I am an avid podcast listener. One of my favorites is a podcast called “Death, Sex & Money.” In one episode, host Anna Sale interviews actress Ellen Burstyn. Ellen shares that now that she is in her eighties, living alone, she has finally allowed herself “Shouldless Days,” days where she does only what she wants to do and nothing she should do. She turns away from the inner critic who faults her for not doing what she should, and instead listens to what she truly wants and needs.
I often think about Ellen Burtstyn’s "Shouldless Days" and think to myself, "Is it easier to do this when you’re in your eighties, without the responsibility of little mouths to feed and hands to hold? Is it easier to do this as a financially successful famous actress, living alone in a lofty New York apartment?"
And my answer is, "Of course!"
But that doesn’t mean that we need let the “should’s” dictate everything in life. By choosing to not act from a “should” mentality in every instance, you allow room for self-compassion, a turn to joy, and you prioritize self care.
Just stopping to question the “should” helps you to decide what to keep and what to let go. Sometimes you agree with the “should.” It aligns with your core values. You begin to edit out the unnecessary, the harmful, the confusion, and the waste that does not serve you and your family.
There are many opportunities to practice this in pregnancy and postpartum. You are faced with so many “should’s.” With a new tiny human to prepare for and care for, the stakes seem even higher on figuring out what you should do.
Should I birth in the hospital?
Should I find out my baby’s sex?
Should I get genetic testing?
Should I get an epidural?
Should my mother-in-law get to be in the room when I give birth?
Should we circumcise our son?
Should we host visitors after the baby is born?
Should I be able to keep the house clean?
Should we co-sleep?
Should I introduce a bottle?
Should I go back to work?
Should my baby be sleeping through the night by now?
Should I be back to my pre-baby weight?
To be truthful, the “should’s” never end. Whether you are expecting a baby, have a newborn, a toddler, or a teenager, there will always be someone (maybe yourself), telling you what you should do in any given situation.
Before you automatically oblige, pause. Are you also listening to the voice of self-compassion? Are you taking care of your own needs, as well those of your baby and family? Are you making room for joy? Do you need help? Do you need more information? Is there another way? What does your intuition tell you?
Amidst leaking breasts, a non-stop nursing baby, a clingy toddler, and a pile of laundry, if you can’t swing a Shouldless Day, try a shouldless pause. A breath. A chance to let go of what doesn’t serve you. A turn to what brings you joy, even a trace.
Maybe it's advocating for yourself in labor. Maybe it's saying "no" to a visitor. Maybe it's ordering pizza that night so you can sleep a little bit longer with your baby. Maybe it's asking someone else to bring the meal.
Question the "should's." Listen to what answers follow.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
What "should's" are you facing in pregnancy? How can I help?
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.