Your Expectations of You: Something’s Got to Give
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It would seem that sometimes we women are our own worst enemies. We set these goals and standards for ourselves that really no one else is imposing on us. Sometimes we think we should do something a certain way because someone else – a friend, a mom in playgroup, the pastor’s wife, the team mom – are doing it that way. Sometimes we come up with a great idea that is just too tough to pull off, yet it’s too tough to let the good idea go.
In many ways I’m a dreamer. I envision all sorts of plans and schemes for homemaking, for family fun, for birthday celebrations, for my kids’ education, for housekeeping, you name it. I can see in my mind’s eye how great it would be for me to
- cook everything from scratch
- have an entirely “green” home
- eat only organic foods
- keep the house spotless
- teach my kids three foreign languages
- wash the windows
- stick to a $400/month food budget
- host a homemade birthday carnival, complete with a snowcone machine, games, and prizes
All of those things are fantastic ideas. I’d sign on the dotted line for each one of them right now, except for one thing.
There aren’t enough hours in my day.
I’ve slowly — and reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I can’t do all the things I want to do. Am I allowed to? Certainly. Am I able to? Sure. But there would be a cost – in time, in money, in emotional well-being, in relationships – if I tried to put feet to every good idea that came my way.
Instead I find myself reassessing constantly. Maybe you do, too. Maybe there are practices and habits that you want to work into your life as MOM. But, maybe you find yourself with limited resources and have to choose. I know I do.
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
1. What are my goals?
It’s all too easy to confuse the means with the end. So I have to remind myself – what’s my main goal? For me, it’s to manage my home effectively with a good attitude in ways that honor God. When I find myself overwhelmed by a task or a responsibility, I can revisit the goal. Is this bringing me closer to the goal or is it getting in the way?
2. What is non-negotiable and what can wiggle?
Some things are non-negotiable, like loving and caring for my husband and children. They are the purpose to my homemaking and motherhood. But other things have room to wiggle, like cooking from scratch or washing windows on a regular basis. It’s good for me to focus on the essentials and be aware of what I can let slide.
3. Does this activity or habit I’m pursuing fit this season of life?
There is a time and a place for everything. What fits today may not fit tomorrow and I need to be mindful of this. For instance, when my oldest child was my only child, I had a lot of time for baking. Today not so much. I would love to bake all my own bread. I know that it would be healthier – and probably tastier – than most of the things we buy. And I do prepare a lot of baked goods from scratch. But, I know that having a few loaves of store bought sandwich bread in the freezer at all times gives me a little extra wiggle room during busy times. The ability to make a quick sandwich dinner on a crazy day can save me all sorts of frustration as well as give me time to attend to more pressing matters.
4. Seasons change quickly and, therefore, how can I be ready for the changes?
What worked for my family when we had one child doesn’t always work for us today. A trip to the store is a little more complex these days. My methods of housekeeping have changed and evolved as my crew of able-bodied helpers has grown. As my family matures, we do things differently. If I expect that, I will be better able to roll with the changes.
Since FishPapa has worked in construction since he was a boy, building and its terminology is a part of our life. Long ago I learned that if he was working with plaster or concrete, I needed to expect that he might need to cut short my phone calls to him. Unpredictable, both of these materials can start to harden before you’re ready, so you have to be flexible with your time and ready to “go with it.” Wood and nails generally do what you want them to, but concrete and plaster, well, they can have minds of their own. We realized the parallel with parenting early on. A familiar phrase for us, is “It’s plaster.” Meaning: You gotta go with it and be prepared for the unexpected.
I love this quote from The Mommy Manual:
Keep in mind that modifying your standards is not always a sign of laziness but sometimes of intelligent decision making. When we lower our standards because circumstances defeat us or we feel weak, we don’t feel good about the result. But when we evaluate the demands on our time, our children’s capabilities, and our family’s priorities, a decision to temporarily modify our standards in some area may actually be the most responsible path.
