Catherine’s expectations of pleasure from her visit in Milsom-street were so very high, that disappointment was inevitable; – Northanger Abbey
Expectations. We all have them. Just yesterday, I expected to put the babies down for a nap in the morning, grab a hot cup of coffee, sit down and write this post. Hmmm… that didn’t happen at all how I expected it would. I’m beginning to think having expectations is like setting yourself up for failure. Unrealistic expectations anyway. The problem is – in the moment, I don’t feel that my expectations are unrealistic. Maybe there’s something to not having any expectations at all…
Expectations for Yourself. I am the QUEEN of to-do lists. I love making them, and often make more than one… you know, the first one is the rough copy, then I’ve got to make a good copy that’s pretty to the eye. The satisfaction that comes with crossing something off a to-do list, there’s nothing like it. But, the longer it takes me to cross things off, the more tempting it is to re-write my list altogether. Expecting myself to accomplish everything in a short amount of time, leaves me frustrated.
A typical day: Caleb will come home and ask about our day, and frustratingly all I can say is – “well I didn’t accomplish anything on my to-do list.” When really, there is so much more to our day than that. Zach and Hailey put on yet another “show” for me, I got both of the twins laughing simultaneously, the babies finally fell asleep for two full hours and I spent that time doing damage control on the house, spending the last half hour snuggling on the couch with the big kids. Hmm… sounds like a pretty perfect day to me. So why was I so frustrated by the time Caleb walked in the door?
Realistically, I need to be choosing one thing on my to-do list, and setting that as my goal for the day. Obviously, we have the everyday that needs to be accomplished – the kids need to be fed, diapers need to be changed… but I may or may not have a shower… the laundry may or may not get folded and put away… supper may or may not be ready when Caleb is home from work… instead of feeling frustrated about it, I’m slowly starting to convince myself – it’s ok.
Expectations for Your Spouse. This is an easy one. It’s interesting how I’ve been able to easily have less expectations for Caleb and yet I’m having a harder time having less expectations for me. I’ve found, the more expectations you set on your spouse, the more unhappy with them you will be. If you are expecting them to do the dishes after supper, and they don’t, you feel disappointed, mad and sad. If your expecting them to put the kids to bed, and they come up 20 minutes after bedtime with a storybook in hand, you’re thinking, it’s about time.
Take away those expectations: You get up from the table to do the dishes. You start filling the sink and look over to find your spouse with the load of wash you had been meaning to fold all day. He’s sitting with the kids, showing them how to fold a t-shirt while they are playing the “sock sorting game”. After you’re done washing the dishes, you bring the kids upstairs to brush their teeth and put on their pyjamas. Just as they are crawling into bed, your spouse comes in with a storybook in his hand.
Is there a better feeling?! Instead of feeling disappointed or frustrated wondering if he’s ever going to do anything to help you, you’re surprised and can’t help but feel grateful. What’s more – when you stop focusing on what your spouse is NOT doing, you have so much more time to work on bettering yourself.
Expectations for Your Kids. This one is the trickiest. Our children need to know their limits and need to have a standard of behaviour. Our children need us to set expectations – but they need to be healthy ones, children are incredibly hard on themselves, and the last thing you want to do is to set them up for failure and affect their self-esteem.
The expectations we set for our children need to be conducive to their individual development. This is a tricky one for me. Hailey is such an old soul – I have to constantly remind myself that she is 7. If I don’t, I’m expecting her to be able to control her emotions as I do, rather than as a 7 year old is able to. As a result, I instantly feel frustrated when she is behaving in a way I don’t expect.
I’m a huge believer in self-regulation. I am definitely no dictator over my children, I’m here to act as their partner, guiding them and providing them with the skills necessary to monitor their own behaviour. In this way, I am able to put the expectation of behaviour into their own hands. I’m definitely more patient with them because of this, we can sit and talk about their behaviour, how they felt they acted, and help them figure out what they would do differently next time. It’s so satisfying hearing the words come out of their own little mouths, “I need to use my words to tell Hailey to stop” instead of me having to harp at them, “Use your words! Use your words!” .
The expectations we set for our children need to be process-based, rather than focused on an outcome. As long as they are doing their best and focused on their task, they are fulfilling the expectation. Something we have started to do in our house after supper, is to have the big kids take turns wiping the table and sweeping the floor. Basically, we wanted to make them more aware as to how unbelievably messy they are when they are eating their supper. Obviously, they are not going to be able to do as complete a job as Caleb or I would do. Sometimes, it can be absolutely excruciating to try and watch them manoeuvre that broom. But, as long as they are trying their best, they’ve fulfilled my expectation and as a bonus, they try to contain their mess as they eat, knowing they will be cleaning it up.
I think the most important thing about setting expectations for our kids, is to not set expectations that we wouldn’t follow. A “do as I say not as I do” issue. Having an expectation for them to use a calm body and talking voice while we have frustrated bodies and are yelling at them?… Having an expectation for them to keep their room clean, while our room is messy – guilty! I am by far the messy one in my relationship. But, to my kids I am human, I openly talk to them about what I feel I should do differently – regulating my own behaviour and at the same time modelling how to do so in themselves.
Expectations for Your Baby. You’ve gotten through the worst of it, or so you think. After weeks and weeks of waking every few hours, your baby starts sleeping through the night. The first time it happens, you wake up wondering if they’re still breathing. Then, as it continues, you start waking up, thankful for a good night’s sleep. But expectations slowly sneak their way in. You start staying up a little later in the evening, expecting your baby to sleep through the night. Until they don’t, because they won’t. And how do you feel? Frustrated and disappointed.
Having baby on a routine or schedule is definitely important, at least for me it is – we all do what works for us don’t we? But, when we expect that our baby is going to adhere to their routine “by the book” every single day, you are looking for disappointment. Without the expectation, you are grateful in the moments that they ARE following their routine, but you’re a little more understanding when they don’t – saving you from frustration, able to enjoy those precious baby moments that never seem to last long enough.
With all that said –
This morning I woke up with no expectations. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s 10:00am – the babies are asleep, the big kids are finished their breakfast, and I’m here, writing this post, with a hot cup of coffee in hand; babies following their routine, and my goal for the day complete.
Have a great week!