Expectations are tricky. We carry them with us, sometimes without realizing it. They are formed from childhood, as we nestled our tiny baby dolls in our chubby arms, lined them up for “school” and tucked them into their little cradles. THOSE babies were perfect. They only fussed occasionally and settled right down thanks to a pretend juice bottle. They didn’t back talk. They weren’t sick. They didn’t have sensory issues. They didn’t punch other children. Or poop on the carpet.
But here we are in real life. With real children. In the trenches of motherhood that isn’t quite what we imagined. Our expectations are for good nappers, healthy children, smart children, obedient children.
So here is why I bring this up:
Barrett has finished nursing. It’s over already. It’s not what I expected. I know, I know, in the scheme of things that don’t go as you expected in motherhood this is a tiny one. (I’ve had friends this year who have lost babies, dealt with infertility, had children diagnosed with illnesses or special needs, I know in the grand scheme this is a blip of a disappointment.) But it’s still a little hard for this mama heart. We had literally the perfect nursing relationship–none of the start-off drama Layla had, the only struggle was keeping up with his demand. And when he was about 4 months, my supply starting dropping off and Barrett’s appetite certainly didn’t! So near 5 months we stopped breastfeeding. I’ve been focusing on some of the great things about bottle-feeding: daddy feedings, Layla feedings, real bras, not spending half the day with my shirt up, but was over 2 months ago and it still makes me a little sad and I feel a little like I let him down.
But it’s hard when things don’t go as you expect no matter how silly the matter is.
So here are a few things God’s been teaching me the past few months about motherhood and expectations…
1. My expectation should be to honor Christ. The end.
“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with FULL COURAGE now, as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” -Philippians 1:20
I can’t anticipate every situation, but I can choose in an unexpected circumstance to honor Christ. He is in it all. My attitude, faith, perseverance, joy can all point to Him. It is hard to manage our expectations, especially of ourselves as mom’s, but ask yourself, “Is the way I’m parenting my children honoring to Christ?”
That’s all He asks of you. You don’t have to break yourself over breastfeeding or sleep training or how quickly your child learns to read. Please don’t waste any more precious time worrying over being less than or more than. Ignore the mommy-judgement. Just honor Jesus.
2. My unmet expectations can draw me closer to Jesus
When I think of unmet expectations I remember what is quite possibly my favorite story in the Bible: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. (Read John 11 for the full story .) The story of expecting Jesus to come, expecting Jesus to be on time, expecting Him to heal, to swoop in and save the day….but he didn’t. And no one gets it. The disciples don’t get it. Mary and Martha don’t get it. I certainly don’t get it.
The accusation rings out, “If you had been here…” You let us down, Jesus. You didn’t do what we expected. I love that even though Jesus had a huge plan in their story (to allow Lazarus to die only to raise him to life) He wept with them. He was in the emotion with them, in the pain, in the unmet expectation. I think sometimes as women we are conditioned to believe that all of our feelings are bad, that they somehow make us weak. Jesus doesn’t shy away from your tears. He is in them with you. Crying with you.
I’ve had quite a few breakdown, ugly cries with Jesus. Those situations (though some I still don’t understand) have brought me closer to Him as I’ve leaned into His strong arms and surrendered. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations because He wants to meet us beyond our expectations.
3. God wants to exceed my expectations.
Sometimes God doesn’t meet my expectations because he wants to EXCEED MY EXPECTATIONS. I set the bar far too low by assuming that His best is going to align with my ideal situation. When I look in the Bible I notice that God loves showing off in the hard. In the messy. In the impossible. In the unexpected.
I see that in my life too. Sometimes the steep, rocky path–the HARD way leads me to a breathtaking waterfall.
“Now to Him who is able to immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.” -Ephesians 3:20
4. My experience (and hopefully the things I learned from them) can encourage others going through similar things.
The grace I breath in to deal with the unexpected can be also be the grace I breath out to encourage and help others through similar trials.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I’ve been so blessed to have received that breath of comfort from other mom’s and I’m so grateful for it. For those who said “I get it, I’ve been there, don’t feel guilty, embrace where you are now.” Someday I will pass those words on with love.
What expectations did you bring into motherhood?
How do you manage unmet expectations? (<<<I read somewhere once that uncommunicated expectations are often one of the biggest sources of conflict in relationships, interesting, huh? I definitely have found that to be true for my life!)