Letting Go of My Mothering “Shoulds”

Alexandra Kuykendall}>
Alexandra Kuykendall

My first few years of parenting were hard, really hard. If they were a journey, they were climbing a steep mountain face with a hundred pound pack on my back and a baby carrier strapped to my chest. It was part learning curve (there’s the steep), part loneliness (a move while I was pregnant left me entering motherhood with zero friends nearby), but I also brought the weight of my own expectations (and there you find the heavy pack).

I don’t know where my list of mothering “shoulds” came from. And the truth is I didn’t even know I had many of the expectations on that list until they weren’t met and the disappointment crept in. But those “shoulds” were a weighty load to carry through my days. All the while trying to figure out how to care for another human who split my heart open because I loved her so, and hormones that hindered my ability to cope with normal stress levels, much less postpartum ones.

My realization that I didn’t have to make this fictitious mothering job description a reality didn’t come in a single moment. It took a few years of not meeting my own expectations and just surviving. Observing other moms doing things completely differently from me and it working out for them. When I finally came to terms with how much I was a know it all, I was able to drop my pack of “should” and keep on walking. I made a new list of hopes that were much lighter to carry on the journey.

Gone are the days of “shoulds” – at least the conscious ones – and on with the “hopes”, they are much more forgiving.

And so, I hope to be the mom who:

  • Let’s the small things go. If it doesn’t scar you for life, it will likely shape you. And shaping is good.
  • Says an encouraging word to other moms along the way. No one ever got mad because you pointed out something they were doing well.
  • Forgives quickly and easily. When I hold on to grudges too long I start to tell the world it revolves around me.
  • Is as present as life allows at each turn. I need to deal with the real stressors in my life, but I can often choose how much of my attention they get.
  • Celebrates the uniqueness of my children. These people aren’t going to fit the mold I’ve created in my head for them. If I don’t appreciate who they are I will simply miss out on the miracles in my care.

Alexandra Kuykendall

As a mom to four girls, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She is the author of Loving My Actual Life, An Experiment In Relishing What’s Right In Front of Me and The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.