Are You ‘Should’ing Me?

As a new mother I heard and read a lot of new advice telling me what my baby or I should be doing. Your baby should sleep a certain number of hours at a time. Your baby should drink a certain number of ounces per bottle. You should feed her on both breasts every time. These tidbits of advice are endless and they come across like rules. But the truth is they aren’t always practical. And it can be really frustrating and even counter-productive to try to follow them and think you’re doing everything “right” only to still not have the result you want. I started to resent advice like that until I realized I just needed to clean out the “should”. The advice-givers almost always mean well so I want to be appreciative. If I can take the word “should” out of any advice that comes my way I can find the helpful intent behind it. If you’re frustrated by advice like this, try rewording it to “I recommend that you…” “What worked for me was…” and you’ll see that you have the option to give it a try if you think it could serve you. And it’s not about what you should be doing. It’s about finding something that works.

One tip that really stressed me out was “you should sleep when she sleeps”. I don’t like being told what to do. Having a new baby meant I gained an indescribable amount of love and responsibility and joy but it also meant I lost a great deal of autonomy. So to hear things like that made me feel I had even less control. I felt stressed about any time I was taking for myself or to get something done between putting the baby down and getting myself into bed. I want to be able to take the time for what I need without a clock ticking. I don’t want to squander the time she’s sleeping but I don’t want to have to mission to get to bed all the time either. There is something to be said for getting what you needed from the day before you sleep. Sometimes for me that’s what needed to come first. I would sleep more peacefully with the dishes done and I’d feel less like my whole world revolved around my baby if I got to sit and chat with my husband or watch TV for half an hour before I went to bed. So let’s revisit that advice with a new lens: “Your best opportunity to sleep is when the baby sleeps”. Well that’s just fact, isn’t it? No pressure. It’s there if you need it.

Another thing you might be doing, if you’re like me, is ‘should’-ing yourself. That is, you might be saying things like “I should make more time to work out” or “I should mop these filthy floors” or “I shouldn’t be letting her nurse to sleep”. That mentality doesn’t get me doing the things I think I should be doing but it does make me feel guilty. Not helpful. So I’m learning to give myself compassion, let some things go and just make my choices without guilt or obligation.

Are you ‘should’ing on yourself? What advice could you give yourself instead? How can you reframe the advice others give you? I invite you too to clean out the ‘should’.

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