I’ve been reflecting on the fact that some things need to be adjusted in my mind set. I seem to place the bar really high for myself: I want an immaculate home, a perfectly-run school, great nutritious meals, happy children, a great physique, and on and on and on. Usually, I don’t reach the bar and I feel miserable as a result.
This quote (and the examples that accompanied it) really freed me up. I feel like I can reset my mind and set goals that are achievable and helpful to my family.
Think about how you can modify your standards to fit your real life today. What worked when you were single, doesn’t work when you are married. A system that runs smoothly with one baby may stumble when you have several children. What worked when they were babies, may not be working now that they’re schoolage.
How can you make some modifications for the NOW?
Such is life in motherhood and home management. Be ready to adjust to the different circumstances of life and don’t be fearful or freak out when something’s gotta give. No one expects you to be SuperWoman, except maybe you. Instead, reassess your goals, adapt, and go with it.
I completely understand the parallel with plaster – thanks, this does help 🙂
This is a great post. I needed this reminder today!
Thanks so much for this post!!! It was a BLESSING to me at just the right time!!! REALLY needed to read this!! Thanks so much for reminding us all the we are human!!
I’m so glad, Robin. Thanks for taking the time to tell me you were encouraged!
I completely appreciate this post and the logical steps/Q’s included. So critical! I recently posted on this topic myself (but from the other side – the burned out side) at http://heartpondering.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/mothering-well-through-changes/
Wow. Uncanny, because I wrote a post a day before you wrote this called “Super Parents are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently, Part Two: Be Who You Are” http://momsinneedofmercy.blogspot.com/2010/03/super-parents-are-just-ordinary-people_23.html
Guess our writing minds must be thinking alike!
Basically, we as moms can be super to our kids by doing the unique things WE are good at, and ceasing to compare ourselves to what others are doing. God created them differently and gave their children to them for His purposes. He created us and gave our children to us for His purposes. If we can learn to celebrate what we’re good at, instead of feeling like a failure for what someone else does well (but we don’t), we can feel more confident more consistently.
Thank you for this. I have been struggling a lot lately… I have a daughter that just turned four (March 15th), a 21 month old, and a 6 week old. Before the 6 week old was born, I made everything from scratch (most of the time), made everything very healthy, drove over an hour to buy raw milk and grass fed/cage free meat, kept the house clean, got up at 6 am everyday to have an hour with Jesus, cloth diapered, etc. Now, I can barely keep up with keeping my kids dressed and fed, period. I desire to just love on my kids, and so that has been at the top of my priority list (because the older two have struggled since #3 was born), and the rest has fallen by the wayside in many ways. Thank you for the reminder that I am doing what I need to be doing. My husband always tells me he would rather have a messy house than a stressed out wife… and the food… well, he thinks I put too much pressure on myself in that area too… We are all different… we all need to just ask God what His desires are for our family, and go with it. Not everyone can handle everything that they would like to do!! I read another blog similar to this just the day before I read this one: http://www.messycanvas.com/2010/03/guest-blog-chasing-imperfection/.
Thank you again!!
I printed this out so I can read it when I feel overwhelmed again! (it happens all day long!)
I am entering a new season of life and trying hard to re-evaluate, yet again. That part gets a little tiresome to me, I must admit.
But on the other hand, it’s exciting that the same ol’ thing won’t be the same ol’ thing much longer.
This is a great list of questions! Especially the one about the main goal. In fact, I have my main goal written on a card taped above my kitchen sink so I can read it often.
Great thoughts! With a 16 year old daughter in the house now and a wonderful husband, I often have the time to work on my “Supermomhood”. However, since I am 8 months pregnant, I am focusing on how to re-prioritize my goals for our household so I have realistic expectations of myself and my household in the months to come. Your thoughts are always insightful, Jess and I thank you. Helpful tools like freezer cooking have been wonderful!
Thanks so much for that! It’s reassuring to know others struggle with the same things and have gained perspective and insight that can help you do the same. As our circumstances and seasons change, it gives us more chances to discover why we need to rely on God. And you’re right that often it’s our own expectations that we are fighting.
