Change Your Expectations

Throughout my first pregnancy and in my first few months as a mom, I got a ton of advice.

One thing I heard repeatedly was “lower your expectations.”

As in, lower your expectations about how much time you will have for preparing homemade meals, lower your expectations on what your house is going to look like, lower your expectations for how much time you’ll get alone, and how much you will get to read or watch TV. Lower your expectations on how much time you will get to spend with your significant other, and how much time you will get to spend with friends. Even lower your expectations on how much time you will spend on self-care (hygiene, exercise, attire).

You get the idea.

Those that offered the advice were well meaning. They were trying to express that when you get rid of high expectations about certain aspects of life after becoming a parent, then you won’t be disappointed when things don’t reach that level of expectation.

For example, if you expect your home to continue to look perfect after you add a couple of little ones to the family, then you will be quite bothered when it’s in a perpetual state of disarray.

But if you lower your expectations as to what your home is going to look like, then you won’t be disappointed.

However, one thing bothered me about the idea of “lower your expectations.”

It was the word “lower.” To me, that word signified “less-than.” And I didn’t like the idea that almost everything in my life was going to be less-than.

But just in the nick of time, I read a similar, yet very different piece of advice.

Change your expectations. Don’t lower them; change them.

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How you are spending your time now that you are a mother is not less-than. It’s just different.

For example, don’t say, “I’m overweight, flabby, and look terrible, and I have ZERO time in my life to do anything about it!”

Instead, replace that thought with, “My beautiful baby was so worth the toll it took on my physical appearance. I have years ahead of me to get back into shape. But right now I am so happy I get to spend so much time with the best baby in history.”

In the second, and I think better thought, you acknowledge your lack of time for self-care. Your expectation for self-care is changed. But it’s not a lowered expectation. How you are spending your time now is not less-than. It’s just different.

It’s a small, but very important distinction.

I actually took that piece of advice and applied it to my life in my first year of motherhood, and it really helped.

I returned to my full-time job when my son was four months old and continued to work there until he was eleven months old, before I quit to be a stay at home mom for a few years.

The week before I went back to work, I sat down with my husband, and we decided I had just two jobs for the next several months.

One: work forty hours per week.

Two: care for my infant the rest of the time. Since he was small and still nursing and slept in a bassinet by our bed, that was often through the night.

That was it. Just two jobs.

House cleaning? We hired a weekly cleaning service for that season.

Time-consuming homemade meals? As my favorite writer Jen Hatmaker puts it in her most recent book For the Love, that was “off the beam.” We made fast meals, or paid a little extra for ready-to-heat-and-eat healthy meals.

Time with friends without the baby? That was off the table for a little while. But I was okay with that, because I knew it was just for a season.

Exercise and attempts to lose weight? That was also off the table for a little while. I would get to that when I had more time.

By acknowledging out loud from the beginning what my changed expectations were for my life in my first year of motherhood, it took off so much of the pressure.

I wasn’t filled with angst about all that wasn’t happening and everything I wasn’t doing. Instead, I was simply happy when I did my two jobs well.

If you find yourself filled with angst about expectations you have for your life as a mother, take a step back for a moment.

Identify what is most important in your life and what is beautiful about your life.

Then change your expectations to fit in perfectly with what is important and all that is beautiful.

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