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Imagine the scenario: Two women are sitting on the subway both with a free hour to contemplate their lives. The first woman is in her late 30s, married with 3 kids and silently wishes to herself that she had more time for herself. She graduated from college, and had her own career when she met her now husband. Shortly after they were married she had her first child and quit her job to stay at home with her children She knew she never really wanted to be a career women, so it was ok that she didn’t love her job anymore. Now eight years later her children are beyond needing her 24/7 but she has no idea what she wants to do for a career so she keeps devoting herself to her children. When she is honest with herself she admits she wants more then just being a wife and mother but doesn’t know what’s next, she doesn’t know what would make her heart sing.
The second woman, is also in her late 30s she has never been married and although she has had a series of long term relationships. She has a job that is so-so but when she is honest with herself she really wanted to get married and have kids. Basically she has put her dreams and aspirations on hold waiting to get married and have a family. However, now she realizes that getting married and having kids might not be in the cards for her so she needs to start figuring out what career would make her heart sing.
Both of these scenarios have become more common in my practice–women who are admitting to themselves and to me that they want more our of life, they want to work happier.
What strikes me about both of these scenarios, is the amount of SHOULDS that are felt by each of the women. On one hand, woman one feels incomplete for ‘settling’ into mommydom and losing herself to her kids. And then she feels selfish for thinking she wants more out of her life than her kids. She wanted to be a mom shouldn’t that be enough? So in order to avoid the plethora of negative voices, she keeps plugging along being mom and not ever facing the pain and loss of not figuring out what would truly make her happier. Woman two, feels bad for ‘settling’ in a unfulfilling job while she waited to find a partner and have children. She feels like less of a woman because she is waiting ‘for a man’ but also because she can’t fulfill the one thing in her life she wants…a family. Both women are silently hammering themselves for the choices they are making based on their dreams, relationships and aspirations in their lives.
The thing about should messages is that they breed shame and guilt which in turn breed silence and isolation. Whatever your story or scenario when you start hiding parts of yourself we can’t possible live and work happier. My hope in writing this post was that women of all relationship statuses could start supporting each other on the fact that they want to live and work happier PERIOD. We all want to live our best lives, be our best selves and when we are hammering ourselves with should messages we are pigeon holing ourselves into mediocrity. Life is meant to be rich and colorful and made up of a variety of roles….mothers, girlfriends, partners, lovers, wives, friends, aunts, nieces, employee, entrepreneur, artist or athlete. The trick is to embrace them all.
What SHOULDS are you feeling? How are you challenging yourself to live and work happier within your relationships?