There are so many “shoulds” flying around these days, especially in motherhood:
You really should breastfeed.
You should give up on nursing and just go to formula.
You should have baby in your own room.
Babies should sleep in their own space, and you’ll all sleep better at night.
You should put your kids in activities at age three.
You should wait to put your kids into extracurriculars, life is so busy already.
For the love, the “shoulds” just keep going and going, and to be honest, I don’t have a problem with people offering their advice, and I’m also not suggesting we tell everyone to stop saying one word because the problem, to me at least, is less about what others say and more about what we do with those words when we walk away. Yes, some people offer that unsolicited advice, but why in the world are we listening and letting their voices be so much louder than our own intuition?
What I do think we should do (…see what I did there?), is eliminate that word from our self-talk. We take those shoulds and we internalize them and we wonder “Maybe I really should do what she suggested?” But that’s the thing…we hear should as a command, something that drives our decisions, when we need to hear it as a suggestion. Shoulds as commands put us into a way of thinking inside the box all the time, with very few options, and make us think that we can’t think outside of it, rarely coming up with creative solutions to our problems. And those creative solutions just might be the better answer for the decisions we’re facing.
In the shower this morning (it’s where I do my best processing), I looked down at my tattoo. It represents the two babies I delivered quietly between our five-year-old and two-year-old. There is an arrow for each with pink feathers on one for Hattie and teal feathers on the other for Emerson. I never thought I’d add to it because who ever imagines they’ll need to add to a memorial tattoo…no one wants to imagine something that was painful happening again.
But it did, and I am left wondering what to do with this tattoo so that all three of our babies are honored within it. I have found myself thinking “I should add another arrow to it. One for Baby March.” But I don’t want to, because I love this tattoo just the way it is. There’s no reason I need to change it just because I’ve decided the formula that worked well when I chose the design (one arrow for each baby) is the one I have to stick with. Until a friend suggested, “What if you just fill in more of the feather with the teal for March?”
How about that. I let the shoulds creep in, leaving me feeling boxed in with just a few options, instead of thinking outside of it and getting an answer I actually love so much. Change the solution to the problem, and it might not seem so overwhelming. What if we applied this to all of the many decisions we have to make regarding our children and our families?
Motherhood is so full of decisions, even the small daily ones, that it can be overwhelming. Let’s make it a bit easier on ourselves, shall we? If the shoulds start to feel more like pressure than suggestions, take a step back and try to think outside of that box. But really…I should probably get another tattoo, right?