Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Expectations

I started a post earlier today but hadn't finished it. I'm going to re-write it now since it's at work and I'm not...

This morning while on my way to work, I started listening to a recent episode of Mommycast where they were talking about 'Superwoman Syndrome'. I only heard a small portion of the discussion before I arrived at work, but that little snippet stuck with me all day. It dealt with the question of why we as women always try to 'do everything' and 'be everything' perfectly.

Then tonight as I was reading through blog posts, I read two things that also struck me. The first was a post by SortaCrunchy where she talks about how as a 'Shiny Brand New Mama' she spent the first few months of her older daughter's life trying to make her adapt to a schedule because it was what she was 'supposed' to do. The second was a post by Surviving Motherhood about the struggle to be a 'perfect mom' and realizing that there's no such thing.

What I thought about for most of the day in between juggling work projects, learning the ropes in a new department while trying to finish up some last few things in the old one, taking Hannah to her urologist appointment and then heading back to work for the last couple of hours of the day before picking up the girls and heading to church for dinner and Wednesday night classes - what I thought about during the few 'down' moments I had, and tried to type up but didn't get very far - was expectations.

In so many ways we do try to be 'perfect' at everything we do, because it seems to be expected of us. But by whom? Our spouses, our parents, our bosses, our children? Or ourselves?

Do we really have to do everything perfectly and be 100% amazing at everything all at once? Or do we just think we do...

I know I feel a lot of pressure and therefore a lot of guilt about the things that I just can't manage to do 'perfectly'. At work, it's expected that you'll give 100% to your job and although my current job allows more flexibility than my last one did, there is still that pressure to perform. I know it must be even worse for those who work in less flexible and/or high pressure jobs - that's why my previous job is just that. The expectation of a minimum 45-hour work week, evening meetings and travel was something I just couldn't manage and frankly, didn't want to.

When my girls started preschool and now public school, I found that it was expected that as a parent, I would do certain things like volunteer in their classrooms and help with fund raisers. I know that it's not fair for the same parents to always be the ones to step up but somehow that just adds to the pressure.

As women, we're expected to conform to society in certain ways. Wearing heels, makeup, being thin (but not too thin), eating right, exercising (or at least trying to do so), having the right clothes, the right shoes... And when we get married or in a relationship, then even that brings a whole new list of expectations as well - the pressure to have a clean house, to cook healthy meals, to be the 'perfect' wife. But at what cost?

I don't have all the answers - I wish I did because I would then be much better able to juggle my responsibilities and my life. I constantly feel pulled in so many different directions - like I'm trying to do 100% at so many things and end up doing it at none of them. If I give more effort at work, then things at home don't get done. And vice versa. And yet, I still feel the pressure, the expectation that I have to try.

I like how Karen put it:
"Several years ago I thought I was the only mother who struggled with the concept of not being perfect. Truly, I thought every other mom had it all together, and I was the only one who didn't. How wonderful it was to me when I learned I wasn't alone. None of us moms is perfect.
Therein is the third dose of grace I believe we need to extend to ourselves. Say it with me, I am not a perfect mother. Knowing we aren't perfect, and admitting it, frees us to throw off the unrealistic expectations that we will do everything perfectly as we raise our children.
Yes - We do, and will continue to, make mistakes.
Yes - We will encounter situations and offer what we believe is the best solution, only to find out later we were way wrong.
Yes - In spite of our best efforts our children will accuse us of being mean and unfair, and sometimes they will be right.
Yes - We will be driven to tears over our failures time and again, wondering if our children stand a chance of becoming well-adjusted adults."
And Megan as well:
"I can write this now as a Not Quite Shiny Mama, a mama who looks back on those days with such regret. Not the aching, desperate kind of regret that follows me around all day. Nah. Just the resigned regret of knowing I missed out on such sweetness in D's earliest days. I missed out on having her sleep contently on my chest (as AJ is doing at this very moment). I missed nuzzling and snuggling her off to sleep. I missed experiencing the unforced rhythms of life with a newborn because I was so angry that she wouldn't sleep when she was "supposed to". I couldn't allow myself the joy of getting to know her amazing and vibrant personality because I was too busy fretting over how I was failing her. If only I had possessed a crystal ball in those days . . . some manner of seeing into the future and being able to be assured that yes, D would eventually be able to go to sleep without being rocked for even a minute. That, indeed, she would sleep through the night. It didn't happen until she was around two, but it happened. And it's wonderful. And she's wonderful. And I did not fail her."
I so needed the reminders that I found in these two posts today. It's been a stressful week so far with kids getting sick and trying to juggle doctors appointments and getting settled in a new workspace. And trying to do a good job for my new department while having to be gone more than usual for personal commitments. I cannot do everything perfectly! And I will keep telling myself that until I begin to believe it. And to live by it.

Because when it comes down to it, the only expectations that really matter are mine.


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7 wonderful people said...:

childlife said...

Thanks for this post Deb! I've been feeling not-so-shiny myself lately... this is a much better perspective.

Shana said...

And you too have written a wonderful post. You are right who does put these expectations on us?

And just FYI; from everything I see here on your blog I can tell you are one heck of a mommy! :o)

Corey~living and loving said...

lovely....just lovely. well said....so true!

Summer said...

Thanks for this Deb!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Dude (can I call you "dude"?), this is at the heart of so many things I am struggling with right now. Thanks for sharing such great reflections on the topic.

Anna said...

"I constantly feel pulled in so many different directions - like I'm trying to do 100% at so many things and end up doing it at none of them."

That's exactly how I feel. Then I look at other moms who are working full time, and being moms, and so many other things... and it seems that I have no excuse for not keeping up.

As far as expectations go, I've always been a perfectionist - since before I can even remember, just ask my mom! I expect everything that I do to be done perfectly, and if I don't have time to do it perfectly, it's hard for me to do it at all.

Genesis said...

I think this is something all moms struggle with. I certainly have . . . and blogged about it! :D

You might be interested in a website that I recently discovered, www.workitmom.com. There is a whole section on Work/Life balance. It´s pretty new, but there seems to be some good info there . . . might be worth your while to check out when you get back from your trip and everyone is over the illness. :)