Great Expectations {Adventures in Parenthood} | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

August 15, 2012

Great Expectations {Adventures in Parenthood}

Expect : To demand that someone does something because it is a duty or seems reasonable

Our lives are motivated by expectations.  

We expect things. We expect things to happen, to transpire in a particular way.  We find comfort in the consistency of schedule: that we can count on the regularity of certain things happening each day. Humans expect the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening. If the sun cycle one day ceased to happen, we would be quite alarmed. 

We expect.

As parents, we try to be flexible.  We try to roll with things, because as much as many of us try to plan or schedule our kids, kids will inevitably do what they want or need to do.

I struggle with this.

When Bug was born, I had assumed her path as a child would generally fall into everything I learned parenting Chica. I figured I could do the same thing, and that A + B would equal C. Every human life is different, though. They come into the world in different ways. They have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. And as much as I didn't want to admit it, Bug was going to be different than Chica.

Although Chica initially through us for a loop with sleep, we eventually fell into a great groove.  She has, since, been a generally good sleeper.  I had hoped Bug would follow suit. But this has not been the case. Bug, thankfully, never gave us the all-out screaming all-nighters like Chica did.  But whereas Chica resolved these issues, and eventually began sleeping through the night around 3 months old, Bug would continue to wake at night until she was almost a year old. Whereas Chica, with some work when she was a few weeks old, fell into a predictable napping pattern, Bug has kept me guessing. 

Last spring, I was bemoaning this misfortune to my friend, Brie. She listened while I spoke. Brie had faced her own sleep issues with her children, all very different from the issues I worked through with my kids. At the end of my sleep-deprived rant, Brie said:

"Maybe you need to change your expectations."

My swirling thoughts stopped in their tracks. I spent a lot of time thinking about her words, even after the conversation had ended. Because she was absolutely right. I woke up each day with the expectation that Bug (at the time) would take two predictable naps each day. Yet, many days, that was not my reality. So why did I continually make this my expectation? If I woke up every day expecting this to be true, I would be disappointed. I would agonize over why this wasn't happening. 

So why not just change my expectation?

The answer was simple enough: Stop expecting the same outcome, and you won't be disappointed. Yet, if the day arrives where the outcome does happen, it will be a welcomed joy. This was difficult for me, as I, admittedly, struggle with being in control (which is why the idea of schedules, of regularity, appeals to me). I yearn to be one of those people who can throw caution to the wind, go with the flow, and let the cards fall where they will.  I'm not. 

But I'm working on being more flexible.

So from that day on, I attempted to adjust my expectations on Bug's sleep. It helped me relax when I saw that if things didn't go they way I had previously expected, the world didn't end. We survived no worse for the wear. And eventually, Bug's sleep evolved without me spending each day struggling.

I realized that Bug's sleep was not the only area of my life that I needed to adjust my expectations. That expectations were not just a parenting issue. Rather, a life issue.

We all struggle with misguided expectations. We secretly expect (hope?) our kids will sleep until 7am. And every day that they wake at 6am, we become frustrated. We expect the schedule of errands we've created for tomorrow to go as planned. Yet, when the unexpected obstacle arises, we are completely thrown off. And when those expectations, even those that are subconscious, are not met, we are frustrated.

The expectations can go much deeper. We expect we'll remain healthy, until the day we get an unforeseen diagnosis. We expect to become pregnant easily, until we are 8 months in with no positive test. We expect that we've emotionally overcome the loss of a loved one, but some days the pain is fresh and new. We expect our finances to remain stable, until your spouse loses his or her job. We expect the friend to be there for you, but he or she repeatedly lets you down.

Life is full of unexpected, big and small.

So do we wake up every day frustrated with our health diagnosis or the budget that won't resolve? Or do we accept that this is the current normal? Can we set our expectations that our children will wake at 6am instead of 7am? That healing is a process, and you may wake up most days frustrated at past hurts or grieving past loses? That some friendships go through seasons, and it might be time to let go for now?

I am working on reevaluating my expectations. And it's a work-in-progress.