I love reading your blog; we have so much in common! Now if there were just a way to share cyber coffee during the cyber conversation over the kitchen table… 🙂
Sitting here drinking my morning cup of Peets!
I always thought I could do everything when my kids were little. I went to school full-time, worked 2 jobs, taught Sunday School, ran Children’s Church and VBS and thought we had it all. It “worked” for 12 years and then it all fell apart.
I sorta fell apart, had to quit my job but to emotional health and realized I’d missed a lot I didn’t want to. I looked back and realized that the time I was investing in things that really didn’t matter could have been spent on my marriage and my kids. I corrected the issue and learned to say NO. I also realized that if someone doesn’t care for the fact I need to dust or the dishes aren’t done they really don’t need to be a guest in my home.
My kids are grown now. Or mostly as my youngest graduates in 2 months. And at this moment my dishes need done, my home office is a mess and I need to fold the laundry too.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty of having 10 partially completed projects, only scheduling an hour for something when I really need 3 and all things of the same like…but I’m also learning to take it in stride.
Jessica, It was so good to read this today. I really want to take time and evaluate myself in these areas. I want to continue to be in perspective and remember to run what I do through the filter of what has the Lord called me to do? I want to do a lot of things (tons, in fact) but I want to make sure I am doing what He wants me to do.
I love this. You are so good at giving me reminders like this. One thing I really want to do is to make a goal board to hang in my office. So I can see a physical and visual representation of all my goals in one place and see it multiple times throughout the day. Have you ever done something like this? It just feel like it will help me keep track of what I’m really working towards instead of wasting time on all the dumb stuff I do.
I don’t have a poster, because things on the wall are things that I eventually become blind to. Like the messes on the floor. But I do have this sheet in my planner which I refer to about once a month. It’s starting to look the same every month, though, so I guess I am not very good at reaching these goals. 😉
Sometimes I think the blogging world contributes to this myth of SuperMom. People crop dirty dishes out of their pictures, tell stories of their children’s accomplishments, write about their cleaning schedules, talk of their homeschooling, give out their homeade recipes, etc., etc. etc. And it can make readers feel like they don’t live up to all that the blogger does. Now, I know it is not usually done intentionally but it can come across as such to a reader when her only accomplishment was getting a shower in and feeding her baby. It’s nice to be encouraged by blogs, but we need to be mindful of how it comes across. (And I’m not saying you do this, Jessica – it’s just a general mom blog thing.)
I’m sure the blogosphere contributes, but only because women hang out in the blogosphere. 😉 I think we do this wherever we congregate. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want others to think well of her. I think it’s making sure that SHE is satisfied in who God has made her to be and what He has called her to. And unfortunately, y’all probably think more highly of me than you should. You should see how gross my shower is….
You don’t know how much I needed to read this today. I have two boys – a 5 week old and a 2 1/2 year old. Needless to say, I’m still adjusting. Thanks for the reminder that this is merely a season in my life and the frustration & stresses will not last forever.
Great Post! It sounds like most moms feel this way – always nice to be reminded about what’s important every now and then. Thanks!
Excellent post, just what I needed to hear today!
This post made me sad. I work full time outside the home and I have to. But what is important to me is my kids and giving them the best that I can. So I always feel like my actions are not in line with my goals. I feel like I am missing out. This is my one oppertunity to be mom and to teach them and to nutrure them and I’m missing it.
My daughter turns 6 in two weeks and I will not be with her. I’ll be at work late that day. I’m going to miss it.
Oh, Jenelle, I’m sorry this made you sad. That was not my intention at all. However, I guess you could look at it in one of two ways. 1. To confirm your decision/need to work full time or 2. To use it as a prompting to reconsider other options.
I’d be happy to talk about it with you. I know it’s not easy, especially when money is tight. Our tax accountant has shook his head at us because he couldn’t believe we could raise a family of 6 on one income.
But, above all, make the most of the time you do have with your children. My guess is that you do this already.
