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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

From “Shoulding” to Being

Apr 30, 2014 05:03AM

Mothering today is complicated. Mothers are bombarded by parenting “shoulds” from all angles. There are, of course, the old school “shoulds” coming from colleagues, friends and family. But, with the growing mother market, never before has there been so much “stuff” out there for moms. And, along with this stuff, comes a lot of messaging. A lot of “shoulds”.

Aside from the baby gear and children’s activities, there are books, planners, television shows, blogs, websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, all dedicated to helping moms be better moms. Messages of betterment differ, though—and what is most confusing is that they are often contradictory.

            “Mothers should stay at home to care for their families.

“Mothers should work outside the home, and be role models for their children.

“Mothers should support their children to do sports, creative, linguistic and social activities outside of school, to become well rounded citizens of the future.

“Mothers should support their children to have free time–a space to cultivate their imaginations.

“Mothers should cook balanced meals from fresh, organic produce.

“Mothers should exercise regularly–they shouldn’t “let themselves go” and stay healthy and fit.

The list goes on. If moms were all in a zen-like state, conscious and collected when bombarded by all of these messages, moms could intuitively connect with their inner wisdom and make the conscious decision to consume, or not; or to partially consume a message and disregard the rest of it. However, very few moms would attest to feeling Zen-like these days. The thing is that underpinning the above “shoulds”, are the grant shoulds (excuse the pun): you (and your family) should achieve, you should succeed, you should be perfect. 

Life then becomes about doing, to achieve perfect success. Busy-ness driven by an externally defined perfection not only allows, but also supports a disconnection from self. First of all, the notion does not come from within and secondly, it is non-forgiving and unattainable. Perfection is never attained. There is always better and more to consume and do.

And so, as moms get busy achieving an externally defined vision of perfection–as mothers, as wives, as professionals–they often lose sight of their authentic self. They live according to unconscious and unquestionable “shoulds”. This busy-doing-to-achieve-perfection cycle can keep many mothers at bay from their inner wisdom and intuition, a place where answers about their soul-fulfilling needs lie.

So how do mothers reconnect with themselves? A first step here is becoming aware of the “shoulds” that govern ones’ life. And in order to hear these humming in the background of our busyness, there is a need to stop and simply, be. Brigid Schulte calls it “time serenity”; Tara Brach calls it “the space of presence”. It is about stopping and listening non-judgementally.

Moms who invest in such stopping and being time may find themselves asking: Who they are? What they love? Where their happiness lies? And when mothers begin to ask these questions, an inner transformation towards growing and trusting inner wisdom and intuition begins.

So, although externally defined “shoulds” will never go away, taking the energy and time to connect with self will help moms to be aware of them, and neutralize the power they have over their lives. Connection with self will support them to align what they do with who they really are. This is not only the true art of happiness and perfection, but also the most powerful role model for today’s children.

Alexandra Hughes is co-founder and life coach for mothers at – a growing community helping mothers to find, grow and celebrate themselves as women and mothers. Residing in Washington, D.C., she is also mother to three mischievous children and wife to one exasperated husband.

Sources:, Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time; Tara Brach in

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