Monday, May 9, 2016

(Un)realistic Expectations

I remember my first mother's day 4 years ago. Will was only a week old and was such a snuggly little baby. He rarely fussed and was content just to be held. Steve was a nervous first time dad and I was still recovering from my c-section - only had been home for a couple of days - so he was all about making sure I was comfortable and borderline waiting on me hand and foot. I'm fairly certain someone brought us a meal that day.

It was blissful. It was wonderful. It was right out of a Hallmark commercial. Smiles, cooing baby, bliss.

My second I don't really recall, which makes me think it was similar to most other Sundays. But my third... oh good grief my third...
The kiddos - taken May 2014, right around Mother's Day

It was my first Mothers' Day with 2 kids. Steve had asked a couple of weeks in advance what I wanted to do and I replied that I wanted to get some Top Donut - donuts and iced coffee - and take a walk by the river. I was a month off of my c-section with Evie and I wanted to move around and enjoy the outside. I didn't want to cook, I didn't want to stress - Evie had been born in the midst of a housefull of sickness and I was glad to be out of that hump.

Well... as luck would have it, Evie was entering her 6-week growth spurt, eating like crazy and as a spitty baby does - was spitting up like crazy too. We were just figuring out that Will has seasonal allergies - his Zyrtec hadn't kicked in enough to protect him, he was prone to throw up with too much post-nasal drip, and so was sneezing and vomiting everywhere. Steve was just coming off of a pretty bad cold and while he was also anxious to be outside - he was cranky from being sick for a week.

But I had my expectations of a wonderful family walk with iced coffee and donuts and a breakfast picnic on Mothers' Day. I had set this beautiful picture in my head and was determined to follow through with it. We would do it. It would be amazing. We would overcome risks and have a beautiful morning together.

The actual picture? It was... less than beautiful.

I will never forget that at the end of that day I was sitting there almost in tears. I was covered in puke and snot and poop and didn't want to think about what I wanted for dinner. Steve and I were both frustrated with how the day was turning out, concerned about a relapse into post-partum depression like I had experienced with Will, and we were disappointed with the day overall. 

All I wanted was Mothers' Day to be over. I declared it a sham, a falsehood, a day like any other day - only possibly more stressful because of unrealistic expectations that I (and the rest of the world) had constructed at the outset.

Have any of you ever had this experience of unrealistic expectations that get completely shattered? I feel like these expectations that we construct for ourselves (whether it's Mothers' Day or something else) have huge potential to add to our emotional clutter and baggage - especially during busy times of year like the spring with banquets and graduations and events and parties. They can add additional work we can't handle in our lives, they can give us a false picture of reality, and they can make us feel that if things don't go as planned they are an utter failure and the pressure of that need for success adds unnecessary stress.

Life has been crazy in our home over the last several months, and so I didn't set up expectations this year. The only thing I really wanted were donuts for breakfast, to not have to worry about dinner or subsequent clean-up, and to get 30-60 minutes to myself (if at all possible) in a Starbucks with a book and a cup of coffee. Not only did I get all of those things (even if dinner was out at a restaurant with 2 overtired toddlers - one with minimal nap, the other on the back end of a chest cold - and my in-laws), but I even got to spend 30 minutes talking to my own mother while folding 3 loads of laundry (less to start off the week with!) and space to myself to work on a crochet project until Steve came up to bed at 10.

Was it a perfect day? No. But I didn't set up any expectations. I had desires, but didn't make them needs.

So when our good friends texted me last night and said "D, how was your Mothers' Day?" - my answer was "Well... no one vomited on me. So it was pretty good."

God has given me these gifts of motherhood and marriage - and that means the good and the bad, through sickness and health, beautiful and ugly, laughter and tantrums. Motherhood is a mess and fatherhood is a mess and the jobs are nonstop, constantly demanding, and the kids don't stop being kids for a day just because of what the calendar has decided the day will be. As such - celebrating motherhood and fatherhood is inevitably going to be messy too. To expect anything different from that is just setting ourselves up for disappointment - instead, we should expect the normal chaos, the normal skinned knees, the normal sniffles, and maybe even a quarrel or two. After all, those are the things that we're celebrating anyways. 

No one vomited on me. That's a successful day of motherhood in my book. 

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