This is so true. I’ve found it so liberating to say that there are things I don’t do, that don’t work for me. Like scrapbooking. I don’t scrapbook and that’s great! I call it my “I don’t” list. It helps me keep what is important straight and not beat myself up over the things I don’t do. Thanks for the great reminders to do what we can and let the rest be.
what a great post, i am definetely not supermom, even though i pretend to be. i need to lighten up. sigh.
After making a tough decision recently, this was a most welcome read. Sitting down with the four questions gave me a sense of peace that had been missing about our choice. Thank you!
Really good post! I don’t a mom who doesn’t struggle just this way to some degree. Thanks for sharing!
My saying is “I’m am done being super mom, I am going back to slacker mom”! I’m a full time working mom with 2 young boys and sometimes you just have to let things go. No I won’t always be able to make these nice treat bags that other preschoolers give on Valentine’s Day or keep a clean house. But I love my kids and they know that everything I do is for them and that is enough! Besides they love take-out and movie nights on the couch after a long week!
Preach it, sister! I decided that I’m throwing out any guilt that doesn’t have a Biblical standard/command with it. (Biblical guilt is to get me to obey.) But guilt that my kids just ate chicken nuggets and that chicken stuff is sitting in their bellies right now….forget it. Guilt that their birthday party was not quite so fancy as their cousin’s….forget it.
Keep going…I enjoy your blog.
@Shelah, I loved the post and shelah thank you for your comment. I am a guilt-a-holic. I think I thrive on it sometimes. I know God doesn’t want us to feel this pressure, so it is nice to be reminded that my conviction should be on important issues like talking with my kids about God’s word or spending time enjoying life instead of being a robot who has to get it all done.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I needed to hear this today. This is a constant battle with me. In fact, I routinely have about a half million “projects” started that never get finished–projects that stemmed from a “great idea” of yet another thing I needed to do as a mom. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming it leaves me depressed because I end up getting none of it accomplished (I have four kids–what was I thinking?!) So thank you, thank you, thank you, for allowing God to use you to speak directly to my heart today.
I guess there are a lot of us in the same boat. Funny, good, helpful. If you see success today, make sure to come back and tell us!
I gave you an award on my blog.
Boy, I needed to read this this morning. Thank you – I’ve had a lot of these thoughts swirling around in my head, but you expressed them perfectly.
That sounds right. Flow with a plan but make sure your plan and go with the flow:-)
I’m a recovered ‘perfectionist’. I once thought it ALL had to be ‘perfect’. To whatever standard that actually is, I’m not sure. I gave up being perfect years ago. I actually feel motherhood cured me of wanting to be ‘perfect’ at everything! Don’t get me wrong, I still had/have the ‘mommy guilt’ at times. But I don’t allow it to stay around. I’d much rather enjoy the moment, the time, the trip, the conversation with my children …than have a spotless house. Than to have missed a moment.
Very well written!
I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed this post today. Superwoman I’m not. But, oh, sometimes I wish I were.
Great post. Funny…you should read mine today. Same thought…a little more compact. God told me to specifically re-post this one and when I opened yours, I laughed. My post is titled “Tick-Tock Supermom”…Great minds think alike!
Wow – God is really speaking to me these last few days. Just yesterday I read a similar post on a blog I had never read before, and now today here’s yours. My husband and I were just discussing this very topic yesterday afternoon. Thanks so much for this encouragement!
What a great encouragement. We were just talking about this in our Bible Study yesterday morning. That we put all these expectations on ourselves to be EVERYTHING, and just like every other mom. “We must not care about our kids nutrition if we don’t make our own bread…we must not care about their education if we don’t homeschool. ” It is refreshing that God doesn’t have just 1 mold we must all fit into… What a great reminder to not be so hard on ourselves
I have a big problem with this, too. I always have more that I want to do than time to do it. It does seem like life with kids is always changing. Having priorities written down helps me, because I can always go back to the basics, and know that I will get back to the other things at some point.
@Anna, it’s a constant process of going back to the basics, isn’t it?