The Should Factor

Should is a word that plagues women. We are caught under its spell and all too often don’t know how to escape.

We SHOULD get married [or should at least want to]
We SHOULD have children [or, again, should at least want to]
We SHOULD be the follower in a relationship, supporting our husband in his dreams and desires [often to the determent of our own dreams and desires]
If [when] we get married, we SHOULD take his last name
If [when] we have kids, we SHOULD quit our job to stay at home with the kids

We’re shoulding all over ourselves. [as my pastor would say]

When did we fall into this abyss of heaped on expectations and how do we pull ourselves out from under them? There is so much pressure to conform and act and certain way it is difficult to be the image of a true woman these days and stand as an anti-conformist.


Olivia McCain said...

i am really on the fence about taking my future-husband's last name. Olivia McCain just flows really well and I'm so used to that name. I've had it for 30 years!

but i do feel a societal pressure to take another name. like if i don't take his name it's disrespectful to him. or taking his name is a way to show how much i really do love him.

and i don't know when it's appropriate to bring up that i may not want to take his name.

Leann said...

My last name, Ippolito, is just cooler...

and you know if I got married, it'd be to a Smith, bummer.

B-W said...

Regrettably, that "should" factor is a problem for some of us guys, too. Allow me to demonstrate:

1) ... get married. Okay. I have to admit I'm on the other side of this one.
2) ... have children. That one's a hard one to deal with family members on. "It's not a foregone conclusion" (my standard response) is an alien concept to many.
3) ... follower in relationship. I assume the converse, since I'm male/the husband, would be that I should be the leader. Suffice it to say, I've actually been accused of being a "pushover" by a family member because of various ways in which my wife's and my relationship defies conventional roles.
4) ... take his last name. Again, speaking as the husband, the converse would seem to be not only whether or not my wife takes my name, but the implication that I shouldn't change mine. Again, certain family members remain offended to this day (nearly 5 years later) that I hyphenated (as did my wife). You'd think the portion of my name that I had before getting married had been erased altogether!
5 ... have kids, then quit job. Well, I suppose we need to get past #2 first, but the likelihood is high that, if we do have kids someday, I'll be the one to leave the job. Depends on timing, of course. And, of course, there are certain tasks a father, however willing, is simply unable to perform....

As to your question of how to pull ourselves out from under these expectations... if you figure out the answer, please let me know.

john page said...

"shoulding all over ourselves"
Heh, heh
that was funny!
good questions...not sure I have any answers for them.
I know a couple that married and each kept their last name.
Another couple married and each hyphenated to include the other's name.
Most other couples I know, the wife took the husband's last name as her own and was content/happy with that.
Personal choice as a couple on most of those shoulds??

Would any of those shoulds be "dealbreakers" for you in regards to the relationship?

Lindsey said...

I know a couple who combined their last names to form a completely unpronounceable 16-letter last name. That seemed a little over the top to me. And I know another couple who took letters from both their last names and mixed them together to form an entirely new last name. I've always assumed I'd take my husband's name, but I would like to somehow include my current last name in my kid's name.

Yanela and Mark said...

maybe i view life a little to simply, but here is my breakdown of the shouldas...

1. when i got married, i asked my now wife if she wanted to...
a. keep her last name
b. hyphenate
c. me take her last name
d. phonetically combine

i still wish we woulda done D, i mean how cool would sheets and torres be together... shorres, or toreets. damn, that's tight. and family and friends can become engineering majors, build a bridge, and get over it. if my future spouse would be uncomfortable with me bringing up last name options, then curbside service for him/her.

2. children, if we want to, others can refer to number one

3. husband and wife are 50/50 in my book, so if passions lie in career, do the career, if at home, be at home. and if both want a career, and want to have kids, and don't want the kids to see day care, guess what - it's compromise time.

these expectations are only as strong as we agree to let them be, or marry someone who subscribes to them. i say keep looking until (you) find the person who shares your ideas about finding your own way, and let the world be just as lame as it wants to be.

"no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." e. roosevelt

i aint consentin to shit... unless jesus tells me too....

Douglas said...


Great post. I think you forgot one "should" in this whole thing. The:

You should not bring this up.

Glad you did. It was a great conversation (and continues to be one) in our family.

Maybe you should make a facebook wall where people could just post shoulds on top of shoulds and see how many you get. That would be an interesting testament of the present age!