In New York, women may go topless in public, providing it is not being used as a business.
In Fresno, California, no one may annoy a lizard in a city park.
In Elkhart, Indiana, it is illegal for barbers to threaten to cut off kids’ ears.
Although impossible to track, there are probably hundreds of thousands of federal, state, and city laws in the United States, with new ones being proposed all the time. That doesn’t count any of the rules enforced by schools and businesses. Interestingly, with all of the laws and rules on the books, the ones we often cling to most fervently are the ones that don’t actually exist.
You can’t eat dessert first.
Everyone should get a college education.
Fancy dinnerware should only be used for special occasions.
Adults should “act their age.”
You can’t do cartwheels in public or let people see you dancing in your car.
Most people have a hard time admitting that they’re be living by rules that don’t exist. At first glance, it might be hard to even think of any. But if they were that easy to spot, you probably wouldn’t be living by them in the first place. (Duh.) The trick is that they’re sneaky and subconscious. They’re baked in, and reinforced by many years of repetition and adherence, so they seem normal to us. They are often disguised as conventional wisdom. But be careful with conventional wisdom, as author Mark Stevens warns:
It is not wisdom. It is just convention. And convention often boils down to doing things the way they have always been done simply because they are done that way.” –Mark Stevens
Everybody has a certain subset of these so-called rules that guide them, and I believe moms operate on a whole other level. My friend Meg, who helps moms abandon guilt and embrace their inner superwoman, agrees. But at first, she too was skeptical. She thought, ‘Hmm, I’m not that sure about this, I am pretty creative, what rules do I unconsciously live by?” But she admitted in a blog post that it didn’t take long to create a short list:
1. Kids must wear a legitimate “outfit” everyday and the outfit must match!
2. I must eat breakfast food for breakfast.
3. Winter boots can not be worn in over- 60-degree days.
4. I should cook dinner every night.
5. I must sleep on the same side of the bed every night.
6. I should be the one to pack lunches.
7. If a Mom takes “too” much time for herself…she is selfish.
8. Mommy Guilt is a part of motherhood. Just deal with it.
Pretty interesting, isn’t it? Perhaps you can relate to a few of them yourself, whether you’re a mom or not. Meg goes on to detail how she has attempted to break every single one of those rules in the weeks following her creation of that list.
The hard part is coming up with the list in the first place. There’s a lot of pride and programming to overcome. And there’s no doubt there’s difficulty in going against things that have become standard operating procedure. But my guess is that once Meg embraced the idea that these rules did NOT in fact exist, and broke her pattern of behavior, there was an overwhelming sense of freedom as her stress levels plummeted.
The same can be true for you.
What common “rules” of motherhood (or life) have you encountered or struggled with?
Take five or ten minutes to really examine your daily routine. What rules do you live by that really don’t exist? Try to come up with at least five. Write them down, and in the next few weeks, work on breaking them. The “adult” side of you will be resistant, but the child inside will come alive. As you start breaking the “rules,” there’s a good chance you’ll feel lighter, happier, and more energized.
You just might make Adultitis go running for the hills. And there’s no law on the books advising against that.
Karl Staib - Work Happy Now says
When we create too many rules for ourselves we become caught in our own web. I’ve been slowly working to eradicate a lot of my rules. I thought I had to have a job for security. I know that’s now true. I thought I needed to travel to be happy. That’s not true either. I’ve discovered that taking small trips around my home territory can be just as enlightening.
Great post! We all need to look at what rules we create, so they don’t hold us back from being happy.
Good points, Karl. I find that every time I eliminate a few “rules” from the rulebook of my life, I end up finding even more. It’s actually kind of exciting, and says a lot about how much conditioning we undergo over the years!
Great article Jason. Just the reminder I needed. I know there things I “want to do but I’m not supposed to.” Now I realize I can have 2 desserts in one night or wear different colored socks.
The main thing is I’ll be looking to see what other rules I can happily break. :)
Two desserts in one night? Brilliant!
P.S. Love the picture for this article. The look says it all! (Who says you can’t wear sunglasses at work?)
Jay Johnson says
For more real dumb laws check out: