By: Sarah Mechling
From the very, very beginning of parenting, it is easy to fall into a trap of having all sorts of unrealistic expectations. Expectations we put on ourselves. Expectations other people put on us. Expectations of our kids. Expectations of our spouses, doctors, in-laws, friends, co-workers, and your best friend – you know, the grocery-service delivery person bringing that bag of skittles your kid needs for a science project at school tomorrow (will they get delivered in time!?) 😛
We feel like we need to fit in all the self-care, have a baby that sleeps perfectly and never gets sick, make sure our family is presentable for back-to-school night, get to all the afterschool activities and on time, have a toddler that doesn’t tantrum or if they do, make sure we respond real calmly to it, and the list could just keep going on.
Some (or all) of these expectations might be realistic for some people, and some (or all) might not be realistic for you.
While expectations aren’t “bad,” it’s not uncommon to set yourself up with unrealistic expectations that can lead to feelings we tend to associate with “bad.” The goal, of course, is to navigate parenting with as much ease as possible. This brings me to the obvious topic here: Realistic Expectations
During my parenthood journey, I’ve worked hard on setting myself up with realistic expectations on both the big and small things. If I’m being honest, it took me a lot of years to finally realize that I could approach things from a “before something goes bad” approach rather than a “oh crap, that just happened” approach.
After lots of reflection, I realized that when I get frustrated, 9 out of 10 times it’s because I went into a situation with an unrealistic expectation that obviously wasn’t met because, well, it was unrealistic to expect that it would be. I think it’s actually safe to say that would apply to life in general and not just parenting. But this is a blog for moms so let’s stick to the topic 😀
Not to point any fingers, but the source of the frustration falls on me. Only I set myself up with those unrealistic expectations. Even if someone or something else (you know, like the well-intentioned and well-educated influencers on social media) impacts my expectations, at the end of the day, I’m the one in control.
If you find yourself oftentimes let down by people, situations, scenarios, or even yourself – it’s time to take a look at your expectations and consider a mindset shift.
-Were you disappointed because you expected a loved one to respond differently to the news you thought was really exciting?
-Are you angry because a fun event you planned for your kids wasn’t all that fun after all?
-Feeling sad that your child keeps having big feelings despite your best efforts to avoid them?
There are endless examples we can pull out of the day-to-day life of parents.
Rather than being angry at someone or something, rather than beating yourself up about whatever happened, take a step back. Evaluate and shift! You may not be able to resolve your feelings in the moment, but you can set yourself up for success in the future.
-Am I feeling ____ because this did not meet my expectations?
-I can’t change what already happened but how can I navigate it from here? How can I change things for the future? (See next set of questions!!)
-What am I (or was I) expecting?
-Is my expectation realistic?
-Are the right skills, tools, and resources in place to meet my expectations?
-Does something new need to be learned for my expectation to be reached?
-Do I need to change my approach so that the expectation can be met?
-Do I need to communicate something to someone to make my expectation realistic?
-Do I need to shift my expectations to be more realistic?
-How can I shift my mindset if my expectations are unrealistic?
-Can I establish a goal with a plan to work towards my original expectation?
Time for the super fun bedtime routine with a toddler (it’s fun, right? no….?)
- For the past handful of days, your toddler has been splashing water onto the mirror after rinsing off their toothbrush.
- You get frustrated, try your best to calmly ask your toddler to stop. After some “gentle” begging and pleading your toddler puts the toothbrush down and skips their happy little self to their bedroom for a story. Mirror covered in pasty-water, success! Well, for your toddler at least 😛
- The next day, the same thing happens. Your frustration is growing. Why can’t your toddler just listen and stop!?!?!
Okay, now go through the questions above.
More than likely your expectation is unrealistic.
-On the one hand, you can shift your expectation completely to where you just expect this to happen every night. Expect that you will go through the back and forth to get your little one to put the toothbrush down. Expect that you will have to clean up the mirror.
-And, on another hand, you can shift your approach and lower your expectations until your child can meet them. Maybe your child doesn’t have the skills yet to control their impulse to keep splashing water at the mirror. Maybe you need to set your expectations with your toddler in a different way before they start brushing their teeth. Maybe you can shift your response in the moment to better help your toddler learn to meet the expectation. Maybe they would benefit from more sensory water play at a more “appropriate” time. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There is no one right answer because every family and every situation is different!
While realistic expectations aren’t going to eliminate all of your parenting challenges, having a more realistic mindset, realistic approach, and overall realistic expectations can help you navigate parenting with confidence and a clearer perspective.
For more parenting nuggets 😉 head over to @parentingnuggets on Instagram! See you there!
About the Author:
Sarah is a mom to 4 (two teens and two toddlers)! She’s combined her personal and professional experience to help other parents navigate the ups and downs of parenting! While you can find her sharing some “nuggets of parenting info” over on her Instagram @parentingnuggets, she also loves connecting with other parents on a personal level. Head over to her page and feel free to say hi!!