Fantasize with me for a minute…Imagine a day when everything falls into place with ease. You wake in the morning feeling well-rested, getting your kids up and dressed is a cinch, you accomplish everything you set out to do for the day, your kids clean up after themselves, and as an added bonus there are no nap, bath, or bedtime protests.
Daydreaming is nice but maybe your day looks more like this: you drag yourself out of bed exhausted in the morning, dressing the kids is a “chase and wrestle” match, you get one-quarter of your to-do list accomplished, and the rest of the day is full of tantrums over food, sharing, and bedtimes.
Although most of us identify with the second image vs. the first one more often than we like, it doesn’t stop us from longing for things to fall into place – even if for one day. Heck, even for a moment!
I’ve talked here before about being cautious with the “should” language we use as it relates to wanting life to happen a certain way. But how do you manage your expectations and not crumble when reality sucker punches you in the gut?
Fairy Tale Expectations
When you make plans for your day, quite naturally you have expectations about how things will happen. If your daughter is in a fairy princess phase, you know she’ll head for her tutu and fairy wings when she wakes in the morning. So, some expectations are set based on past experiences and simply knowing your child’s love of fairy princesses.
And some expectations are more natural, such as expecting the sun to rise each morning because instinct tells us that it always has and always will.
What about those other expectations? Those expectations we have based on the impossibly high standards we have for ourselves and our lives. We place unreal expectations on what our postpartum bodies should look like. When we’re sleep deprived and running on fumes, we set rigorous expectations on still managing to “hold it ALL together.”
So, when reality hits in the form of tantrums, toddler messes, unexpected fevers and vomiting, and potty accidents, it interrupts our flow and before we know it we’re falling apart at the seams.
There’s comfort in knowing what will happen, and that you’ve got life covered – it’s called certainty. But when life delivers a sucker punch, you go to that place in your mind that fixates on what’s wrong. And from there, maybe you begin to second-guess yourself and even doubt your worth.
I experienced this recently when I was slammed with an all-day migraine. The minute the nausea hit, I knew my plans for the day would take a nosedive. All my hopes for getting work done, enjoying activities with my daughters, and a homecooked dinner disappeared into thin air.
While laying down in a dark room with a cool washcloth over my eyes, I started to ruminate about how unproductive my day would be. I also wrestled with feelings of shame for not being a cheerful, engaging mom. Instead, I was “Migraine Mom” for the day.
After enough time with my eyes closed and engaging in deep breathing, relaxation and clarity started to settle in, even in the midst of pain. My thoughts started to shift away from the dangerous terrain of beating up on myself and my situation.
I slowly started to discern that life happens in ways we don’t always agree with or understand. I also came to see that I was doing my best as a mom by letting go of my agenda and expectations for the day and simply offering care to myself.
The Bob and Weave Move for Life’s Mishaps
The thing is, is that we’re constantly being thrown off course, and it’s not a reflection of an inadequacy. It’s not even an indication of poor planning.
Sometimes life delivers its sucker punches but it doesn’t mean defeat. It’s simply a reminder that life is happening.
Making room for life’s inevitable left jabs and uppercuts can be your best strategy (along with a deep breathe or two). When life delivers its next blows, catch your breath first, then ask yourself these questions: Can I let life happen right here in this moment? Am I second-guessing my goodness and abilities, and how helpful is that? What would it mean if I let go of the outcome I so desperately want, and accept the current messiness of this circumstance? By asking these questions, you may discover the grip on your expectations loosen up.
Sure, those sucker punches clash with your agendas, to-do lists, and yearnings for peace but through it all you’re still doing the damn best you can.
Here’s to opening up to life regardless of what the day presents to you!
If you’re struggling with coping through life’s mishaps and need help, know that you don’t have to figure it out alone. Contact me for a private consultation.