I won’t beat around the bush, so let’s get to the point. The one thing that made all of motherhood harder was EXPECTATIONS.
A friend told me this when I was pregnant with my first baby. I must have asked her for advice on after the baby. She said the best thing I could do was to have no expectations. I, of course, thought she must be depressed or something. Who has no expectations?! What a buzz kill!
Looking back, she was absolutely right. If someone asked me what made breastfeeding, babywearing, baby care, sleep, and all of motherhood more difficult, I would have to admit that it wasn’t so much the situation itself, but my expectations of what life SHOULD have been like.
Think about infant sleep.
Many newborns wake up frequently at night in order to nurse. This is totally normal newborn behavior.
But if you go to Pinterest and type the words, “baby” and “sleep” in the search bar you will be hit in the face with hundreds of links to posts about getting your newborn to sleep through the night. There is an obvious expectation that your baby should sleep and everybody has a tool to help make that happen.
Yes, I admit that losing sleep because of a wakeful newborn is difficult. I have four kids. I know this. I insist, however, that half the problem is that we EXPECT to sleep. We have clocks next to our bed. We look at them every time we wake up and again when they “finally” fall back asleep. We count our hours of sleep (or lack) and tell people about them and feel sad about a failed expectation.
Then, during the day, after a night of broken sleep, we EXPECT ourselves to make dinner, go to work, get stuff done, function like normal, etc. We drink caffeine so that we can function as expected. This expectation of course leads to feelings of failure when we can’t meet our own expectations.
Breastfeeding is a natural and normal biological function and many of us just EXPECT it to work. Breastfeeding in real life in our modern culture can actually be incredibly difficult and fraught with challenges like insufficient glandular tissue, breastfeeding after cesarean, breastfeeding with tongue tie, breastfeeding after medicated birth, and more.
These challenges often blindside women and bring many feelings of failure laden with guilt and shame, plus they often feel very alone in handling these issues.
What about postpartum?
Before I had a baby, it seemed to me that every woman I knew who had children was trim, happy, and back to life within two weeks. How hard could it be?! Women really make this new motherhood thing look easy. Especially celebrity women!
I EXPECTED the same from myself. It took me years to realize that Spanx and Zoloft were helping everybody else hold it (literally) all together. That didn’t stop me from being totally shocked that I was overweight (for months) after having a baby and didn’t feel quite human until that baby was nine months old.
I wish I had gained wisdom with all my years of dashed expectations about myself and my children, but I don’t seem to have learned a thing. I struggle all the time with my school aged children.
Why are they acting like this?
Why are they having a hard time with school?
Why are they in pain?
What brings this disappointment? I am not really dissapointed in my actual children. I truly love them the way they are.
No, my EXPECTATIONS that they perform well, score well, and be “perfect” are ruined and this leads to so much struggle and pain. It isn’t so much the situation itself, but my expectation that it should be different.
I still set goals and make plans and shoot high for things that are important to me. Losing expectations doesn’t mean giving up. It means recognizing that things aren’t always storybook pretty. It means being OK with imperfection. It doesn’t mean you don’t strive for perfection, it means you forgive yourself (and others) when you don’t achieve it.
Photo credit: Xue Rui via Foter.com / CC BY-SA, Daddy-David via Foter.com / CC BY, cilesfineline via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
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