just need to take the choke-hold off of myself and make every moment count, and just be there for her when she falls down, and when she needs guidance in the world, and try to be the best that I can with what I do have, so that one day she can be proud of who her mama is … I may not have a lot of material things to give her, or the money to provide her with those nicer things I’d like her to have in her life … but I do have a lot of love and resilience, and she goes to bed each night with a full belly, a lot of kisses and hugs, and a warm bed in a safe environment. That has to count for something.

  133. says

    I love this!  With just hitting the big 4-0, I have been really reflecting on how I spend my time and making my life meaningful.  I realized that I spend so much of my time beating myself up and telling myself I should be “doing” more, that I don’t accomplish enough every day!  My goal is to focus more on “loving” more instead- my kids, my family, God and others!
    Thanks for sharing this! I am so glad I found your blog, as I am just starting out with mine and it has a similar theme to this one!  Can’t wait to share the journey with you…

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  135. Rebecca Bj Brunings says

    Mitchelle Capobianco. We should share this on little whalers face book its quite beautiful and reassuring to parents that all kids really need is your love. Have a read and see what you think xx

  136. Jess Holmes says

    Best bit of advice I once read: replace the word ‘should’ with ‘could’. Reframe the thought. Game changer.

  137. mik_rsp says

    Thanks for this… <3 This brought tears to my eyes.. I am not the kind of mama that I wish could be.. sometimes I despair if just being there for my babies is enough.. I am faced with insecurities, especially when there are criticisms (mil).. Thank you for the reassurance.. <3

  138. Helen Jones says

    I love that quote and this is one of my all time favourite blog posts :)

  139. says

    So very true! I have been praying daily for God to help me be the mother He wants me to be. I don’t want to be someone who is so busy comparing myself to other moms that I lose ME in the process & ruin my children. Awesome post!

    • Urlach Spreitzer says

      This sentiment can hardly apply to a follower of god. You’re already a “Should be” person, and you’ll likely force your children into it too.

  140. ShandaDavis says

    I want to let you know how much this article meant to me when I read it. So encouraging. I get stuck in the ‘should be’ or ‘should do more’ zone multiple times a day. It has started to bog me down and when I read this…this is what I needed to hear. Thank you for taking time to write this article. It was for me!

  141. Steff says

    Thank you. I needed to hear this today. I’ve lost so much sleep between my almost-three-year old and my three-month-old that I had to leave work early with a migraine. This is the worst I’ve felt since I became a mother. This was like a big hug, a chocolate brownie and an Irish coffee all rolled into one.

    • says

      You made my day with that description. Life goal: regularly deliver hugs, coffee and chocolate via writing. Love it. Hugs again and wishing you a few hours sleep.all in a row 😉

  142. Jay says

    *picks your crying kid up*
    *puts it in bed with you*
    *you both go to sleep and stop being crazy*

    There. Fixed it.

    • says

      Hi Jay,
      At this point her childhood we’d co-slept for a couple years and it was no longer working for our family. She was wonderful to snuggle next to, but her kicking feet would wake my husband all night long, or would wake me. Co-sleeping indeed has been a huge help with all three of our kids, but it’s important to know when things need to change too. This was one of those times we were going through a transition and it was tough.

      And all told, this isn’t really a piece about the sleep – I was crazy as you put it with those should thoughts at other times, it’s just this is the story of when I realized ‘Hey, you’ve got to see what’s good here, and stop knocking yourself so much.’

  143. says

    This is the mama article every mama needs to read. Buh-Bye to the ‘shoulds’, guilt and comparisonitis. Here’s to keeping it real and being awesome role models.x

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