I'd love to hear from you: What areas of your life are you holding onto that you need to relinquish control? What expectations do you need to adjust, as an individual or as a parent, so that you am not constantly frustrated or disappointed?


  1. I need to relinquish control in not wanting to control everything <----- it's pretty bad that I have to say that, but alas, I am a control freak.

    I've always been the "adult"- I raised my brother and sister, and did not have much of a childhood. I had a lot of responsibilities in my younger years. Those responsibilities carried over into my 20's when I had children of my own.

    I have always been regimented, because I always needed to be. It's like I've been raising children for 20 years, because essentially, I have. I had many expectations in my childhood, but none of them involved playing the part of an actual child. I think this is where my control-freak thing started.

    I have trouble following the "flow of things", I like my schedule, a schedule, some semblance of a schedule. When things go out of whack, I freak. I envy my husband because he is sooooo easy going, and I am like "GAH! ACK! NO!" all the time.

    I am working on this control freak stuff, but it is still difficult for me sometimes (ok, a lot of times). I think that when my children get a little older, and are less needy- I'll get the opportunity to have some semblance of a personal life and I'll find myself a lot more relaxed. Woo-Sahhhhhh.

    1. So glad I am not the only one! I hear you on taking a role in raising siblings. I think the older kids get, the easier it will get? Maybe? HOPEFULLY? Still starting now though :)

  2. I am a Work At Home Mom of 5 kids. I too struggle with the expectation that my children are going to easily fall into the schedule that I have in place for them. A schedule, which realistically, is set up to accommodate my daily to do list. After a major melt down last week, where nothing went as planned and I ended up almost in tears when hubby came home, I realized that I'm approaching things the wrong way. Instead of scheduling my children based on what fits my to do list, I need to schedule my to do list around what fits their needs THAT day. I need to be more flexible, become better at planning for the unexpected, and most importantly lower my expectation as it relates to what I want to accomplish for the day. Sometimes as mom's we push ourselves too hard, to get way too much done in a 24 hour period. When things don't go the way we planned because we over committed ourselves, that's when the frustration and disappointment take over. Expecting that the kids will behave everday, and then expecting that we'll be the perfect moms/wives all the time is unrealistic. Demanding perfection out of ourselves, or of our children, will only lead to anxiety and a sense of failure for all of us

    1. First of all - YOU ARE MY HERO! 5 kids?! AND you work at home? Glad we are in this "relinquishing" journey together. I think one of the greatest graces we need to show in relinquishing is not just being flexible when our kids misbehave or things don't go as planned. But we need to let go of the expectation that we can DO IT ALL, and do it perfectly! Let's show each other the same grace we need to start showing our kids, and the other issues in our lives!

  3. Oooh, I can totally relate! I am a control freak and I deal with my "expectations" on a daily basis. It never seems to matter what type of kink is thrown in my schedule, it always throws off my whole day! I've been working on it for years and I've made *some* progress, but it's definitely slow going. Good luck to you!

    I found you on Thoughtful Thursday and I'm a new follower!
    Life with our Family

  4. This is so true! Like you, many of my expectations (and subsequent frustrations) have centered around sleep. But I also get myself bunched up about behaviors. For example, I assumed my daughter would be a low-key as my son about a lot of things and she's not. I'm learning I'm going to have to do things differently with her. Great post!

  5. Hey Steph!!

    Loved your blog today!!
    You brought out some really great points when it comes to releasing expectations when it comes to life situations. I have been meditating on that very same subject for some time now and reading your blog this morning really brought confirmation that I need to relinquish control in certain areas of my life. So thank you so much for writing this blog because it was particularly for me.
    Listen Steph, I can imagine you stay pretty busy like myself. After running after my 2 year old and one on the way, balancing a household, and still being on my personal "A" game, I'm wiped out by 10am lol. So, I started this new thing with Body by Vi and I've never felt more energetic and healthier! I'm sure you're "on the go" so, whenever you have a chance check out the website,, if its something that interest you let me know and fill out the contact form, and I'll be in touch.
    Take care Steph, I look forward to reading your next blog!


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Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

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