Why Are We “Should-ing” All Over Ourselves


“Should-ing” is a term that was coined in my reality by Carrie Bradshaw in the days of SATC. While a play on words, I find as a female that this keeps plaguing me day and night. I should publish more, I should do more, I should keep working even though my attention span ended at least 36 minutes ago because I’m hungry, I should be more aggressive, I should, I should, I should…..

When did women stop being content and start ‘should-ing’ all over themselves?  In the course of trying to have it all, do it all, and be it all to everyone, we started to burden ourselves with heavy lifting.  Is it to prove ourselves as equally valuable as men?  Certainly, we are. We bear the children that are these men. In my book, that’s like an automatic home run.  In modern society, males are still prized and while I get this, why haven’t we gone back to a matriarchial society yet?  It seems in countries where leadership is carried out by women, things are actually better.  After watching Half the Sky on PBS a few weeks ago, it couldn’t be more obvious.  Men buy booze, hookers, and soda with money. Women spend it on clothing for the children, to send them to school, and provide food that will feed everyone equally, no matter the age or gender of the hungry person.

In our culture, women continue to be an undervalued resource.  Never has this been more obvious to me than in the past five years. Growing up, my mom was the boss of the farm. You wanted to sell seed corn, you talked to my mom.  You wanted to sell semen to breed the cows, you talked to my mom.  You wanted to hunt on the land, you talked to my mom. You tried to ask where the boss was when you drove up in your truck, you had to talk to my mom.  Yes, I have a dad, but my mom is the baller of the business.  When my mom first began running the dairy, a man stopped by asking for the boss and she told him that he was talking to the boss.  He thought she was joking.  She bid him a quick farewell and his business was lost to our farm.  Sucker. Today, she and my dad split things more evenly, but this was before she married him and she farmed it alone for eight years.  She’s the boss. You want to get within a 1/2 mile radius of anything on the farm, you go through her. Got it?

She also raised us this way.  Nobody is the boss of you (hypothetically).  Autonomy was important and having that sense of identity was a key in our development.  She may not have liked every thing we did and every choice we made, but she raised us that way so it was only her to blame when we did grow up to be independent, strong, and opinionated   We had learned from the best. The past five years have made my lack of value to some parts of the world painfully obvious.  If it’s not my skin color, it’s my education. Not everyone agrees that social science is a science and I chalk that up to their own insecurities.  If it’s not my education, it’s my ovaries.  I have turned against my own fellow females and have convinced myself that if I decide that having a kid is ever a good idea, my career will suffer as a result.  This comes from knowing how this society treats women.  This comes from knowing that if I have these imaginary kids with another academic, one of us will have to have a lesser career. Research backs that up and common sense says that no child ever did well in a house with two TT parents trying to publish or perish under the same roof. That would just be unfair to the child, plain and simple.

So why do we keep ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves?  As a new faculty it can be really hard to just know when to stop. I had lunch with another first year faculty and she is drowning in all of her ‘should’s’  right now.While feeling overwhelmed is natural, continually beating yourself up is not. It has taken me almost a full year of being on faculty to come to the realization I’m about to share. Watch out folks, this is NOT rocket science. After listening to my colleague, I finally said, “just stop.” She looked at me like I was nuts, and I went to say, “at some point, you will have to just stop with how much you should be doing and start doing what you want to be doing, even if it’s nothing, hanging out with your husband, or watching bad tv.”

So, today as you wrap up skimming or reading this post, do one thing for me (and for you). Pick a time today and ‘just stop.’ Go do something you want to do and stop “shoulding” all over yourself. A mental holiday is just what this doctor ordered!

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2 thoughts on “Why Are We “Should-ing” All Over Ourselves

  1. This is a great point – and a dangerous habit. It’s an easy way to make ourselves feel inferior and insecure for the things we didn’t do while not taking not of some of the amazing things we do accomplish every day. Enjoyed reading this!

  2. […] of ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves over taking some vacation time, just take it. Don’t feel bad if it’s warranted. As a […]

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